Team Aisling is back and the athletes of the Aisling Irish Community Center are ready to take on the Yonkers Marathon.
Many of us are familiar with the athletic accomplishments of such sporting behemoths as Team USA and Team Ireland, but Team Aisling announced its arrival on the scene with gusto for the Yonkers Marathon last year. The marathon has a special place in U.S. road racing as it is the second oldest marathon, Boston being the oldest – this year’s installment takes place on Sunday, October 20.
Though Boston boasts of Heartbreak Hill, Yonkers, the second hilliest city in the U.S., has a myriad of hills that provide a stern challenge for the most seasoned road warrior. However, despite its long history and iconic status, the Yonkers Marathon was enduring an uphill battle as the number of runners had been steadily dropping. The marathon was limping to its imminent demise unless it got a major transfusion.
Catherine Flood, a Co. Monaghan native, former Gaelic player, an avid and accomplished runner and an Aisling Irish Community Center board member, came to the rescue. She figured that she could cajole a group of runners to run under the auspices of the Aisling Center, thus augmenting participation rates while also promoting the center and its array of services.
Thus Team Aisling was born, with its philosophy encapsulated in the 4Fs: fun, fitness, friendship and fundraising.
With Flood as the driving force, born again runner Breda Carroll as the taskmaster, Nollaig Cleary in charge of rehab issues and Father Brendan Fitzgerald in charge of spiritual needs, the team grew at an exponential rate. Instead of a few dozen runners, over 300 signed up for either the marathon, the half or the 5k.
Many of these neophyte runners who eschewed physical activity like a plague underwent a conversion as they would have subscribed to the alleged sentiments of Mark Twain, namely that when he got the urge to run or exercise, he lay down until the feeling went away.
This group became fitter, faster and leaner as they embraced the runners’ creed with a zeal that would be the envy of a Trappist monk. Concepts such as peaking, plateauing, tapering, speed-work, splits, warm-ups, cool-downs, runners’ high, rest and recover were being bandied about like Irish weather terms.
The transformation was nothing short of miraculous for some as they had been certified as suffering from chronic AMS, in lay terms known as adhesive mattress syndrome, which is regarded to be impervious to most medical modalities.
Now many of these previously afflicted individuals can be seen at first light traversing the running trails and paths in Yonkers, Queens and Rockland as they crank out miles with abandon. Evidently some of these race-warriors have succumbed to what psychologist William Glasser termed positive addiction as the Aisling color clad runners are showing up in road races across the U.S. A troupe of Aisling runners is using the Yonkers race as a tune-up for 40th anniversary of the Dublin marathon.
Team Aisling continues to grow by leaps and bounds as there are almost 600 runners on the roster, and now they are affiliated as an official running club. If this trend continues, the Yonkers Marathon may have to be renamed the Aisling Marathon.
The organization would be the envy of any political group as there are 13 team captains managing/motivating their particular squads. Siobhan McEntee along with Mary McEleer and Liam Ryan assumed control of the Queens and Rockland groups respectively, while Tracy Dwyer is in charge of the overall logistics for the Aisling runners.
This year’s preparation left no stone unturned, or perhaps no muscle unmoved might be more appropriate, as Mickey Reidy, an experienced marathon runner, and Paddy Breslin, a multiple ironman contestant, were drafted in to push the boundaries of endurance.
For more information visit www.aislingcenter.org.