Hit the road: RTE’s Mary Kennedy on running for health and energy

By Irene Feighan

NATIONWIDE presenter Mary Kennedy is in her element when entertaining at home and thinks nothing of rustling up a meal for family and friends. She’s equally at ease when hosting chef Neven Maguire who makes an annual trip to her Dublin abode at Christmas.

Picture: Lucy Foster

“Every year during Christmas week when he’s in Dublin doing radio interviews he comes over for coffee and mince pies. They’re homemade mince pies — I wouldn’t dream of serving Neven anything else.”

The launch of her latest book was another opportunity for the mum of four to celebrate — it was music and song all night long.

“A good friend of mine, Eleanor Shanley, was there — she is the most obliging singer ever and would sing all night. Fr Liam Lawton played the piano for the larks and the crows. And my sister is a fabulous singer and she sang that night as well.”

A co-presenter of Nationwide on RTÉ One for the past 14 years, she is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the TV programme this month. It could be the perfect excuse to host another late-night party.

Home Thoughts from the Heart by Mary Kennedy, Hachette Books Ireland, €14.99

What shape are you in?

I’ve always been a runner — some times I’m in better shape than others. I love when I get the three runs in — Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. You feel really virtuous! And then, when you get an extra one in, it’s almost like paying forward. I run for 4.8km — I wear a Fitbit. It’s the loop around my parish.

I’ve never really had a problem with weight but there are times when I feel a bit flabbier than others — and I do something about it. I consider myself a work in progress always. I walk the dogs.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I make soup, usually at the weekend. I also feel it’s good for the others who are around as well. I would avoid anything carby during the week, but I don’t avoid anything like that at the weekend. I particularly enjoy bubbles when they are on the go at the weekend. I’m just not interested during the week. It doesn’t even enter my head. Monday to Thursday — I’m a paragon of virtue. At the weekend I just love to just relax put on a tracksuit, light the fire, and be with friends.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Champagne when it’s going. And eating a whole bar of chocolate when a square would do.

What would keep you awake at night?

I’m a dreadful sleeper. I have made some improvements in that I don’t go near my phone at night. And I use an essential oil diffuser. You can set if for an hour but it doesn’t always work. I’m a terrible worrier but as soon as I wake up I’d say ‘Why did I worry about that? It is a non-issue’.

How do you relax?

I really love gardening. There’s nothing nicer than the smell of the grass when it’s cut, the smell of the flowers and the smell of the earth when you turn it. Then there’s the satisfaction of trimming the topiary. I find walking relaxing. And l like cooking for friends and family — I find that really relaxing. Also, I absolutely adore a facial or a massage.

What’s your favourite smell?

Freshly mowed grass. It brings me right back to my childhood — we were on a family picnic at Blessington lakes. Every time I smell freshly mowed grass it’s that Sunday on the lakes that comes back into my head every time.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I’d love to have a waist. Even when I was going to secondary school I was straight down, no-nonsense.

When is the last time you cried?

Recently when I was in Vicars Street. My nephew Dermot Kennedy on stage just banging it out — then I looked up and saw this figure at the back of the stage and it was my daughter Lucy taking a photograph. I was sitting beside my sister, my other daughter, my sister-in-law, my brother — it was so beautiful and so happy.

What traits do you least like in others?

I have a big problem with bullying. I hate a superior attitude and arrogance.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

The fact that I’m a worrier.

Do you pray?

Yes, I do. And when I’m out walking I recite the rosary — we grew up saying the rosary in our family. I would have done anything — walked on hot coals to avoid it when I was a child. I love being out in the garden and hearing the Angelus bells. In the same way, when I’m in an African country, which I often am, I love hearing the Muslim call to prayer.

What would cheer up your day?

The released endorphins after a run — the runner’s high.


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