The not-so-lonely long-distance runner
2019-05-01 16:13:20 -

By Ken McCue


The loneliness of the long-distance runner is not a feeling that Sergiu Ciobanu experiences. The Moldovan-born marathon athlete enjoys the full support and encouragement of his wife Eimear and children Daniel and Rosalina, along with the population of Clonmel where he works as a physical therapist.


This champion runner is also very popular among his fellow athletes in Clonliffe Harriers, the club he joined when he first came to Dublin in 2006. Despite being now based in Co Tipperary, he continues to represent the Santry club in all competitions.


Sergiu was a latecomer to athletics, only taking up running at 18 after practicing school sports including soccer, basketball and wrestling. With little English, he found membership of a club very useful for settling into Irish society, concentrating on 10k and half-marathons initially before moving up to competing in full marathons.


As soon as he received his Irish citizenship in 2015, he was off to represent his adopted country in a European cross country event along with other championships in Amsterdam, Berlin, Cardiff and finally Valencia.


Despite all these experiences, he was unlucky not to be invited to wear the green singlet at the Rio Olympics in 2016. But this disappointment makes him even more determined to get to Tokyo in 2020.


Sergiu maintains that the qualifying time for Japan will be hard to reach as the standards have increased since Rio. His victory in the Limerick Marathon on 5 May, breaking the course record in a time of 2hr 20min 25sec, is the first step in making the cut. The Dublin City Marathon in October is the next step, as it recognised as a national championship where Sergiu hopes to reach the Olympic qualifying time.


The Dublin marathon organisers, Marathon Mission, cover Sergiu’s costs in his training camps and altitude training but, unlike his fellow athletes, he does not receive funding from Athletics Ireland or Sport Ireland.


Competing at this elite level can be very draining on the pocket as a top-range diet is a very important component in the makeup of a modern marathon runner. Added to that, time must be dedicated for the preparation required to motivate Sergiu into peak form for a competitive race, by running up to 12 miles every day all year round, only taking up to five days off after a race to let the pain fade away.


Sergiu Ciobanu is a powerful role model for young athletes coming from our diverse ethnic backgrounds who struggle to be recognised for their raw talent that, with proper investment, can be honed into high grade competitors who will represent this country at the highest level in Olympic and World competitions..


Ken McCue is an intercultural officer with Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari).

TAGS : running athlete marathon long-distance
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