A MAN who has been running for more than six decades celebrated his 84th birthday recently in the only ways he knows – by going for a run.
And what better location to do it than around the historic town of Cloyne where Billy Griffin went to primary school and made his First Holy Communion back in the mid-1940s.
Born at Ballymaloe on March 2, 1938, his family moved to Midleton when Billy was 12.
In 1956, the year that Ronnie Delany won Olympic 1500m gold, he commenced running. But it was another iconic performance two years before which first whetted his appetite, as he explained:
“In 1954, Roger Bannister broke the four-minute-mile. Although we had no television or anything at the time, when we went to the cinema the Pathé News would come out at halfway and they would show highlights of that famous achievement.”
As there was no club in Midleton, Billy joined the one in Carrigtwohill.
“I remember cycling to a sports meeting in Carrigaline as well as up to Glenville, and cycling home again,” he recalls.
Training for running at the time was in the fields in Midleton.
“We lived on the Rocky Road near Castleredmond and I used to have a fierce problem in the nighttime but then I got the brainwave of putting on a beret and tying a flash-lamp or torch to it,” he says.
Starting work as a lorry driver with Rohan’s in the 1960s, where he remained for over 20 years, Billy was an early riser.
“At that time I used to train at six in the morning, although I often went out at half five. When I went to work for John A Wood we started at seven, so I had to get out at half-five then to train.”
In 1973 - along with future Olympian Liam O’Brien - Billy was a member of the Midleton Cork County Novice and Intermediate Cross-Country winning team. He was also one of the pioneering 34 runners who ran the first Ballycotton five-mile race in 1977 and later completed three Dublin City Marathons.
Like all runners, Billy greatly missed the many local races over the past two years. One of his favourites was the Cloyne ‘4K’ Series so it was appropriate that he would again take to that route - known locally as ‘The Commons’ - on his 84th birthday, easily covering the four kilometres in just over 30 minutes.
During the winter Billy does his training four days a week in the gym but is now looking forward to the spring evenings and a few 5kms on the road – and, like the man himself, his interest and enthusiasm show no sign of waning.