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Athletics/Running in the News

  • 29-10-2022 2:27pm
    Registered Users Posts: 10,211 ✭✭✭✭

    Thought it might be a good idea to start a thread about media coverage of athletics and running, which as we know is not very extensive in Ireland, but (usually) welcome when it happens.

    I'll get it rolling with this lovely article in today's Irish Times about Pat Hooper of Raheny. (Reposted on the DCM thread in Running Events also)



    Marathon man Pat Hooper will be missed but not forgotten

    For the first time in 20 years the Dublin Marathon will take place without Pat as official race referee

    Gordon Manning

    Sat Oct 29 2022 - 05:00

    Pat Hooper representing Ireland in the 1978 European Championship marathon in Prague. Photograph: Sportsfile/Connolly Collection

    It was just another of those humdrum lockdown days, grey and endless, all life suspended within a five-kilometre radius. Mick Clohisey was out for a stroll with his young son, Paul, when a notion grabbed him. He dug out his phone, scrolled through his contacts until it came to Jugger, and hit call.

    “Howya, Mick,” answered Pat Hooper.

    It was the spring of 2020 and the world was shut. Mick reckoned the isolation might be hitting Pat hard for he had always been stuck in the middle of some scheme or other, organising a race here, sorting out training there, whatever.

    “I just got this urge to ring him,” recalls Mick. “We chatted away, he was happy I’d called. ‘Thanks for thinking of me,’ that kind of thing. I was delighted I did, because I don’t think I got to see him much in the months after.”

    That October, Pat Hooper, Irish Olympian, passed away. He was 68. On Sunday, for the first time in 20 years, the Dublin Marathon will take place without Pat as official race referee. It is the first in-person Dublin Marathon since 2019.

    “He never tried to get out of doing it,” smiles his brother Dick, when asked if Pat enjoyed going out in the lead car. “I think he liked the whole presidential bit of it, waving to everybody!”

    Dick won the first ever Dublin Marathon in 1980. For that maiden race there were just over 2,000 runners. There are 25,000 participants registered for Sunday’s event.

    Forever brothers, Pat and Dick were once also keen rivals. Dick won the national title in 1978, Pat won it in ‘79 – running his marathon personal best of 2:17:46. In 1980 the Hoopers made history, becoming the first brothers to run in the same Olympic Marathon. Dick finished 38th in Moscow, Pat 42nd.

    Years later a video of the Moscow Games appeared in which the story of the trailblazing Hooper brothers featured. A camera crew had been deployed from Tokyo to cover the story of Japanese twin brothers running in the same marathon. But Japan boycotted the Olympics, and the filmmakers were already in situ. So, the history-making Hoopers went global and the wonderful grainy footage can still be viewed online. Only the narration is not Dick’s voice, as it is portrayed, and he didn’t pencil the prose either.

    “Oh, that video,” sighs Dick shaking his head. “And the real corny Mickaleen Irish accent.”

    Still, it is a valuable time capsule capturing a special moment of Irish sporting history.

    Dick would go on to represent Ireland at two further Olympic Games, Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988. He would also win the Dublin Marathon on two subsequent occasions, 1985 and 1986. For Pat, by the late 1980s a knee injury suffered during a road race in Czechoslovakia was starting to take its toll and eventually he needed to get a replacement.

    So, with his running days over, Pat threw himself into Raheny Shamrock AC, and committed the rest of his life to the club absolutely, and athletics generally. He was an omnipresent figure on the Irish athletics circuit. And he ensured Raheny would be a club for everybody – it didn’t matter whether you were a shooting star or a shuffling sloth, if you were out and moving that was good enough.

    “That was his speciality, welcoming everybody. Running clubs might seem intimidating to people who have not always run, but that was one of his real qualities, his inclusiveness, he was so generous with his time,” says Mick.

    When Pat and Dick started running in the late 1960s, early 1970s, Raheny Shamrock’s membership hovered precariously somewhere between 30-50. It is currently around 900.

    “We’d wait until it was dark before we’d go out,” recalls Dick. “We didn’t want to be seen – you were thought to be crazy if you were out running on the roads.”

