Runner Profile:  Glenn Donnelly

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Every few weeks we try to provide a ‘Runner Profile’ that makes for good reading, something interesting and informative about runners that you will see out racing regularly or assisting their club with the organisation of events and races.  This time around we have chosen 31 year old Glenn Donnelly, a man that I was introduced to 3-4 years ago by a mutual friend (Stephen Kennedy – Larne AC).  Aside from being a true gentleman, Glenn is also an extremely talented runner and his determination to come back from illness and injury to run and race again is nothing less than inspirational.  I am sure you will agree!

Full Name:  Glenn Donnelly

Current Category:  Male Open

Associated Club:  Sperrin Harriers

Personal Bests:  5k – 16:49, 5 miles – 26:50, 10k – 34:29, 10 miles – 59:25, Half Marathon – 1:18:54, Marathon – 3:18:55

Favourite Northern Ireland event?  It’s difficult to pick just one as Northern Ireland has so many beautiful places to run and race whether it’s on the road, trail or mountain. My advice is, get out there and sample as much of it as you can as it really is stunning.  Just a pity about the weather sometimes!

Favourite race distance and why?  I am Open to most distances, particularly the shorter ones, such as, 5km, 5 mile and 10km because I get more of a buzz from running as fast as possible over the shorter distance, rather than slogging it out for 2 – 3 hours over the marathon distance.

When did you start running?  I began running at primary school, doing cross country but the main sport was football and that took priority.  This continued at secondary school with football being the main focus, although we did some cross country and road running as part of our Physical Education class.  Again, this was nothing serious or structured.  When I left school I began working in Cookstown Leisure Centre which involved shift work, this came into conflict with football training every second week.

The old football mantra ‘if you don’t attend training, you won’t get to play’ began to raise its head.  I found myself being dropped to the bench and becoming more and more disillusioned with football in general.  Ill health then put me out of all sport for 2 years.  I was presented to my doctor with headaches and dizzy spells, and following an ECG scan I was diagnosed with an irregular heart-beat which could have led to Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.

This has been in the news recently with footballers such as Fabrice Muamba in England, Piermario Morosini in Italy & Cormac McAnallen here in Northen Ireland sadly being affected.  I spent two weeks in intensive care in the RVH linked up to a heart monitor which was quite frightening at 18 years old.  At this time, sport was my life and I thought, here I am at 18, on a heart tablet, I’m finished.  As part of the treatment I was sent for tests and the one thing consultants noticed was that during treadmill stress tests my heart rate went from an irregular beat to a normal beat which they found strange.  After two years of sitting about and putting on weight I decided to begin some light training again.

As I worked in a leisure centre, that began with swimming which then lead onto a triathlon.  I didn’t say anything to my consultants as I felt ok with no symptoms and to be honest it was great to be back doing something again.  Unlike many who take part in triathlons and find the swim leg to be their weak discipline, I was fairly decent.  I was also pretty ok on the bike but didn’t really enjoy it and seemed to struggle at the running.  So I decided to join Sperrin Harriers (then known as Cookstown Harriers) to help improve my running.

I have since given up on triathlon, with the final nail in my brief triathlon career being an event on Benone Beach.  Due to bad weather, the sea swim was cancelled so the event turned into a duathlon. I held my own with the lead pack in the first run along the beach and got on the bike and struggled like never before.  Everyone seemed to be passing me and with every turn of my pedals, their lead was growing ever larger.  It was a nightmare in every sense – I never really enjoyed biking anyway but was absolutely hated every moment of this.  The pendulum began to swing in my favour during the second run as I was able to catch the majority of the field again and as I crossed the finish line it was as if a light bulb switched on in my head – ‘concentrate on running’.

I haven’t looked back since, I don’t miss triathlon and because running is so flexible I can train around work and/or personal commitments.   My irregular heart beat has settled down with little or no ‘extra’ beats as the consultants like to call them, I put this down to running regularly and keeping fit.  I’m tested often so any future problems can be identified should they present themselves.

Why do you run?  For the sheer enjoyment running brings, nothing beats getting out into the fresh air and leaving whatever stresses have built up through the day behind, running clears my head and it’s a great way to keep fit.

What is your next race and what do you want from it?  I haven’t decided what’s next on the cards for me as I can’t really plan too far in advance with work.  I regularly check the race fixtures and decide week by week what races to attend so you never know where I will pop up next.

What is your favourite training ‘session’?  I really enjoy mile repeats or hill repeats, something that really brings on the burn and at the end you know you’ve worked hard and can take satisfaction from that.

What is your favourite pre-race and post-race meals?  Pre & Post race – something simple, easy digested, not heavy and works for me every time – scrambled eggs & toast.  It has got a fairly good balance of carbohydrate and protein.  I will also have a protein drink/shake after a race.

What is your running ambition?  Obviously to become a better, faster runner – I ran my PB for 5 mile in 2010 at the Sperrin Harriers 5 mile road race and thought that I could have really pushed on from that into the low 26’s or high 25’s.  I ran my PB for 10km at the Joe Seeley the same year, again hoping to run low 34’s high 33’s, but I have struggled with injuries ever since.  I am now working on building a good base over the winter and hope 2013 will be a better year for me.

What other sports do you like?  I like and watch most other sports and have recently started mountain biking which I enjoy more than road cycling and with the new mountain bike trail development at Davagh Forest Park just outside Cookstown, I hope to do more as a form of cross training.  Although disillusioned with playing football I still enjoy watching it and follow Dungannon Swifts, I try to get to as many games as possible.

We know you’re still on the comeback from injury, what was wrong and how is the return to racing going?  I think that 2010 was my best year, setting PB’s for 5 mile and 10km.  I was in training for the Barcelona Half Marathon in February 2011 and set myself a goal of trying to break 75 minutes.

During the really bad winter here in Northern Ireland I was completing a long run and with two miles to go I slipped on ice and pulled a muscle in my calf.  That was the beginning of two years of calf and Achilles tendon trouble, which has proved very troublesome to treat.  I’m now back running, taking part in a few races and training is going well so far, fingers crossed that continues.

You’ve dabbled with Mountain Running in the past, will we see you back there again?  I was introduced to mountain running a few years back by a training partner Stephen Kennedy.  My first session in the mountains was sheer torture but an experience I thoroughly enjoyed and became hooked immediately on the rawness and unpredictability of it.  I train a lot in the mountains now especially over the winter and plan to take part in more races in future.

A few years ago I travelled to the Carnethy 5 mountain race in Edinbrugh, Scotland with a group of from Larne AC and I hope to return again to better my time, so yes, I most definitely will be back in the mountains competing again at some stage.