Paul Neill got into running about 16 years ago, purely from a fitness and weight-loss perspective. He was 22 stone and has now run countless 10k races, half marathons and marathons. He has also recently become a coach in order to help others like himself.
What is your proudest running achievement?
My proudest running moment is running my first marathon in 8 years. I picked the hardest race I could find in Ireland (the Connemara International Marathon) and knocked 7 minutes off my personal best after training for it on my own.
What has running taught you?
Running has taught me freedom from stress is only a run away. You have your best ideas when running. It has also taught me to set goals and have a plan to achieve them and believe in myself.
What is your most ambitious running goal?
I think my biggest achievement is coming back to long distance running after a few years away after getting married and starting a family. I achieved it by setting the goal of completing the Connemara International Marathon while raising money for McMillan. I set myself a training plan, followed by running my long runs at 5:30am or 6am, so I didn’t disrupt family time. I’m also not built for speed so getting a 44 minute personal best at 10k was almost as hard as any marathon I have done.
Have you got any memorable running stories to share?
Like any long distance runner I have the toilet stories and getting caught out on long runs and the fun that brings. I think my most memorable moments are throwing up after nearly every marathon I have completed. To me it is strangely a badge of honour. People I know laughed at me. My reply is always, at least I left everything on the course including my breakfast. I pushed myself to the limit.
What has been your worst moment as a runner?
I think the worst moment would be in 2019 at a 10km race. I got too big for my boots and decided at the start line in 28℃ that I would run with the sub-40-minute pacer. I blew up and had to walk from the third mile. I was disgusted with myself for making such a silly mistake. I overcame it by readjusting and focusing on a goal that was achievable. I have managed to bring my personal best time down to 44:01.
What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?
The most miles I have ever ran in a week is 72.
What has been your most serious running injury?
I have arthritis in my hip and two bulging discs in my lower back. They are manageable with stretching and strength work. Thankfully I have had no other serious injuries.
What would persuade you to work with a running coach?
I train on my own and am looking at moving into coaching. Even as a coach I think everyday is a school day and it’s always good to have someone to bounce ideas off and get someone else’s perspective on issues.
What is the best advice you have ever received about your running?
Take the easy days easy and make the quality days count.
If you could go back and talk to yourself when you first started running, what would you say?
Stretch more, warm up properly and don’t run marathon-pace on the long runs. They are for building miles only. And stick with it because running brings you to some brilliant places.