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Denis McCarthy - Running the Country - Irish Runner September 1995


This Article, by John Walshe, appeared in the Irish Runner magazine (Issue 4, Vol 15) in September 1995


denis mccarthy irish runner september 1995

There is a current catchy advertising slogan, devised by a certain well-known shoe company, which simply says, 'You either ran today, or you didn't'. For East Cork athlete, Denis McCarthy, this question just does not arise, for, on June 5th last, Denis completed ten years without missing a single day’s running.


denis mccarthy irish runner september 1995a

The greatest exponent of an unbroken running streak has to be Doctor Ron Hill, the European, Commonwealth and Boston Marathon champion from the late 'sixties and early 'seventies, who has a streak going all the way back to December 1964. Seven or eight years ago, Hill recorded another unique landmark by competing in 50 different countries before his fiftieth birthday.

It was this achievement of Hill's that prompted Denis McCarthy to go for a similar target, that of running a race in each of the 32 counties on this island, before his 32nd birthday.

This he accomplished in March of last year, with some nine months to spare, and he must surely be the only runner to achieve this quite remarkable feat.

Denis started in athletics, as a juvenile, in 1976, competing in the local East Cork Cross country leagues, which also served as a grounding for Sonia O'Sullivan, a few years later, his father, Dan, has been a long-standing servant of athletics in the area, as chairman of the East Cork Board, and is probably best known to outside runners as the official starter of the many road races in the region, in particular the Ballycotton '10'.

With personal bests on the track of 8:33 for 3000m and 14:58 for 5000m, Denis is no mean performer. He has represented Cork on many occasions in cross-country, particularly in the intermediate grade where he was a regular on the team for seven years. This enabled him to compete in quite a few counties, before he moved out of intermediate, as a member of a winning county team, in 1988.

When he had achieved about 18 different counties, Denis felt that his his goal was attainable. Obviously, for someone in the far south of the country, the northern counties would be the hardest to get to. A trip to Belfast in '91 saw him get in Antrim (Belfast Games 3000m), and the following day, Armagh (Craigavon 10K). This was despite getting lost in the Craigavon race, ending up in the ‘twenties’, an incident (one of many, we hasten to add) that is now consigned to the folklore of East Cork AC.

One of the most novel races was an 11 mile event, in Comber, Co. Down, comprising of road, fell and cross-country. Some of the races he won include the now-defunct Rosslare Half-Marathon in 1983, two ten mile races in Youghal and Leamybrien (Co. Waterford), and a '1 OK' in Ballyporeen, Co. Tipperary.

At Christmas '93, Denis had just three counties to go. On St. Stephens Day, he travelled to Tyrone, where, on a snow-covered course he finished third in the Greencastle '10K'. A week later, he availed of an invitation to take part in the Derry Cross Country Championships, thus leaving just Monaghan on his agenda, and this he 'bagged' the following March, when he finished fourth in a road race in Glaslough.

For most of the races in the far North, it meant leaving his home in Ballynoe at an unearthly hour, and not arriving back until near midnight. One of the longest journeys he undertook was to Donegal, a round trip of about 500 miles. He left home at 5:30am, slept for a short while in his car alongside the tomb of W.B. Yeats in Drumcliffe, Sligo, before going on to Donegal Town, where he finished 6th in a '5K' on the road.

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Cork Athletics County Board is a constituent member of Athletics Ireland. Cork Athletics is the governing body, administering athletics, track and field (T&F), cross-country (XC) and running in county Cork. The Board comprises elected representatives of constituent athletic clubs and running clubs. Cork County Board AAI organises Championship races and competition, including road, track & field (T&F) and Cross-country (XC), at junior, juvenile, senior and masters levels, and selects representation for the county. In addition, training and education is provided for coaches and officials. The Board also regulates the Athletics Ireland race/event permit (licence) process for county Cork.
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