Rebel With A Cause

Rebel With A Cause

A day in the life of Bob Hilliard, Race Director of the Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon

Interview by Cathal Dennehy Photo: Tomás Greally – Bob Hilliard With Boston Marathon winner Neil Cusack in Clonakilty

I’M UP AT 5:30AM, and breakfast is usually cereal and yoghurt. For the last four years I’ve been living and working in Kalmar, Sweden. At the moment we’re renovating an old school. I’ll usually start at 6:45am and finish at 5 or 6pm. They’re long days, but I love what I do.

WE ORGANISED the first Clon Marathon in December 2010, when there was awful ice and snow, but we were so enthusiastic about race organisation that we just drove on instead of cancelling. We were blessed to have a council which helped us clear the roads, and we had sunshine on the day and managed to run three races. We got a great turnout of 1,300 runners.

I’M ALWAYS HESITANT to call myself Race Director because when things go wrong the buck stops with me and when things go right there’s about 100 people to acknowledge. It has gone wrong – we’ve had storms and had to cancel – but it’s also gone right.

BETWEEN THE 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon we average 2,000 to 2,500 runners every year and they bring great energy to the town. They celebrate like rock and rollers after the marathon, which is great for local businesses.

I’VE BEEN A RUNNER for many years, but I was never fast – my best marathon was 3:30. A few years ago I tried my first ironman, but I wasn’t very good at swimming. I was getting panic attacks in the water, but I thought: go big or go home. I lined up but missed the cut-off time out of the water so I didn’t get to finish.

LAST YEAR I finished my first ironman, but four days later I fell two floors at work. I was standing over a stairs that had been taken out when a stone came out of the wall and cracked the scaffolding. I dropped about 20 feet on to concrete. It hurt.

THE LEGS WERE SWOLLEN and I had multiple fractures in my feet. As the doctor in Sweden said: it appears that at 52 you don’t bounce as well as you did before. I didn’t get back working for a month and was in pain all winter, but I was lucky – very lucky.

IN AUGUST I completed ironman Kalmar with my son Jonathan, having mostly trained with just swimming and cycling. It took me more than 13 hours – I jog/walked the marathon – but I enjoyed it.

IN THE EVENINGS I’ll often run home from work, which is about four miles to keep the legs moving training for New York Marathon with my sons Jonathan and Robert.

FOR ME, running is a state of mind, and I do it for peace. There are days where you come home and you’re physically wrecked, but give yourself a mile or two and you’re in great form. It doesn’t matter what pace you run.

DINNER MIGHT BE CHICKEN, pork or fish, basically the same stuff I’d have back in Ireland – and I’ve an addiction to pasta. At night I’ll often go to the gym to do a core class, and bedtime can be anywhere from 10 to 12. There are evenings when you push it out and delude yourself you’re young, then there are evenings when you’re asleep at eight.

THIS YEAR’S RACE in Clonakilty is on December 9, and I can’t wait, but it wouldn’t be possible without the help of the Town Council, the local Gardai, the Red Cross, the Quality Hotel and of course the people of Clonakilty.

I LOVE TO SEE the smiles when runners come across the finish line. Half of them curse me to the hills and give out about how hard it is, but they’ll always give you a hug and I love to see them enjoying the buzz. There’s a great sense of wellbeing, so many great stories. They’ve all had problems in their lives but they’re optimistic and positive, willing to line up to give it a try.


“I love to see the smiles when runners across the finish line”