A KILKENNYMAN is really going the distance to raise money for charity.
For Paul Dempsey, the goal is to turn miles into money, as he will run a marathon in a major European city for a good cause.
“I’m raising money for Croi, a group who are fighting against heart disease and stroke,” the Thomastown native told the ’People. “I plan to run the Barcelona Marathon on March 25 for the charity.”
The idea might sound a bit mad, but Dempsey is no stranger to clocking up the miles for good causes. Barcelona will be the second time he has run a marathon for charity.
“I ran the London Marathon last year for charity and while there I was invited to join the Croi team for Barcelona,” he said. “They often run marathons to raise money, and Barcelona will be their first major race of the year. Hopefully I’ll be able to do my bit and raise a few euro for them.”
Although well used to running through his involvement in hurling and soccer, incredibly the London marathon was the first time he had undertaken such a run.
“Last year was my first marathon; it was even the first real run I had ever undertaken,” he admitted. “Since then I have kept it on. During the Summer I ran some 5k and 10ks as well as some half-marathons. I also did the Waterford half-marathon before Christmas as part of my training towards Barcelona.
“With that race so close now it’s all about keeping the miles in the legs and making things a little easier ahead of the big day.”
So what started the marathon bug?
“It all started with my uncle, Michael Chandler,” said Paul. “He has run nearly 30 marathons at this stage, many for various charities, and he roped me into doing the London one with him.
“Having played hurling and soccer for many years I’d have a good level of fitness (“although some might argue about that!” he joked) so that has helped,” he said. “I’m a non-drinker and smoker too, so that made preparations a little easier.”
That said, tackling 26 miles was something new to him.
“London was my first real run,” he said. “I had my training beforehand, but the marathon was the first big run - I jumped in at the deep end!”
Despite the hard task, Dempsey really enjoyed everything that London offered.
“London was a great experience,” he recalled. “There were thousands and thousands of people there along the whole 26 mile route cheering everyone on.
“There was music in places along the way as well, which was good as it keeps you going,” he added. “I found the music gave you a buzz and helped to take your mind off the distance that you’re running. It really helped to make it a bit easier to get around the course!
“The marathon was held in April and it was really warm, warmer than many people had thought it would be. That made for some difficult last three or four miles, when you’d feel your legs start to get heavy.
“At that stage everything was draining out of me, but I managed to carry on and finished in 3 hours 55 minutes - for a first marathon I was delighted with the time.”
Clocking a sub-four hour time was a great achievement, but it wasn’t something Dempsey had set out to break when he left the start line.
“I didn’t set out with a target time to beat,” he said. “As it was my first marathon I said I’d just get through it and enjoy the occasion, see what the whole experience was like. After all that I was delighted with the finish time.”
Having finished one marathon, Dempsey always had it in mind to take on another.
“It wasn’t straight after London - there was a bit of a break to recover! - but after a while I said that I’d love to do another run,” he said. “It was during the London marathon that I met some of the CROI workers, who asked me to get involved with their charity this year.”
And preparations for Barcelona have been going well.
“Training is going well for Barcelona,” he said. “I did the half-marathon in Waterford before Christmas, which was part of my training. I’m still playing soccer with Thomastown United and train with them two nights a week as well as play a game at the weekends, but on top of that I try to get out every other evening to do some running.
“It can be tough at times when you’re out running on your own, especially as I’m used to participating in team sports,” he added. “However, you just try and think of Barcelona and how this is all going towards a good cause - that usually gets you through.”
Dempsey has been clocking up the miles ahead of Barcelona, where the marathon will be held over a flat loop around the main streets of the city, starting and finishing at the Plaza Espanya.
“I’m happy with how things are going so far,” he said. “I’ve been putting in the miles and will step it up within the next few weeks.
“I’ll try and get a few 5k and 10k runs in between now and then as they are great to help you set a pace, but other than that I’ll be going on long runs around here. I’m not putting pressure on myself in terms of a time, but if I could finish around the same mark as in London I’d be very happy.”
Getting to Barcelona costs money – around E1,500.
“I have to raise a minimum of E1,500 to get to Barcelona,” he said. “With the times we’re in it can be tough for people to support everything, but every few euro helps to get this fund-raising kickstarted. Hopefully we’ll get there.”
To get it, Dempsey is holding a soccer tournament in Thomastown on Saturday, February 4 as his chief fund-raiser.
“It’s a five a-side tournament with a maximum panel of eight players,” he said. “It costs E10 per adult and E5 for everyone under-19. It’s a fun tournament and we want to get everyone, young and old, involved for what will be a bit of craic. As the tournament is for charity there won’t be a competitive edge to it, just a bit of fun, which hopefully will raise money for the CROI charity.”
The tournament kicks off at 5.30pm on the day, with Dempsey hoping to attract a number of teams.
“Hopefully we’ll have at least 16 teams that we can divide into four groups, with some prizes for the winners and runners-up which will be souvenirs of the day and the cause.”
People can also give money and not play.
“I’d be delighted,” he said. “Any amount, big or small, would be greatly appreciated. People can contact me directly on the mobile - I’d be really grateful for their support.”
And while the marathon will be his main focus, Dempsey won’t be too distracted from his soccer duties.
“I’ll play until the week of the marathon, but after that I’ll do very little to conserve energy. After Barcelona, I’ll take a few days off to recover, but no doubt I’ll be back in soccer training that week.”
And what about the marathons?
“We’ll give the marathons a rest after that!” he joked.