81 year-old Limerick runner Phonsie Clifford still going strong

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan

TWO cans of Guinness every night, plenty of carrots and a soft boiled egg is the diet of champions in the eyes of 81 year-old Phonsie Clifford.

Age is truly just a number for the Garryowen man who will be pounding the pavements for the Great Limerick Run this May.

The father of well known local athlete Richie isn’t letting his advancing years slow him down - quite the opposite and it has “awoken interest in a lot of old people” who want to follow his lead.

“A lot of people say to me ‘What do you eat?’, ‘What do you do?’, ‘How do you start?’ I say start slowly,” he advises.

But he can’t quite lay claim to being the oldest man to go the distance. Last year an 86 year-old man who left Limerick for Birmingham in the 1940s returned to run the event. But Phonsie has been something of a stalwart, even though his running career was born at the relatively late age of 62, before which he said he “couldn’t walk 20 yards.”

Sixteen Dublin city marathons later, with as many more runs under his slim belt in London and Cork, he is gearing up to run 10km in the Great Limerick Run for the third time. He competed in the 10km events for the past two years running, and came across the finishing last year in just over an hour. “I got caught up with the walkers; that delayed me,” he said.

This year he will be running alongside his son, daughter-in-law and grandkids. “We’ll be testing each other,” he adds jokingly.

Over 1,000 people from across the country and overseas have already signed up for the three races in the Great Limerick Run on Sunday, May 6. Race director John Cleary said they are hopeful 8,000 people will enter this year.

A booking discount for entries will apply before February 1.

*A full version of this story appears in the Limerick Leader Wednesday tabloid, January 18, 2012