Why do you run, Ian McCullough?

About Ian

Welcome to a blog series called “Why do you run?“. I hope to publish inspiring insights from runners I know, on why they started running and continue to do so.

I’m so excited to introduce you to Ian. This guy is one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to running. I’ve known Ian for many years, and we even ran together in Ireland for a time. Those were some of my first experiences running. However, back then I would never have considered myself a runner.

Since moving to the US, I don’t see Ian much in person, but I follow him on Strava and the man never stops moving. He’s either running, hill walking, skiing or cycling somewhere across Ireland and central Europe.

As I often say to Liz, “I want to be like Ian when I grow up…”. I hope to be still running and enjoying the outdoors as long as him. Thanks for your story, Ian!

Why did you start running?

I stopped playing rugby in my mid-thirties when the pain/enjoyment balance started tilting in the wrong direction. A couple of years later I realised I would soon be 40 (horrors!) and the mirror told me I had not only a receding hairline but also an increasing girth. I could do nothing about my age (or hairline!) but maybe I could do something about my lack of fitness.

So I started running. It was sometimes painful, but I also found it rewarding and at times exhilarating. From early days mainly on tarmac to more recently competing in long-distance mountain running events it’s been an adventure, meeting new challenges and making new friends all along the way.

What keeps you motivated?

Motivation has rarely been a problem. I’m naturally competitive with a fairly stubborn streak. Giving up is usually not an option. And I think this is particularly important with running. From experience I’ve also learnt that the rewards far exceed the effort. I sleep better and generally enjoy life more, and my wife tells me I’m less grumpy after running! And probably most of all I just love the feel-good effect when running and the post-run endorphin release. Maybe I’m an addict!

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt as a runner?

One of the things I’ve learnt from running is the importance of setting and achieving targets. Set them too low and you won’t reach your potential. Set them too high and you’ll either suffer running-related injuries or get into the bad habit of giving up too easily. I’ve certainly had to take breaks from running due to sickness or injury but I can remember very few training runs that I didn’t complete, and so far I’ve avoided a DNF in competitive events (though I have come close!).

Beneficial longer term targets have included a training programme to complete a first marathon or marathon. Last year my target was to complete the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association Championship races, which I did while winning my age category. A few years ago I ran a minimum of 5 km every day for the 31 days of December. For each of the past two years I achieved a target of 1000 running miles.

If you couldn’t run, what would you do instead?

Fitness from running has allowed me to enjoy other outdoor sports including rock climbing, mountain biking and skiing. If I couldn’t run I’d probably do more cycling. Or gardening. Or learning Spanish.

What’s your biggest running goal?

Some 37 years after I started, I’m still running. And my biggest running goal? Just to keep running for as long as I can. And maybe to win the Vet 75 Northern Ireland Mountain Running Championship next year!

Follow Ian on Instagram.

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