If someone had told Seamus Crossan two years ago that he’d have run six marathons by 2015 he’d probably have laughed in their face.
The Derry man who is one of the founders of STAR Running Club weighed 17 and a half stone and could barely run to the end of the street when he started out training for his first ever race.
But Seamus had a specific goal in mind, to run the Derry marathon in memory of his mum Ann and give something back to the Foyle Hospice who had been so supportive to the Crossan family during her illness.
The first marathon was his greatest ever challenge, says Seamus, but he’s now hooked on running and is using his own experience to encourage other people to take up the activity.
Between all this he juggles his running with working as a registered mental health nurse and family life with wife Louise and children John James (9) and Lucie Rose (6).
“I only wanted to do the marathon in honour of my mum,” he said. “It was my mum that planted the seed into my head to run a marathon. The weekend before she died we were watching the London Marathon on TV probably because my brother Mark ran it previously.
“My mum asked me would I ever run a marathon. My reply was ‘look at the shape of me - I’m 17 and a half stone, can hardly see my own feet and enjoy my take aways and beer.’
“My first days running were very difficult as I wasn’t in the best physical shape. To be honest it was torture. I struggled to get my breath, I struggled to increase my distance but what I did have was determination to accomplish what I set out to do.
“I had my mum as inspiration, she was there to keep me going. She always told me I could achieve what I set out to do. I never gave up no matter what the voices in my head told me or what aches and pains my body had. I was an amateur and all I knew was I needed to run and run to be able to do a marathon.
“The more running I did the easier it became. When I started running it was in January 2013 and the weather was as low as -6 on a few occasions. This didn’t help the breathing as the cold air caught the back of my throat. My good friend Stephen Quigley would tell you I struggled until I signed up to the gym so I could concentrate on losing weight and using the treadmill to run to help build up some distance and stamina when it was too cold outside.
“My first race was the Derry marathon in 2013. I never did anything smaller prior to that. I was a novice and knew no different.
“Having my family support throughout especially when it came to the finish line kept me going. And having my kids John-James and Lucie-Rose drag me across the finish line was just amazing.
“There was such a sense of relief that I completed it and I was so proud of my achievements. I got so emotional and started to cry.”
It could have all stopped there, and Seamus said he wasn’t sure he wanted to keep running.
“I had lost four stone in weight and was actually starting to feel healthier and more confident in my ability,” he said. “I didn’t want to keep running, I had achieved my goal. That was me. Boom a marathon done with only five months training, I was buzzing. But then my brother Mark decided he wanted to run the Derry Marathon in 2014. He had missed out in 2013 when he fractured his ankle. So I said I’d do it with him. He was always a lot fitter than me and running was second nature to him especially as he had already done the London and Liverpool marathons.
“During the first marathon I met a school friend that I lost contact with - Gareth Mellon and we swapped numbers so when I decided I was going to start training again for the marathon in 2014 I contacted Gareth for company and support.
“After completing my second marathon I knew I’d more to give as I got a PB in the marathon so decided to join a running club after discussions with Colleen Brown and Steven Peoples who said I’d get support and encouragement. It was probably the best thing I ever did.
“There was support, encouragement and motivation but most of all there was the social aspect of it all. I’ve met some amazing friends that will be friends for life. We all share the same interest and we’re there to support and encourage each other with running and setting new goals.”
STAR was set up in December 2014 by Seamus and friends Gareth Mellon, Steven Peoples, Carol McGlinchey, Barbara McCarry, and Michael and Antoinette Curran.
“When you’re in a club there is a focus, there is a regime,” said Seamus. “Goals are set and there are other people that are willing to help and support you reach your goal.
“There is an amazing buzz at the club at present. We are partaking in numerous running events and trying to get the club noticed on the running map. There is such a great family atmosphere within the club. Everyone is there to encourage each other along. We never leave anyone behind. We wait until the last person finishes their run. The camaraderie is exceptional. We believe in each other.”
And Seamus is keen to get others out running. He and other members of Star are currently training a group of local people hoping to do their first ever 5k in five weeks time.
“I have always believed that I was supportive with my running. When I finish a run I always went back out to help the last person from the club across the finish line. For me it’s about the finish line not the finish time when it comes to being there supporting others.
“I believe we are all in this together. I have seen how far I have come in running in such a short time and have belief in anyone that wants to run. I’ve had my knock backs and criticisms for what I do however I’ve taken them on board and progressed as a person, a leader and a trainer. Within STAR there is a great support network for each other no matter what distance you want to run. A lot of people don’t believe in their ability and may lose interest as they don’t see results quickly. People have bad runs and think that’s it I’m finished but in my eyes a bad run is better than no run at all. “At the end of it all “we run for fun”. We are a group of friends that want to run together.”
To find our more about STAR running club you can find them on facebook - Star Running Club.