Team Aisling runners at a strategy session in JP Clarke’s Beer Garden. Photo by Nuala Purcell.
By Frank Brady
Many of us are familiar with the athletic accomplishments of such sporting behemoths as Team USA, Team Ireland, but Team Aisling announced its arrival on the scene with gusto for the Yonkers marathon last year.
The Yonkers marathon has a special place in U.S. road racing as it is the second oldest marathon, Boston being the oldest.
Though Boston boasts of Heart Break Hill, Yonkers has a myriad of hills that provide a stern challenge for the most seasoned road warrior.
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However, despite its long history and iconic status the Yonkers marathon was enduring an uphill battle as the numbers had been steadily dropping.
The marathon was limping to its imminent demise unless it got a major transfusion.
Catherine Flood, a Monaghan native, a former Gaelic player, an avid and accomplished runner, and an Aisling board member, came to the rescue.
Catherine figured that she could cajole a group of runners to run under the auspices of the Aisling Center, thus augmenting participation rates, while also promoting the center and its array of services.
Thus Team Aisling was born, with its philosophy encapsulated in the 4Fs: fun, fitness, friendship and fundraising.
With Catherine as the driving force, Breda, a born again runner, as the task master, Nollaig in charge of rehab issues, and Fr. Brendan in charge of spiritual needs, the team grew at an exponential rate.
Instead of a few dozen runners over three hundred signed up for either the marathon, the half marathon or the 5k.
This whole running saga was similar to the Operation Transformation event that was highly touted on the other side of the pond for its transformative effects. Well, what a metamorphosis unfolded!
Many of these neophyte runners who eschewed physical activity like a plague, or an obnoxious relative, underwent a Pauline-like conversion as they would have subscribed to the alleged sentiments of Mark Twain, namely that when he got the urge to run or exercise, he lay down until the feeling went away.
This group became fitter, faster, and leaner as they embraced the runners’ creed with a zeal that would be the envy of a Trappist monk.
Concepts such as peaking, plateauing, tapering, speed-work, splits, warm-ups, cool-downs, runners’ high, rest and recover, were being bandied about like Irish weather terms.
The transformation was nothing short of miraculous for some as they had been certified as suffering from chronic AMS, in lay terms, known as adhesive mattress syndrome, which is regarded to be impervious to most medical modalities.
Fr. Brendan was reported to be in contact with the Vatican to see if these radical changes in behavior meet the criteria for a miracle.
Now many of these previously afflicted individuals can be seen at first light traversing the running trails and paths in Yonkers, Queens, and Rockland County as they crank out miles with abandon. Evidently, some of these race-warriors have succumbed to what psychologist William Glasser termed positive addiction as the Aisling color-clad runners are showing up in road races across the United States.
A troupe of Aisling runners are using the Yonkers race as a tune for 40th anniversary of the Dublin marathon.
Meanwhile, Team Aisling continues to grow by leaps and bounds as there are almost six hundred runners on the roster. And now they are affiliated as an official running club.
If this trend continues, the Yonkers Marathon may have to be renamed the Aisling Marathon. The organization would be the envy of any political group as there are thirteen team captains managing/motivating their particular squads.
Siobhan McEntee, along with Mary McEleer and Liam Ryan, assumed control of the Queens and Rockland groups respectively, while Tracy Dwyer is in charge of the overall logistics for the Aisling runners.
This year’s preparation left no stone unturned, or perhaps no muscle unmoved might be more appropriate, as Mickey Reidy, an experienced marathon runner, and Paddy Breslin, a multiple ironman contestant, were drafted in to push the boundaries of endurance.
Last year there were four premier sponsors namely: Donnelly Irish Meats, Liffey Van Lines, James Trading Group and All-Boro Flooring. This year sponsorship has expanded to include Rory Dolan’s, Country Bank, United Structural Works, Willowfield Construction, Connolly’s Pub and Restaurant, Tara Circle Inc., and J.T. Magen & Company Inc.
The race is this weekend, on Sunday, October 20, and the runners will assemble at Francey Brady’s for last minute fueling before takeoff.
Now if you don’t join this intrepid band of road warriors you can support the Aisling Center by sponsoring a runner.
Once the running is over the hardy warriors will repair to Rory Dolan’s, and, judging from last year, this one could be the mother of all parties.
Last year Rory doled out copious amounts of nature’s oldest analgesic, and by the end of the night there wasn’t a mention of an ache, pain, stiff or sore muscle. Rory’s brew did the trick. All felt as fit as fiddles.
Well for that evening anyway.