By Caoimhe Hegarty

Magherafelt athlete Patsy Forbes is to be honoured by Magherafelt District Council later this month.

A civic reception will be held on January 30 in recognition of the 71 year-old’s achievements as a veteran athlete.

Mr Forbes is a popular figure in local sporting, community and business circles.

Over his 20 year athletic career, Patsy has collected more than 40 Irish Championship medals, as well as a number of British Open, Scottish and World medals.

He is the current record holder of the British Open 100m and 200m indoor and outdoor and holds the Irish Masters record for the over 65’s and over 70’s in the 60m and 100m indoor and 100m outdoor.

Patsy travelled to Italy last year to represent Ireland in the World Masters Indoor Championships, where he won Silver medals in the 100 m and 200m.

He is currently preparing for the Irish Championships which will take place at the end of this month.

Speaking to the County Derry Post, the father-of three said he is ‘delighted’ a civic reception is to be held in his honour.

He said: “This is something that you never expect but it is lovely to be recognised. I was delighted when I heard. I am looking forward to it. I have been running for over 20 years now and I enjoy taking part and competing against other athletes.

“I was 50 years-old when I first got into athletics, it was actually my children Brian and Claire that got me involved. My son Brian is a former international sprinter and Irish Champion. As well as running, Claire also rows. She received a bronze medal in rowing at the Common Wealth Games.  Over the years my Claire and Brian have been very helpful. I enjoy training along with Brian. When the children were younger, our family life was very busy between training and attending competitions. It was very time consuming. My wife Maura doesn’t run herself but she has always been very supportive of me and the children.”

Despite his age, Patsy along with his running partner, Dessie Ryan, still stick to a rigorous training schedule

“I train with my partner Dessie, who is a past Irish champion in the 100, 200 and 400m. Dessie is currently involved in the management of Ballinaderry Senior team and in the past he has taken senior teams to Derry and Tyrone Championships. He has also completed two Sigerson Cup wins with Queens University, Belfast. We usually train on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. In between that, we would normally do a session of kettle bells or something like that.  It is very important that you don’t over train. You can’t push your body. You can only do what it allows. Sprinting isn’t like football or other sports, where you might get away with an injury.  When you’re a sprinter, carrying an injury shows because you will not make your time.  I would advise any young runners to listen to your bodies and only train to a certain level.”

In June 2012, Patsy was selected to carry the Olympic torch as it made its way through Northern Ireland. He completed his relay leg at Caledon outside Aughnacloy.

He said: “It was a massive honour to be asked to carry the Olympic torch. It was a very special moment, not many people get an opportunity like that in their lifetime.”

Athletics was not always Patsy’s preferred sport, he has devoted much of his time to boxing, rugby and Gaelic football.

In his younger years he played Gaelic football for his local club Ardboe.  He captained the club’s senior team when they won their first ever championship in 1968 and then again in 1971, he considers this one of his biggest accomplishments. 

He also played for the Tyrone seniors throughout the 1960′s and early 70′s.

In recent years he has switched to the management side of football and has helped many local teams including The Loup, Ballinaderry, Magherafelt, Ardboe as well as Derry and Tyrone County teams.   

Down through the years Patsy has been influential in raising thousands of pounds for community groups, sports clubs and charities.

“It’s important to give something back to the community, especially supporting local sports clubs. It is very nice to be honoured in this way but the many people that have helped over the past 20 years also deserve recognition, particularly my wife and family, Dessie and Barrie Holmes, of the Mid-Ulster Athletic Club, for his dedication to promoting the sport in the local area,” added Patsy.

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