In the latest of our athlete of the week series, we move to Termoneeny Running Club, to hear all about Helena Quinn, as she swapped the netball court and football boots for running shoes.

What is your first memory of sport?

I've always loved being outdoors and sport was always part of that, whether it was kicking a football or playing rounders or badminton at the house.  Being one of triplets and having an older brother close in age, meant we were always outside together messing about.
I remember the P7 netball and football tournament was always a big deal in my primary school in County Tyrone and I have fond memories of playing in both.

Have you always been involved in sport?

I've always loved all types of sport.  In secondary school, netball was the main sport and I played with the school team.  I played for the local leisure centre team for a number of years as well.  I always loved playing football, so for a number of years I played with Aodh Ruadh ladies football team in Dungannon before my own home club Killeeshil ladies team was formed.  I just loved being part of it all. I also have great memories and met good friends through playing at University as well.

How long have you been involved in running and when did you join the club?

It was really through my university years that I took a keen interest in running.  I remember a friend asking me to run the Lisburn 10K with her and I’ve had the bug ever since.  I joined Abbey Athletics club when I lived and worked in Belfast for a few years.  I remember dreading the twice weekly speed sessions at the Mary Peters’ track.  Even though it nearly made me sick sometimes, it really was great fitness training.
I joined Termoneeny running club after my third child was born in 2012.  They’ve been a great bunch to be involved with and it’s great meeting them at different events.

Why did I start running?

Running makes me feel good.  I enjoy it. Taking part in 10Ks and events are great, I just love the buzz you get from them.  As I’ve got older, though, I’ve found it to be great for my mental health, as well as my physical health.  It has become my way of getting my head showered with juggling a young family and work.  Running fits with a busy life and you can cover a right bit of ground in a short space of time.

What type of events do you compete in and what distances are involved?

I mostly like 10K events.  I’ve competed in a few 5ks but they are a bit fast for me.  The 10K distance seems to suit me better.  I find it harder to get the longer training runs in for half marathons and marathons.  I’ve a number of half marathons under my belt and have run four marathons with Dublin being the most recent in October last year.

What has been the most memorable so far?

I would probably say the Dublin marathon which I ran in October.  The weather was just perfect for it.  It was such a great event.  I found the pacers a great asset and the people out in the streets really built a great atmosphere.
My last marathon before this was in 2006, before my four children were born, so I was delighted to be able to cover that distance again and take seven minutes of my last time crossing the finishing line in 3 hours 20 minutes.

What have been your main achievements to date

My main achievement would have to be my family, but in running I’ve particular loved competing in Termoneeny’s own 10K event each year as well as some of the other local races.
I’ve encouraged a few others into running over the past couple of years and it gives me satisfaction to see them also enjoying it and competing in some of the events now as well.

What has been your highest point so far?

In 2017, I competed in a 10K extreme running event, Blood Sweat and Tears in Parkanaur Forest Park and was second lady to finish. I just loved every minute of it.  I loved climbing over all the obstacles and getting mucked to the eyeballs.  It was refreshing to try something a bit different and the atmosphere was unreal. I never thought for a minute that I would come in second place.  For me, it was like winning the Olympics.

What is your most disappointing point?

Back in 2016 when running my own club race, I collapsed from dehydration 40 metres from the finishing line when I would have been the first lady home.  I remember it being a hot summer’s day and I really didn’t feel well as the miles went on…I just wasn’t prepared for the weather.  It was very disappointing at the time but after a couple of nights in hospital and a few weeks rest, I was glad to have been given a clean bill of health. I took the learning from it and am now more aware of the importance of being well hydrated.  I’d being lying if I said it doesn’t come in to my head when I’m competing in races sometimes but it’s all about mind over matter.

Which one do you rank as your toughest?

I found the Great Rossa Run in July 2016 the toughest mentally, as it was my first race back after collapsing at the Termoneeny run in the May before.  I remember bring so relieved to have crossed the finishing line on two feet and without a drama.
To be honest, I probably find every race tough at the time, but the feeling you get when you cross the finishing line makes it all worth-while.

Have you had any injuries in your career?

I’ll likely jinx myself now, but I’ve really been very lucky.   I know the years are clocking up on me so fingers crossed this will continue.  I had a hamstring injury after tripping at the Maghera 10k a few years ago but thankfully it was short lived.

How often do you train and what all does it entail?

For me, it’s a matter of fitting runs in when I get a chance.  I try to get a longer run or two in at the weekend but the rest are 30 minutes first thing in the morning or last thing at night or whenever the opportunity arises around everything else.

What are your targets for the rest of 2019?

It mightn’t seem very ambitious, but for me it’s to keep running as much as I can and to keep enjoying it.
I’ve nearly broke 40 minutes in the 10K distance a number of times but haven’t quite managed it, so I’ll make that my aim for now.

Is there a long-term goal you have? Something you have always wanted to achieve?

I’ve recently thought about trying a triathlon in the future so I’ll put that on the bucket list for now. Maybe another couple of the extreme running events as well.

What advice do you have for anyone who is thinking about taking up running?

The most important thing is to enjoy it.  Find what works for you.  For some it will be joining a group and for others it will be running on their own.  The ‘Couch to 5K’ programme has been a great asset for those wanting to start off and there are plenty of opportunities to join a group for this or download the app to achieve it on your own.  It’s great to see so many more people taking part in 5k and 10K race events as a result of coming through the C-2-5K and other running programmes.  It’s also worth investing in a good pair of runners.  I really have met great people through running.

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