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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 8 months ago

Jack Gallagher: The man who ran the world

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At the ripe young age of 83, Winter Park resident Jack Gallagher continues his love for running by competing in the Dublin Marathon.
by: Troy Herring Associate Editor

On a perfect morning in Dublin, Ireland, Jack Gallagher prepared himself for what was to come.

The runner extraordinaire found himself in a sea of Irish and international runners who had gathered in the Irish capitol to run the 2017 Dublin Marathon.

The usual gray clouds of the island country had disappeared and the sun shined on the city, as the temperature hovered in the 50s on a cool October morning. 

It was a perfect day for a 26.2-mile run.

“Dublin was the most, if it’s possible to put such a name on it, delightful experience of my life — as far as marathons go,” Gallagher said. “There were 20,000 people running it and the crowd support along the way was just tremendous — the Irish tend to be exuberant anyway.”

That day, the Scranton, Pennsylvania native and current Winter Parker, had only one real goal — keep on pace and finish in under seven hours. 

Gallagher just managed to hit his mark. He crossed the finish line with a time of 6:59:20. His time helped him win his age group, which included two other men who were 80 and older. 

Just like any athlete, preparing for an event is just as big — if not bigger — than the event itself.

Although he was made familiar with the race two years ago by a friend, Gallagher didn’t decide to run the race until earlier this year.

“I got up one morning in May and just said, ‘I want to run the Dublin Marathon,’” Gallagher said.  “And with low odds, I approached my wife and she finally (agreed). I think she realized it meant very much to me, and I don’t know why it did, but it did.”

After finishing the Space Coast marathon eight years ago, Gallagher gave his wife a scare when he passed out on a park bench. Gallagher was fine, but it was too much for his wife, Mary, and she asked him to never run a marathon again.

Gallagher has a long history of running, despite starting the sport later in his life. After watching his father and brother die early from heart attacks, and after being diagnosed with high cholesterol, Gallagher decided to try running. 

“That gave me a spark point to begin running, and I found that I liked it,” Gallagher said. “I was actually pretty good, and I was able to bring my speed up pretty fast.”

Since he began running in 1983, Gallagher has run in 12 marathons, a small percentage of the 335 races he has completed across the globe. Gallagher estimated he had ran races in at least 40 to 50 countries — including Japan and England.

In Gallagher’s home office, he has a shelf dedicated to his runner’s journal to keep track of his mileage, which so far sits at about 36,000 — to put that into perspective, the Earth’s equator is nearly 25,000 miles, which means Gallagher has ran about the equivalent of one-and-a-half times around the globe.

Although he has now self-retired himself from marathons, Gallagher said he still plans to keep running half-marathons, as well as continue running with the Winter Park Sunday Running Group — a collection of walkers and runners who meet up in front of the Williams-Sonoma store on Park Avenue at 7 a.m. every Sunday morning.

“The only goal I have is to run as far as I can, as fast as I can, for as long as I can — recognizing that at some point the merry-go-round slows down,” Gallagher said with a laugh.

Troy Herring is the associate editor at the Winter Park/Maitland Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

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