Entering the unknown! Gerald (Hurricane) Heaney
I had merely been a spectator for the famous Armagh International 5k Road Race. In 2015 I had been a watching one of the best races I have seen since I started running, which was a few years ago. The road was littered with the most talented runners up and down the country and also from overseas, the biggest participant had to have been Jonny Brownlee, the famous Olympian Triathlete.
But while watching the race I decided I didn’t want to be the spectator, I wanted to be in the middle of the race, so the goal was set. I would say my first goal was to try and qualify for the race, which was a moderate 17minutes (Moderate as the winner won in a mind blowing 13.58!). Thinking about trying achieve a sub 17minute 5k was a challenge and I had every belief in myself to complete it. I used the local Parkrun (Citypark) to try and get the ground speed to come close to a sub 17min. I knew if I got into a big race, the crowd and runners would help me get close to the sub 17. Queens’s race raised its head and I heard it’s a fast race, so Jamie and I went down to it. Both going straight after a long day at work so not in the best of nick! Low and behold I achieved a 16.53 5k time. BOOM! I had qualified for Armagh!
Roll on a few months to the winter and I had matured as a runner. I learnt to respect training and also that I won’t always run a PB. Therefore I utilised the long winter months to prepare myself for Armagh and get myself in the best possible shape I could, better than I have ever been in. I also looked after my body so I would be injury free. Waking up most mornings at 05:45 for a run is one of the most gruelling things to do in the winter especially as it’s normally dark and miserable around that time of the year; nevertheless I had that determination in my head that I did not want to come last at Armagh. For anyone that knows me, knows that I am super competitive, I would get caught out by my mum saying “Gerard would you go to the shop I’ll time you!” I always had to beat the previous time.
Getting through the winter months would not have been possible without the help of the “Elites” Jamie, Sean and Rioghan; these lads really did make it easier to go out in the winter mornings/evenings to go for a run. The craic that we had is priceless and we have become brothers. Also, I recognise that Brian helped me gain the confidence that I could hold my own within such a big race! Attending club training was never easy but I just had to continue to tell myself that this was all part of the journey.
So in February and really close to race day! 18th Feb was D-DAY. I woke up on the Saturday two weeks before the race and decided to run out and test the legs at a Parkrun. I was out on my own in the Parkrun and when that happens it’s a battle against the legs to keep pushing because you are out in front and going to win, but this time it wasn’t about winning it was about the clock (My biggest enemy). I finished the Parkrun on a very windy day with 16.28 5k, it give me a much need boost of confidence, along with the encouragement from the boys.
The morning of Wednesday 18th February I lay in bed thinking tonight is the night I reach a milestone in my short running career. The talk between the boys was full of anticipation as I was running the 5k and Jamie was running the 3k, the others were coming up to cheer us on. So time to rock! I picked up Jamie and we had the car rocking with “Eye of the tiger” to get us motivated but to be honest it got us rocking. We bounced into The Mall and saw the kids flying round the mall, which was good to see the future of athletics is in great shape. We went to collect the race packs and gets the last nervous toilet break out of the road, quick cheering on the younger ones from the club, then time for a warm up. It was the first time I had done a warm up with my earphones in. Jamie came round with me but I was that focused on the challenge I had to undertake, I knew the splits I had to hit and what needed to be done.
Then it was announced that the 5k was about to start. All the folks cheering me on wished me luck and shook hands. It had finally arrived, the race I wanted to be a part of for a year, it was here! I was nervous but it was more excitement to get started. Normally at a race I tried to get to the front for a good position but after reading up the starting list of the talented athletes I went to the back. Looking around me at the back I saw a few others I had raced before and I knew it was on, I was not coming last!
The gun went off and the pace was blistering but I was trying to find a good spot in the crowd to hide away as it was a very cold night. Lap 1 went and gone in a blink of an eye, lap 2 I was relaxed and going past the club members I could hear them cheering me on and I didn’t want to let them down wearing the famous St. Peters AC vest. Lap 3 I was starting to feel the heavy pace that was being set with the group I was holding onto , Lap 4 I looked at the clock and knew I had a race to beat the 16min 5k. I had to run a 3.40 to run the last Kilometre to get me under the 16min mark. The last lap and I was hurting a lot more than I bargained for, but when I went round the corner seeing Seanie cheering his lungs out I said to myself “right here we go I’m doing this”. Going round the second last corner I could see Jamie hanging over the barrier cheering me on, it was the last 400m to go and I glanced up through the pain of lactic acid legs and saw I was close to the 16min mark. The line looked so far away and bang I dipped at the line looked at the watch and I fist pumped the air I seeing 15.57.9. The joy in my face was a picture having a regroup on a step at the finish line I congratulated fellow runners who had taken part in the race.
At the end of a gruelling but brilliant race, the single thought left in my mind was, “I’ll see you next year!”