Veteran marathon competitor shows no sign of quitting

HE’S likely to be one of the unsung heroes in today’s Dublin city marathon.

But there’s no doubting that Jerry Forde, from Blarney, Co Cork, deserves the biggest cheer of all the 14,000 competitors when he crosses the finishing line of a marathon for the 200th time — in a wheelchair.

The modest 61-year-old, who was born with spina bifida, only expected to ever complete one race when he competed for the first time in the Dublin Marathon in 1992.

But he got such a thrill when he crossed the finishing line, he has never stopped competing since.

Despite spending most of his childhood confined to a hospital bed after he was born paralysed from the waist down, Jerry, who is single, has refused to let his disability stop him pushing his body to the limit.

In between his work presenting a two-and-a-half hour daily music show on hospital radio at Cork University Hospital, he still finds time to train six days a week, sometimes for more than two hours, to ensure his upper body strength is in peak condition to push himself through the gruelling race.

And his dedication has paid off — he has competed in five continents, clocked up a best time of 2:54. One year he even took part in 17 marathons.

He said: “I first decided to compete in a marathon, after watching one on the TV and wondering if I could do it. I remember my first race in Dublin, when I lined up against the other wheelchair competitors, I really felt out of my depth and asked myself what I was doing there.

“But I surprised myself and passed a few of them. I was delighted back then not to have finished last. But it gave me a thrill and a buzz which I’d never felt before and I knew it was something I would keep doing.”

In his day-to-day life, Jerry mostly walks with crutches, but switches to a wheelchair for longer distances.

But he has vowed not to fold up his special three-wheel race wheelchair for good once he reaches his historic milestone today.

“I can’t imagine giving this up. I’m going to keep going and my goal after this would be to reach 300,” Jerry said.

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