Dublin Marathon – Meet the Runners – Karen Smyth

October 29, 2022

With just a few days to go until the Dublin Marathon, we have been talking to some runners about why they are running the Dublin Marathon, as well as some questions about their running journey. 

Next up is Karen Smyth of Ballyskenach AC in County Offaly. In what was meant to be a call about just running and the Dublin Marathon, the call with Karen went far and wide and our mutual connections through horse racing kept us chatting. The time passed, and we could easily still be talking now.

After finding out that she had the BRCA gene, Karen took proactive steps to prevent getting breast or ovarian cancer, and is running as her reward for doing something for herself.

Hi Karen, tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'm a 45 year old mother of four. I was born and raised in Cloughjordan. While I live in Offaly, I'm a Tipperary woman through and through. Myself and my husband have a dairy farm, and 4 lovely children. I love horses, I traveled to Australia and America, and ended up working in Charlie Swans. I joined a couch to 5k with Ballyskenach AC four years ago and I'm still running.

How did you get into running?

Like I said, I love horses, they really are a passion. There's a saying that horses are in the blood, and you can't ever get rid of that love. Its funny, I think there's a lot in common between people who work with horses and people who run marathons. Its a certain type of hardship we enjoy. I'd have friends who'd ask me would I not pick something that'd be a bit easier on myself, but honestly, I wouldn't get the same kick out of it then. Even if I went to a race and saw someone I knew racing, I can feel my heart racing with excitement. I just love running, it really gives me that buzz, and I have always been into fitness.

I have 2 boys and 2 girls, and all my children were born in January. My mother got breast cancer after my first child was born, and thankfully she survived. But as part of all this, we discovered she had the BRCA gene, which increase your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. I went for the test myself and discovered I had the gene as well. So after my last child was born in 2015, I decided to have preventative surgery as I was told I had a very high chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer. My goal was it was better to take action when I was fit and healthy rather than to wait, and get sick and fight with one arm tied behind my back. I really didn't want to be sick, and have my kids see me sick, and I want to be around for them as long as possible.

When this was done, I said it was now time to do something for myself. As soon as my youngest child could feed themselves, I went down to the club. Carmel Ormond was great, she coached us all, and she taught us to run again. At the start, I really was finding it difficult, and I didn't know if I could go on. I really credit Carmel with getting us all to where we are, and the club at Ballyskenach is amazing. It doesn't matter how old you are, how fast or slow you are, how big or small you are, its really a great place to be where everyone is welcome, and everyone is treated the same. Its a fantastic social outlet for us all, and no one is embarrassed if something doesn't go well, we are there to support each other. I'm delighted I went back, and I love it now again.

After the Dublin Marathon, there's actually a group of us going to Lanzarote to run in November, its going to be amazing as there are 3/4 races on there during the week. My husband will be driving us around, so we're fierce lucky we have him with us. There's one woman there in the club at the moment and she's over 70 years old. She's ahead of me in nearly every run, and she's just fantastic, she's actually a hero of mine!

When it comes down to it, I really think the Couch 2 5K are a great way of getting running. If people only knew how much fun it is, and how many great people you could meet, you'd be doing it straight away. You have to be open to it, you have to try, but the reward for doing it is amazing. I've made some fantastic friends as a result. I'd say to anyone, just give it a go.

Why are you running the Dublin marathon?

Like I was saying before, after the kids were grown up a bit, I had to do something for myself. Myself and the sister walked it years ago, so this time I really had to go and do it properly. I can't wait for it.

Have you run many marathons before? Have you any run this year, or planned for next year?

I've done one marathon 20 years ago with my sister. We used to do a lot of walking and training for 5K, and we said we'd do the marathon for the craic. We entered it, and walked the whole thing. It was great fun.

How do you find the time to train? And how do you cope with missed sessions?

I just make time end of story. I run for fun, find it great for the head and love meeting other runners for the chat and a cuppa after the run.

How has your preparation been for the marathon? Have you run other races, or shorter races? Have you had injuries?

Great really, I ran a 30k in Kilkenny City, 3/4 marathon in Longwood Co Meath, 5k races in the Offaly Road race series. I did strength and conditioning classes. No injuries at the moment thank god, I always say I run too slow to get injured. I have been taking it handy the last few weeks though, as its getting a bit slippy, and I don't want to fall before the race, but everything has gone well so far.

Everyone has a different method of training. Do you train with a club or on your own? Tell us about your training plan

I run with the club on Wednesday evenings and club members that are also doing the marathon at the weekends. I don't like running on my own, I love company. My training plan is working for me, but I know it won't work for everyone.

Monday-strength and conditioning class


Wednesday-club training(short distance,fast pace training)


Friday-20k cycle


Sun- long run

What is your goal time for the Dublin marathon?

I would love to finish in 4hrs 30mins but I really don't mind as long as I get there injury free and get over the finish line in one piece and have enjoyed it.

What would your advice be to runners heading into the marathon?

Take it slow and steady. Thank God you managed to make it there injury free and be able to do it. Enjoy yourself, thats what its all about.

What would your advice be to runners heading into the marathon?

Think of all the hard work you have done training for it and how you got through it all. How lucky you are to be able to run. And how great it feels when you finally pass the finish line.

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