    There certainly was no tradition and culture of marathon running in the club before the Hoopers came along. But in 2016 Clohisey became Raheny’s third Olympic Marathon runner. Dick was his coach.

    Because of his knee problems Pat’s preferred mode of transport became a bicycle and he was a quotidian sight cycling around St Anne’s Park or along the coast road in Clontarf, always bedecked in a hi-vis vest. “Not that he cycled too fast,” says Dick. “He was always kind of sauntering around.”

    Then, one unremarkable Thursday afternoon in October 2020, Dick himself was sauntering around when he stopped for a gander at the for-sale signs in the window of a local auctioneers.

    ‘Are you thinking of moving house?’ boomed a voice from over his shoulder. Dick spun around just as Pat was hopping down from his bike. They decided to walk and talk. So off they went, Pat and Dick Hooper, runners, Olympians, brothers.

    “We had the most beautiful conversation, we touched on everything, family, running, Covid, everything, it was a lovely conversation,” recalls Dick. “And I hadn’t had a decent conversation with him in a long time.

    “You know the way with brothers, somebody else is always around when you see each other and it just passes by, but it was just the two of us that day and we had that really lovely conversation.”

    After a little while Pat took leave to pick up a couple of things in a shop and they bid farewell the way brothers often do, “good luck, see you soon.” The following afternoon Dick received a phone call – Pat had passed away following a suspected heart attack.

    “That walk with him did an awful lot for me, it sustained me, to be honest. And it’s funny, a lot of people have told me since that in those last couple of weeks before he died how they had met him and had great conversations with him. It was like he was doing a round of goodbyes.”

    Mick still has the last text messages he exchanged with Pat, and Jugger remains in his list of contacts – it being the nickname Pat got from his distinctive running style and hulking frame that combined to see him move like a juggernaut.

    “I got quite emotional when I heard the news,” says Mick. “It was hard to comprehend and it’s still hard to express how to feel, you still sense his presence around the place, you still expect to see him rolling in on his bike. I can hear his voice, that really deep distinctive, ‘howya, Mick’.”

    Pat is buried in St Fintan’s cemetery, near the base of Carrickbrack Road in Sutton, a sweeping ascent that winds all the way up to Howth Head. It is a tortuous running route that was much-loved by Pat for his own training. Up and down the summit he would go, like a relentless bearded yo-yo pounding off the tarmac. Fittingly, he now gets to watch over the hill forever more.

    “If I’m ever doing training runs up Howth I’d give a nod over towards Pat in St Fintan’s,” says Mick. “You couldn’t put a figure on the number of times he would have run up that hill – it was his staple, the Hill of Howth.

    “I think he said to me once about something he had inscribed on his bedpost, ‘Get up out of bed, you lazy sod.’ It was to remind him to get out and do the miles, and he would have done so many of those grinding up that hill.”

    Dick continues to run daily, usually clocking in around 10km “just to keep ticking over”. And he’s out five days a week coaching the next generation too. “It’s no hardship,” he smiles. “I love it. We both always loved the club – we’ve spent our lives in it.”

    Raheny Shamrock AC recently ordered new singlets and many of the club’s athletes will be wearing them in Sunday’s marathon. But many will also be running in their old ones, because Pat had handed them over, often rustling them out from the boot of his car after a training session while using the amber beam of a street light to differentiate sizes. And to get your singlet from Pat meant something. It meant everything.

    Today the organisers of the Dublin Marathon will make a special presentation to the Hooper family in recognition of Pat’s contribution over the years.

    Dick Hooper, the man who won the first Dublin Marathon, will be back on the course on Sunday, the three-time winner has been organising stewards at the event for as long as his brother was race referee.

    And Mick Clohisey, who was the first Irish runner home in the Dublin Marathon of 2018, will be on the start line once again for his hometown marathon. “It will be strange with Pat not being there,” says Mick. “He has been missed around the place over the last few years and he’ll be missed on the day of the marathon.”

    But not forgotten. Never forgotten. And in his own way Pat Hooper will be present too

    Gordon Manning

    Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,256 ✭✭✭Lazare

    That's a really lovely article.