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It was great achievement for the Club to see two of our Senior members recognised at the Longford People of the Year Awards gala dinner dance on October 11th. The annual event sponsored by Kiernan Structural Steel raises much needed funds for Midland’s Simon Community working with the homeless.

Barry Sheil and Niamh Kiernan pictured with Chairman of Longford County Council Micheal Carrigy

Barry Sheil and Niamh Kiernan pictured with Chairman of Longford County Council Micheal Carrigy as they receive their award at the Longford People of the Year Awards, October 2019

The 10 nominees from across the County reflect the sporting and community involvement over the past year and included Bishop Emeritus, Colm O’Reilly, photographer Lalin Swaris and the All-Ireland champions Longford ladies U16 and minor teams.

Barry Sheil and Niamh Kiernan were honoured on the night for ‘historic first ever success for Longford’ winning both the men’s and women’s race at the Longford Marathon last August. 2019 was the 18th year of the Longford Marathon which was first organised in 2002 to mark the completion of Longford’s own Liam Fenelon’s 100th Marathon.

Barry started running competitively in cross country and track as a teenager at St. Mel’s College in the late 1990s. He drifted away from the sport in his twenties but returned to it over a decade later and he has been trying to make up for lost time ever since!

Longford AC’s Barry Sheil finishes the SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon 2017. Photo by Cody Glenn / Sportsfile no.1407653

To date Barry has run 8 marathons including the Dublin Marathon on 4 occasions. His best marathon performance was at the 2018 Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:33.29. He has been standing on the podium in Longford several times for excellent half-marathon performances, 2nd place in 2015 and 2017, 3rd place in 2016, with his best time of these 1:13:33 in August 2017.

In April Barry won the Club’s annual 10K race with a pb of 32:55 and he is a frequent runner in Longford Parkrun where he is listed with pb of 15:33 for 5K May 2019.

This year’s Longford Marathon was Barry’s target for 2019. He generally trains alone after work in Dublin and does his long run at weekends when he is in Longford. Barry realised after the first mile that he was in the lead and he kept his focus on his pace. The last 6 miles proved to be a real struggle, and although missing out on his time target, he was really delighted to be the winner of his hometown marathon this year.

Niamh has been running for ten years and joined Longford AC about 7 years ago. Joining the Club was one of the best things she has done as she has met great people and started to take her running more seriously by competing in races.

Niamh Kiernan, Longford AC,

Niamh Kiernan, Longford AC, runs through the tape to win the Longford Marathon 2019 Ladies race. Picture: Shelley Corcoran

She has run 4 marathons to date continuing to improve year on year. She finished her first marathon in 3:21:00 in Barcelona in March 2016 and two year later set her pb in October 2018 at the Dublin marathon, 3:09:52, and 18th in her age category.

In July Niamh ran a great new 10 mile pb of 68:49 in Edenderry, shaving off over 3 minutes from her previous best and finished very well placed as 5th female in her age group.

With work and home commitments Niamh does her training early morning along the canal in Ballymahon. She is a regular on the Sunday morning long run regularly meeting up with several other Senior members to encourage each other.

There was a group of family and friends waiting to cheer for Niamh at the Longford finish line, so crossing the line was her main focus on the day. Running through the tape and winning the ladies race in a time of 3:12.32 was a definitely a dream come true and all the more special on home ground.

Although neither Barry or Niamh were running in the Dublin marathon this year training continues as a group is heading to Spain in February 2020 for the Seville Marathon in February. As Barry told me, “with a new target they will keep miles ‘ticking over’ during the winter months”.