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Dick Hooper Speaks at St Finbarrs AC Function - Guest Article by John Walshe

Dick Hooper is Guest Speaker at St Finbarr's AC Annual Weekend Function


dick hooper flor o leary s Dick Hooper with St. Finbarr's AC Stalwart, Flor O'Leary


The following article, slightly abridged, by John Walshe, appeared in the Evening Echo of Thursday December 21st 2017

It was a day of wonderful success for St Finbarr’s AC, at October’s Dublin Marathon, with the club bringing home nine team medals, and seven individual awards, in the Athletics Ireland National Marathon Championships, which were held in conjunction with the event.

Therefore, it was apt that the guest speaker at the club’s annual autumn gathering, at the Celtic Ross Hotel, in Rosscarbery, should be a man so associated with marathon running in this country, Raheny’s Dick Hooper. A three-time winner of the Dublin race, Hooper also represented Ireland at the 1980, 1984 and 1988 Olympics, and represented Ireland at four European Championships.

Add six national titles, spanning the years from 1978 to 1998, and here you have a man whose views on preparing for, and running the classic distance are worth listening to. Nowadays, Hooper is coach to a number of the country’s top Marathon exponents, including Mick Clohisey and Sean Hehir, Ireland’s Marathon representatives at this year’s World Championships in London.


dick hooper st finbarrs ac s

St Finbarr's AC with Dick Hooper, at the Celtic Ross


Introducing the guest speaker, St Finbarr’s Chairman, Eamonn McEvoy, gave a brief outline of Hooper’s career, including his two victories in Cork national Marathons, saying that he was now “one of the driving forces behind the Raheny Shamrock club, and had a lot of knowledge to share.”

What came as somewhat of a surprise to those in attendance were Hooper’s Cork connections: “My father was a Corkman, while his mother had a cafe in Washington Street, and he went to the North Mon, where he won a Corn Ui Mhuiri football medal, on the same team as Jack Lynch. He ended up in Dublin but died when we were very young. He was only 44 at the time, and I was just six .”

Detailing his early career, he said that he “kind of drifted into running,” making up a team in the U16 age-group that won a Dublin championship. “Straight away, I retired from all other sports, and just loved the running, where you controlled your own destiny, and if you trained hard enough and focussed on something, you could improve.

“I was an avid reader and used to go down to Raheny Library, and read the limited books that were available on running. I learned an awful lot from those books, I listened to people, and from all of that, I formed my own views on the sport, and luckily started to develop.”

Hooper ran his first 100 mile-week at the age of 16 (“of course I was injured the following week!”). Although he didn’t score on the team, he was a member of the Irish Junior squad that finished second in the 1975 World Cross-Country, where John Treacy took individual bronze. “I finished 28th there, and realised it was a good performance. I started doing long runs with Jim McNamara, and my brother Pat, who had moved up to the marathon at that stage, and found I was well able to stay with them.

“I hatched a little plan for myself, and I said I was going to get to the Olympics in 1980, and planned to run my first marathon in 1978. We went down to Tullamore that year, for the National Marathon. No one had heard of me in that context, but I was very well prepared. I had trained 130 to 140 miles a week, had done two 32-mile runs and two 30-mile runs, and nobody knew about that.

“Luckily for me in hindsight we got a scorcher of a day and it kind of slowed everybody, and put seeds of doubt in everybody. I was also a bit of a pioneer and was fairly organised in myself, and had been to Tullamore about four times, and had run over the course in the weeks before the race.

“In those days, people were very scattered about their drinks and everything like that. I decided that I would drink tea during the race, my theory was ‘well what do you do at 11 o’clock in the morning, or 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when you’re low in energy? - you have a cup of tea and get a little boost out of it’.”

“You didn’t have any the bottles that you have today, with spouts on them, so I bought eight cartons of mustard, got rid of the mustard, steeped them to get rid of the smell, and I had my eight bottles all organised, which my buddies handed out to me.”

That race was also the selection race for the European Championships, and Hooper’s victory in a time of 2:23:19, guaranteed him a place in what would turn out to be the first of four European Marathon championship appearances.


 “I ran my first marathon at age 21, in 1978, and ran my last, aged 41, in 1998. There were a lot of marathons in there, 41 in total, and I have more sub-2:30 Marathons than any other Irishman.”



“Olympic Marathon in Los Angles in 1984, I performed badly that day, and that kind of halted me for a long, long time. But I went to Seoul in 1988, and got 24th, the first Irishman home. I know I ran well and that I got the most out of myself.”



“I never dropped out of a marathon; my philosophy was always: if you started, you finished. I used to write on one hand ‘finish’ and then on the other hand the names of my loved ones, my kids and my wife, and every time I was struggling, I’d look at the palms of my hands.”



“My biggest philosophy is the work ethic, and then to be smart about it. It’s very important to have a goal, whether it’s a personal best, or to win some race. You have to put that bit of pressure on yourself. Keep a diary, I have 45 years of diaries at home, and a diary should be you’re best friend, it covers a multitude.”  



“The long run is the most important thing when you are training for a marathon. You must know that you can cover the distance, you should do it at a strong pace, to educate the body to deal with fatigue. It also educates your mind to be out there for a long time.”  



“I used to stretch whatever was hurting, I did a bit of token stretching to get myself going, and it was then out the door. The best training for running is running”!

Willie Hayes, St Finbarr's AC, has 3 photos on his Facebook Page



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