This week we sit down with our USA correspondent and Liberties 6k champion Gavin Finlay. Gavin recently moved to North Carolina and this accidental runner managed to win a Leinster Intermediate Cross-Country Team Gold medal before departing. More recently he also won a half marathon in 1:13 in North Carolina in February!

When did you join Sportsworld?

September 2010.

Where do you work?

Currently I’m a stay at home dad to my two young children here in Durham, North Carolina (due to US visa restrictions I cannot work!) I volunteer as a tutor at the Durham Literacy Centre. Back home I was working with Historical Walking Tours of Dublin and a part-time Mr. Mom. You could also describe me as a “recovering” historian’ and former teacher!

What is your favourite club session?

Winter: Hills and sprints; Munich lap in Phoenix Park.

Summer: Fartlek in Bushy

What is your favorite race distance?

10k and marathon.

What is your favorite meal before a big race?

Porridge, honey, nuts/seeds. Coffee and/or green tea.

My Favourite place to train/compete is?

Phoenix Park and Dublin Mountains.  And here in Durham I love running in Duke Forest. Bliss.

What is your target for the next year?

Hopefully achieve a 2:32-35 marathon in Wilmington in March.

What is your best Sportsworld memory?

Competition-wise, it would have to be the Leinster Intermediate Cross-Country Team Gold in November 2013 with Karol, Paul and Gareth. Also, representing the club in the Terenure 5 Mile.

What international events have you ran?     

None really until I moved here to North Carolina. I’ve ran several races here in Durham from 5k, 5 mile, 10k to half marathon.

What do you like doing when you don’t run?

Generally lying down. Resting. Reading. Meditating when I can. Enjoying the occasional ale. Oh yeah, and parenting. Did I mention lying down?

How/When did you start your adventure with running?

I used to jog sporadically when I was in my 20s. Nothing serious or sustained. Then in 2009 when my daughter was born and we lived right beside the Phoenix Park I decided it would basically be irresponsible and foolish not to run.

It wasn’t really until early 2010 that was running regularly. I’m talking 3 times a week, nothing much. Like many other people I started running really for my mental health. I hadn’t been exercising or physically active in my barren and hedonistic 20s, and realised that you just can’t go on like that. I honestly I had no initial goals to join a club or be “competitive” or anything. I don’t really have a competitive streak, Never have. Gradually, though, I began to love it, and soon it became a vital part of my life.

I guess you could call me the ‘accidental runner’!  I had always admired athletes and runners from afar but growing up I don’t recall having the exposure or inclination to take up athletics or running. Other sports and interests got in the way I suppose. I know I’m not alone in this experience.

Tell us about your PB’s / What is your biggest achievement?

5k: 15:50

10k: 33:20

Half: 1:13

Marathon: 2:39 (soon to be improved upon I hope!)

Biggest and proudest achievement may well be 38th place finish in the 2014 Senior Inter Club Cross Country Championships. That or first place in my beloved Liberties Fun Run in July 2014!

How often do you run / What is your typical weekly mileage?

Right now, 7 days a week. With marathon training I’m putting in between 70-95 miles a week. Throughout the rest of the year, probably 6 days a week and 40-50 miles.

What would you say is the best thing about being in a Running Club?

The meaningful social connections you make, whether it’s the guys on the Senior team or any club member. Running can be a lonesome pursuit. And I do like the solitude, but having the club sessions, structure, mentoring, friendship and camaraderie enriches what running means to me.

What made you join a Running Club?

To learn how to be a better runner. To have a social outlet and be part of club and community which I hadn’t really been since I was younger.

What was your first day at the Club like?

Like everyone else I suppose, a bit anxious and intimidated but you soon get over that when you realise we’re all here for the same reason really. I do remember being impressed by the faster runners in the club and wondering how can you get that fit?!

Why is running important to you?

It’s an escape from the house and my kids!:) Ah no. Although that is partially true. A strong and fit body is a strong and fit mind. I realised it’s very difficult to have one without the other. Running is mediation for me, where I can think about everything…and nothing. I like being on my own at times and prefer running to say team sports or “games”.

And then with the club or group runs, it’s being part of a community, human connection and a forum to debate…I mean, have a chat and a bit craic! Now, after many years training and racing, I do get a rush out of competitive races and achieving goals (or at least trying to achieve those goals!)

Is there anything you would like to see more of or less of at the Club?

Perhaps more strength/conditioning and form drills included with the club sessions.

Who is the person in the club who inspires/drives to run better?

Emily has been a source of inspiration for me ever since I started. Her kindness and support have had a profound influence on me. Myles’s wisdom and storytelling have also helped me considerably. Phil and the other senior runners have also been great mentors and friends.

Do you do any cross training / other sports on a regular basis?

I used to do yoga/pilates classes several years ago, and I definitely credit that with making me a better and ‘injury-resistant’ runner. Less so now although I do try do a bit myself. Mainly body weight and resistance band work. Nothing serious, mind you. I also walk a lot with the kids!