I left Donegal with over 300 new teammates, 40 new coaches, and a Finn Valley singlet that I’ll proudly wear all over the world.
To say that Finn Valley Athletic Club is unique, or inclusive, or successful, or friendly falls painfully short. Perhaps a few of my experiences last week will give you an idea of what I mean:
> Less than 24 hours into my visit, I had already been given a Finn Valley jersey, the official Irish Olympic uniform, and a handful of offers for rides to training and tours of the area.
> 2 days later, I ran with 500 other runners in memory of Shane Bonner, a passionate FVAC runner who tragically died last year at the age of 20.
> On a night out with about 15 club members, the guys kept me laughing with their stories and banter, and literally threw money at the server with each new round of drinks to try to pay for the whole table.
> Every conversation with Patsy McGonagle (club founder, chairman, and coaching legend) left me swelling with Finn Valley and Irish pride, and clued me into a major reason for the club’s success and longevity.
> I did a group long run in the dark and gained a newfound appreciation for wind jackets and reflective gear- and people whose runs regularly require their use.
> As per tradition, I finished each training run with good tea and even better company in the Finn Valley Center.
> Finally, my host and now good friend Kieran went above and beyond to show me a great time. Among other things, he took off work to play tour guide, gave me impromptu photography lessons, introduced me to treacle bread, and let me borrow all his running gear. Here’s a little glimpse of our many adventures:
One trip to the Finn Valley Center is all it takes to figure that what’s going on there can’t be found anywhere else. For those of you who don’t have that opportunity, I urge you to check out www.finnvalleyac.com to learn more about this incredible club and its humble roots.
To draw from my new Irish lexicon, last week can be summed up in 2 words: “Good crack!” Thank you, Kieran, Patsy, and all of the other Finn Valley AC members that made my trip a phenomenal one. Y’all inspire me with your generosity, passion, and tolerance for Guiness, and I will most definitely be back for a future visit.
Next up, it’s Manchester, Cambridge, London.. and then onto Switzerland for October!