Derry gran takes on the half marathon

Phyllis Moran.
Phyllis Moran.

Derry grandmother Phyllis Moran is living proof that you’re never too old to get your running shoes on and become an athlete!

Less than a year after signing up for Derry City and Strabane District Council’s ‘Couch to 5k’ programme, the 65-year-old Carnhill mother-of-eight has registered for the Waterside Half Marathon which takes place on Sunday, September 4th.

Phyllis (pictured right) says she feels like a new woman since taking up running and has found that her new exercise and training regime is a great tonic in her battle with depression.

She revealed it was local sporting hero Danny ‘The Running Man’ Sheerin, who ran the city’s very first marathon 35 years ago, who spurred her into action.

Phyllis is adamant she would never have dreamt of getting up and running until she heard Danny speak at a storytelling showcase for older men which she attended in the Gasyard Centre last year with her sister, Bernie.

Danny Sheerin, who has had his own health problems, was famously quoted as saying: “I think like a gladiator, I just keep running.”

Phyllis continued: “His story just inspired me because I thought, there he is and he’s still running. I was always afraid to give it a go as I was not a sporty person, and then my son Anthony, who was in the Rise running club, told me about the ‘Couch to 5k’.

“I knew that I needed something; I suffer with depression and it does clear your head, I find the running just amazing.”

The Carnhill woman recalls heading to Templemore Sports Complex last November to enrol on the 10 week course – thinking she might be too old!

She continued: “I thought, I’m a bit old for this and felt a wee bit out of it.

“But I thought I’d give it a go, at that stage nobody knew what age I was, just that I was older, although you never really feel your age. The ‘Couch to 5k’ was absolutely great, the way they get you to start off running for a minute, then walk for a minute and gradually build you up to the 5k.”

Phyllis was full of praise for the support provided by the Council’s sports development team, who encouraged her to do her first Park Run and longer runs since.

“I said to the coaches, ‘do you think I am too old?’

“They said, not at all, you just go at your own speed. I did the 7k Ballyliffin Challenge earlier this year and a 10k from Muff to Redcastle for Children in Crossfire, but I never, ever thought I would sign up for the Waterside Half Marathon. I am really looking forward to it.”

Phyllis, who also has the full blessing of her husband Georgie, is now firmly focussed on building up to the Waterside Half Marathon which leaves from Ebrington Square at 10am on Sunday, September 4th, crossing the river to the cityside taking in local parks, bridges and greenways before finishing at St Columb’s Park.

The Rise running club member said: “We go out on a Tuesday night, a Thursday night and then do a long run on Saturday or Sunday morning, I have got up to 11 miles so I am fairly confident I can go the distance but if I have to walk part of it, I’ll not care.

“I have never felt healthier. I used to smoke for about 40 years and I’m off them now five years. I’ve never felt better,

“I just go at my own speed. As long as there is somebody running at the same pace as me I’ll be happy, because I have no sense of direction,” the Creggan native joked.

Phyllis will also be running the 13.1 mile route for Cancer Research UK in memory of her sister Maureen who died from cancer aged 51, and her brother-in-law, Neil McCarron, who lost his battle with cancer last year.

“I am doing it for them.

“If I make any money it is going to Cancer Research UK. There are a lot of charities but you just have to pick one and everybody has somebody related to them who has died from cancer, it’s a great charity.

The Carnhill woman, who has eight sons and four grandchildren, says they are all 100% behind her participation in the north west’s most popular road race.

“While some of the family live in other parts of the world including Boston, Spain, Nottingham and Manchester, there will be no shortage of supporters to cheer her on.

Online entries for the event have now closed having reached the full quota for this year, but budding younger athletes and those looking for a less challenging run can still take part in the 2k Family Fun Run.