Belcoo man Tony McGourty is a prime example of if you want to do something and put your mind to it, you will succeed.

The 70-year-old has now completed more than 20 marathons since his first one back in Belfast in the 1980s, and he does not look like hanging up his running shoes just yet.

Looking back at his first sojourn into marathon running, Tony recalls how his initial plans to run the Belfast marathon did not go to plan.

“I was living in Belfast about the beginning of 1980, and I heard about the Belfast Marathon and I thought I would like to do one,” he said.

“I was playing football with Lisbellaw, and at the time I was training rightly for it.

“We went to the Isle of Man for Easter and of course we overdosed in some things that we shouldn’t have overdosed in.

“When I came back, I went out running the next evening, and I hadn’t the wit – or nobody had told me whenever you take a break that you should do a very small run next time round – and I went out, and I near collapsed, and I said, ‘Dammit, I’ll knock it on the head’.”

But a few years later he finally got the opportunity: “It was a few years after. I was talking to a few boys in Belcoo, and I was telling them about wanting to do a marathon, and they said they’d try it too.

“We went out and did a few runs, and were getting near enough [to being marathon ready], and one of the boys got shin splints, and the other fella, he just stopped, and I said ‘I’m going to go on and do it’, so that was the first one I did in Belfast.”

When asked what he thought of running a marathon, in a matter-of-fact way Tony put it succinctly: “I found it was handy enough to do them. It wasn’t too bad.”

However, he adds that you have to want to do them – the mind is as important as the body.

“You have to have the ‘want’ to do it. I know some people like to do one, but I just found it not too bad, the first few. I have had no problem with any, really.”

Since that first marathon, he has run numerous ones in Belfast, Dublin, Galway, Malta and Derry, with the Maiden City competition being his favourite, as it was the place where he clocked his best time.

His latest run saw him complete the Mullingar Marathon in a time of 4.39.39.

He admits it was tougher than normal: “This year, I found it a bit tougher, or whether it was tougher or I was just slower, I don’t know.”

But being slower does not bother Tony, who ran the race with his friend, Barney Donnelly, who he got into running after a conversation in the pub.

“I was chatting him at the pub and he said, ‘I see you go out running, and I would love to go out running’.

“And I said, ‘Why don’t you?’ He said, ‘They might laugh at me’, and I said if they are laughing at him they will be leaving someone else alone!

“We were running on a Thursday night; I met him at the bandstand, he came out running and he enjoyed it and kept at it. After about 12 months, he did the Enniskillen Spooktacular, and he was first in his age group in that.”

Bernard’s running development was seen with the 72-year-old completing Mullingar in a time of 4.40.13.

As for Tony, he has recently got back out on the roads after taking a few weeks off to recuperate after Mullingar. So, what’s next for him?

“I’d love to do London, and I would love to do New York. I would do it for charity, but whether I would do more after that, I would have to see how I’d feel,” Tony adds.