Our latest ‘Runner Profile’ is a man I met several years ago whenever I took part in the Run Armagh 10k, Matthew Nicholson is the man behind the popular event. Despite being Race Director, the experienced marathon runner always finds time to complete the course himself.
This year, Matthew has completed several marathons, including three in the space of fifteen days. In his interview, Matthew tells us about his own running and also a bit about the Run Armagh event and what the future holds for it.
Full Name: Matthew Nicholson
Current Category: Male Open
Associated Club: I run under the name of my event, Run Armagh
Personal Bests: 5k – 19:03 (Horns 5K, USA, 2010), 10k – 40:04 (Run Armagh 10k 2010), Half Marathon – 1:29:39 (Great North Run 2007), Marathon – 3:24:35 (Dublin Marathon 2008)
What is your favourite race in Northern Ireland? I have not ran them all (yet!), but the stand out local races for me have been the new parkrun events, Larne Half Marathon, Craigavon Lakes 10k and the Mourne Way events – Superb!
When did you start running? I started running in the Spring of 2006 and haven’t looked back since.
Why do you run? Originally, I got into my first distance event as a bet! I was always into sport at school and was a keen rugby player – However in 96, 97 and 98 I broke my right ankle (’96), left leg (’97) and right shoulder (’98) all playing rugby. Neither leg injury have caused any recurring issues, however my shoulder would need pinned if I wanted to play again and back then that operation left a large scar, so I decided to hang up my boots so to speak!
I started working in London and my lifestyle was very much work hard, play harder. As a result I ‘let myself go a bit’. In spring 2006 a friend and colleague said him and some of his mates were going to run the Adidas Silverstone Half Marathon (March ’06) and after a few beers, and a bit of stick – I said I would sign up! Once I got into running, I knew it was something I wanted to keep up once I finished the Silverstone Half Marathon. I was shooting for a sub 2 hour finish, and managed to come in at 1:49:09. I was well pleased to say the least! A few days after this, I went and signed up for a bunch of races in and around London, cumulating with the Dublin Marathon in October of that year (2006). All in all, I ran 18 road races that year – I was hooked!
What is your next race and what do you want from it? The next race I have ‘signed up for’ is my own, Run Armagh 10k in April 2014. This will be a build up to London Marathon, Belfast Marathon (maybe Newry Marathon) and Walled City Marathons in Spring 2014! I will probably do a few Half Marathons along the way, like Larne. I recently completed my 24th, 25th and 26th marathons in Amsterdam, Dublin and New York. This was three marathons in fifteen days! My body is still recovering, but all in all I have come out the other end of those three pretty much injury free!
What is your favourite training ‘session’? It might sound bizarre, but I do enjoy those final long runs in preparation for a marathon – they fill me with confidence for race day (if they go well that is).
What is your favourite pre-race and post-race meals? For pre-race meals I am quite traditional; I like carb loading the day before and breakfast will depend when the race starts, ie if it is a 9am start for example, then a cup of tea and toast, and an energy gel before the start. For post-race, nothing beats a nice cold beer and some chocolate based junk food to replenish the sugar levels. I try and take on board water and eat little and often post-race, otherwise I can feel a little unwell.
What would you consider to be your greatest achievement in running? I think it is fair to say that I am never going to win a race, that ambition is long gone. However, I have finished first in a few of the ‘Sport Relief Mile’ events, and I did finish third when I ran my 5k personal best in the Horns 5K in Orlando, Florida (holiday races, love them!). The obvious achievement is being the race director of the annual Run Armagh 10k, which raises a lot of money for a charity which is very close to my heart, Cardiac Risk in the Young. Next year’s event will be the 6th annual Run Armagh 10k, and it is genuinely a pleasure to direct and take part in it!
What is your running ambition? I do not really have one – I like having a marathon or other event to look forward to, this keeps me motivated to keep my fitness level high enough to take part.
You are the man behind the Run Armagh 10k race; how long has the event been running for now and why did you start it? In April 2014 we will be hosting the 6th annual Run Armagh 10k. It’s hard to believe, as the time has flown by. When I started running back in 2006, my family and I did a lot of fund-raising, but over time you find yourself hitting the same people for sponsorship. So, I decided to organise an event, from which the profit raised is our fundraising effort for that year and to make it better, my employer matches the funds raised, which is excellent.
As a runner who has taken part in a wide variety of races, do you find that you are in a better position to know what athletes want from your event? To an extent, yes. When it comes to the Run Armagh 10k, I found it essential to have a dedicated website which runners can find via google and register for the event online at no additional expense to the runner. I developed our online entry system myself and it costs a lot less than the prices offered by some management companies. Chip timing and an accurately measured course are essential too, so I worked with John Glover and Glenn Grant to arrange these. Making sure we have timing mats at the start, half way and end gives our runners a 100% accurate breakdown of how they performed! Goody bag is also important and a medal is essential for some, so we always include one and a cotton t-shirt with a new design each year! It does give me a level of pride and satisfaction when I see runners and gym goers in Armagh with their Run Armagh 10k finishers t-shirt. Keeping the runners informed, and having the event well organised is very important, so signage, PA system are all necessary for the successful smooth running of any event. We also have a social gathering for our local runners in a local bar, where we have music, BBQ, charity raffle, a few drinks and a chance to exchange race day stories. We also display the official photographs on the large televisions as a slideshow, which is also a good topic for discussion, and at times good humour!
What does the future hold for your event? Rumour has it that you were considering either adding a Half Marathon option? Is this something you are considering? Yes, I sure am. I am working with the PSNI at looking at a potential route for the first Run Armagh Half Marathon – utilising the majority of the existing 10k route will make organisation easier. Having all 3 events (5k, 10k and Half Marathon) on the same day would make for a superb event for the City of Armagh. Armagh is the only ‘original’ City in Northern Ireland without a marathon event now that we have the established events in Belfast and Newry and the 2nd annual Walled City Marathon in Derry/Londonderry next year. Why shouldn’t Armagh get involved too? An option could be a two loop event, but that would not be ideal – but again, something I am thinking about.
In conclusion; as all race directors will admit, any running event they organise would and could not be possible without the generous support from volunteers and sponsors, from wearing a high visibility vest directing the runners, to the generosity of local businesses providing us with water, bananas and other items for the good bags!