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INTERVIEW Making a marathon matter for mental health


Five members of the 31-strong Hughes team that plans to run in the Dublin City Marathon. From left: Karen Hughes, Clodagh McGovern, Máire Hughes, Richard Hughes and Eoghan Hughes.
?Five members of the 31-strong Hughes team that plans to run in the Dublin City Marathon. From left: Karen Hughes, Clodagh McGovern, Máire Hughes, Richard Hughes and Eoghan Hughes.?Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Making a marathon matter for mental health

Westport family gearing up for record-breaking run

Áine Ryan

BREAKING a Guinness Book of Records evokes a certain sense of déjà vu for members of an extended Westport family planning to run the Dublin City Marathon over the upcoming October Bank Holiday weekend. Thirty years ago, eight Hughes brothers, from the well-known business family of Portwest and Carraig Donn, broke the famous record for the largest number of siblings to complete the same marathon.
Now 28 members of the next generation, all grandchildren of the late Pádraig and Máire Hughes, along with three of the original uncles, plan to run this year’s marathon to raise vital funds for Galway mental health charity On The Road Again.
And when all these cousins and uncles set out on the gruelling 26-mile trek from Fitzwilliam Square through the streets of Dublin and the leafy Phoenix Park on Monday, October, 27, there will be one missing relative on their minds.
The late Máire Greene died suddenly last January, and now her sister, Isabelle, who is based in New York has joined up with a dedicated army of relatives to honour her memory in the most generous of ways, by attempting to raise €25,000 for the charity.
When The Mayo News last week met two of the participants, Clodagh McGovern and her uncle, Owen Hughes, they further explained the genesis of this family effort to heighten the awareness of this small charity.
“The whole essence of On The Road Again is to overcome mental illness through running. The founder, Paul Fallon, develops individual running programmes for people with mental health or addiction issues and the homeless, in a bid to help them become more self-sufficient and confident. Each programme is tailored to the individual’s needs and provides positive benefits from the sport of running,” Clodagh McGovern explained.
So, to support the innovative work of this charity and honour the memory of Máire Greene – this group of competitors whose familial roots are deeply etched in Westport – will descend on Dublin over the October Bank Holiday, from Boston, New York, San Francisco, Manchester, London, Germany, Spain and Mallorca, as well as Counties Mayo and Galway.
Among the group – which is aged from 18 to 60 – are two opticians, two dentists, a buyer for Primark and an IDA executive, as well as several university students and, of course, members of the extended family who work at Carraig Donn and Portwest.
For Owen Hughes, the fact that his entire (nuclear) family – his wife, Karen, and children, Laura (29), Joan (27), James (25), Jenny (23) and Vinnie (21) – will be together for the first time in two years adds to the significance and challenge of the event. He had just married his Pennsylvanian wife back in 1984, the year he undertook the record-breaking marathon with his brothers.
“We (Karen and the children) had been talking about climbing Kilimanjaro for our family bucket-list, but I think this marathon will replace that. What is really important for me is how this is bringing so many strands of our family together for a shared experience that will create a connection into the future,” Owen Hughes told The Mayo News.
Well, he also hopes his wife – with whom he trains every Saturday morning by walking and running from Westport to Croagh Patrick (not once, but twice!) – is not going to cross the finishing-line ahead of him.
“Unfortunately, Karen, is getting fitter than me and I think she plans to beat me,” he says grinning, before rushing off to a work appointment.
Meanwhile, his niece, Clodagh, likes to take it ‘nice and easy’ on her regular run from Westport, along the Greenway, to her mother’s house on the edge of Newport, where lunch is invariably ready on Saturdays.
“Well, it is hungry work,” she admits before saying seriously: “This is one of the most amazing goals I ever set for myself. I committed to it when I was only running one to two kilometres and, now, last Sunday, I ran 20 miles – it is called a three-quarter marathon – in Athlone with two of my cousins.”
The busy mother of two small children, Marcus (3) and Moya (2), is an optician and opened her business, Eyeworld, in Westport a decade ago. She says the simple secret to her training regime has been to follow the famous Hal Higdon’s plan.
“I’m a nice and relaxed runner and not into the competition that much. On some of my runs, my husband, Ronan, drives past with the children, so they can wave at me!”

Support and sponsorship
PORTWEST is the main sponsor for this family effort for On The Road Again, which is based at Woodquay in Galway city. The company committed to matching up to €10,000 in funding raised by the group, which hopes to raise €25,000 in total for the charity.

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