WHEN Bobby Moorhead of Ennis joins 54,000 fellow runners at the start of the Great North Run on September 20, he will be passing two milestones. It will be his 20th run in the biggest half marathon in the world and it will also be his last.
Bobby has been joining in the Great North Run since 1986, the year in which he completed his first New York marathon, a feat he was to repeat two years later.
“I missed out a couple of years because of injuries, so this year will be my 20th,” Bobby explains, as he goes into his final weeks of preparation for the run in England’s ‘Geordie’ land, starting from Newcastle and finishing on the beach at the seaside resort of South Shields.
He’s out on the road three times a week and fits training around his one-man home baking business, which he runs from his home at Ashfield Park, Ennis.
He rises at 2.30am, is baking within the hour and has his distinctively shaped brown bread hot from the oven around 7.30am. His deliveries take him from Ennis to Limerick, starting at 8.30am and the bread run is usually finished before noon.
“It’s getting shorter because recession is biting the bakery business too with more and more people turning to the Lidl and Aldi outlets for household shopping,” he points out.
His running is mostly on the days that he is not baking. “I do an eight mile run on Wednesday, a five mile run on Sunday and probably a four-five mile run on Fridays,” he reports. After each run he heads for the pool at the Auburn Lodge Hotel across the road from his home. “There it’s 10 to 12 lengths. It’s most relaxing and cooling after the run,” he says.
Bobby did not take up running until he was approaching his 30th birthday. He had not been active in any sport since his schooldays in Limerick city.
“I played rugby and hockey for Villiers School but I had no involvement in sport after that,” he recalls.
“A friend asked me to accompany him on a run at a local sports field and I was wrecked after half a lap. But I had been bitten by the running bug. Oddly enough, my friend gave it up but I set myself a target of running a mile and then it went on from there until I was going in five and 10km races and then marathons and half marathons.”
Besides the two New York marathons, Bobby has also completed the distance in Glasgow, Dublin and Cork.
Bobby is also a biker and roars off these days on a Harley Davidson. He has been involved with bikes since he was 16-years-old.
Over the years, he has sat astride Honda Goulding 500 and 800 models, a James machine and an AJS. He exchanges running gear for leathers when taking off at weekends.
“Sometimes I join up with other bikers for a run,” he explains, but he says that wife Mary has no interest whatever in getting out and about as a pillion passenger.
Besides his self-taught baking, Bobby is also a keen gardener and is a regular award winner in the local Ennis garden competitions.
Heading over to the North East of England this year, Bobby is doing his bit for Shannon Airport. “At one time, there were air connections to Newcastle but in recent years, I had to make my way through Dublin,” he recounted.
But this year he is flying initially to Liverpool accompanied by a friend, who will then drive across the country to Newcastle. And after the Great North Run, Bobby and driver will head for Glasgow and catch a Ryanair flight from there back to Shannon.
Even among a mass of 54,000 runners, Bobby will be meeting up with a couple of Scottish participants, who he got to know when he made his debut on the Great North Run in 1986. “At the end of the run, a huge number of the participants relax on the beachfront at North Shields, where we have a few pints in the local bars.”
This year he will be meeting up once again with Glaswegians Alan Wylie and Walter Edgar. And while it will be Bobby’s last run, it will not be his last reunion with the Scottish pair. “I’ll be going back next year and in years afterwards to meet up with them,” Bobby explains.
He will be 63 in December and feels that it’s time to ease off from the tough training regimes. But he will be going back as a spectator and a support to his two Scottish pals.