AN INSPIRATIONAL runner who at 83 years of age ran his 42nd marathon this year has been named the Limerick Person of the Month.
John Collins, from Church Street, King’s Island in the city, who only started running in his fifties, finished the gruelling 26.2-mile Dublin City Marathon on the Bank Holiday Monday, October 27.
“For the first six marathons I did, I was flying it – raring to go again at the end, and I had plenty left in the tank. For the last six, on account of my age, I would jog them and walk them,” explained John, at the award presentation at the Clarion Hotel.
John started running in 1980 and was 53 when he ran his first marathon.
Over the years, he has competed in the Boston, New York, Connemara, Belfast, Limerick and London marathons.
The Ballynanty native, who turned 83 in September, has always been fit.
As a child, he played a bit of soccer, did some boxing and played underage for Young Munster.
The marathon scene was only after starting in Dublin in the early 1980s when John said to himself, “I’ll give it a go”.
“I said I would like to do a marathon of 26 miles although it would be tough. I trained with the Country Club Runners AC on the Old Cratloe Road and it started from there.”
This year’s Dublin City Marathon was his 30th in a row.
He doesn’t listen to any music when running, preferring instead to take in the buzz and sounds of the city streets and countryside.
“I keep in touch with a couple of people who would be at my pace – you help them and they help you along and you have a chat. You wouldn’t feel it at all then.”
After the 26.2 miles in October, John’s celebration post-race was a well-deserved cup of tea and a few biscuits.
The widower, father of five and grandfather of 10 came first in the 80-84 age group with a time of 6:55:52 and said he enjoyed the new route the marathon had taken.
A man of simple tastes – he likes to eat “normal food” – the best sustenance of all he says is plain old porridge and Irish stew. He also allows himself a couple of pints of Guinness in his local, the Locke bar.
While he has his doubts about doing the Dublin marathon again - “unless I get a new lease of life” - he still does the shorter distances.
“I’m out in the fresh air the whole time,” he points out. “I jog three to five miles once a week and go walking with a walking club on a Tuesday morning.”
Despite the popularity of digital devices and the sedentary lifestyle they bring, John feels more and more people are falling in love with the great outdoors.
“It’s changing, it’s definitely changing,” he notes. “Any night I go walking up the city, or down the strand, I see a lot of people jogging and walking which is great.”
And finally, his advice to anyone hoping to follow in his sprightly footsteps? Buy two good pair of shoes!
“You’ll need one for racing and competitions, and the other pair for training. Asics are very good,” he advises.