Foyle Valley Athletic Club’s marathon man Harry McNulty is going for a big double this year - completing his 50th full and 50th half marathons.
Next month Harry will reach to the milestone of 50 marathons completed when he crosses the line in the Walled City Marathon in his home town. And with 47 half marathons completed in his long love affair with distance running, the 63 year-old plans to have notched up 50 half marathons by autumn.
“Making it to 50 marathons in Derry will be great - a landmark for me. I’m hoping to do 50 half marathons by the end of the year as well to make it a double landmark. I’ve already done 47 and I’m hoping to do Dervock half and then the Waterside half marathon to bring me up to 49 and then I’m booked in for Glasgow half marathon in October to make the round 50,” he said.
The veteran runner and founder member of Foyle Valley Athletic Club can be seen pounding the streets of Derry and Inishowen on any given day of the week in preparation for his big year. But don’t the knee bandage fool you - Harry’s good to go when it comes to the big day.
“I’ve been doing this a long, long time - building to almost 100 half and full marathons combined has taken many, many years,” said Harry, a quantity surveyor by profession.
Harry has been running for 30 odd years and during that time has amassed an impressive CV of road races completed over various distances. “I’ve done 49 marathons, about 25 Waterside half marathons and 47 half marathons in all and I don’t know how many shorter races.”
Harry also has a solid reputation as the ‘go to’ guy for mentoring in road running. “I really enjoy helping other who are new to running. I feel it’s important to encourage anyone who wants to take part in any way I can.”
He’s currently coaching a group of several women who plan to take the marathon challenge on June 2. “It’s been nicknamed Harry’s Harem but it’s all a bit of fun,” the runner jokes.”It started with Siobhan Tourish and Karen O’Brien who were there since the start of the training but now there’s many more in the group which is great. So many people who have never run before are now out on the roads.”
Harry was himself introduced to running by his late brother Dessie McNulty, a well-known Derry athlete who has had a local annual 10k race (Dessie’s Run) named in his memory. “Dessie was a great runner but sadly he died in a road accident at just 28 in May 1989. He didn’t fancy marathons too much - although he did run well in them - but he was really handy over the five and ten mile distances.”
Harry completed his first marathon in 1982 at the age of 33. “I hadn’t run much before then, it was only after I stopped playing football that I took it up. I found that I really enjoyed it, but broke my ankle and my leg in a fall while training in snow and ice for the London marathon and was out for a good while. It was Dessie who talked me back into running again, although to this day I still take tablets for knee and ankle trouble. But I’ve been very lucky really in terms of injuries, so many others have had much worse luck and had to pack it in. I get sore, of course, but as I always say, nobody ever died from a sore knee or a sore toe. I’ve got away with an awful lot.”
Harry’s ability to stay the training course is clear from his exertions in the past few weeks, having run 66 miles a week for three weeks and 63 for a fourth. But he adds: “That’s me at my limit and only for a few weeks, otherwise I’d be in the cemetery.”
Harry has enjoyed a prolific running career, something he says was made possible by his abstinence from alcohol for five decades. “I’ll be a member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association 50 years this year too, so that’ll go nicely with completing my 50th marathon and 50th half marathon.”