THE Masters European Championships, held recently in Portugal, will be an event that Leevale AC runner Annette Quaid will look back on fondly.
She came home with three gold medals in the individual 800m, 400m, a team win in the 4x200m and a silver medal in the 1,500.
Not bad for someone who at one stage was fondly nicknamed the ‘bridesmaid’ of running by her fellow runners.
This came about after she finished second in several events, and they used to joke with Annette that she was destined to be the bridesmaid and finish second all the time. But that was very much a short time into her running career, which started in 1986 when she was eight years old.
Annette was living just across the border in Limerick at the time and Fr Liam Kelleher, who is well known in athletic circles, paid a visit to her school to encourage both boys and girls to take up athletics.
Annette went home and told her parents that she wanted to give it a go and was only allowed to travel to the North Cork Athletics Club on the grounds that her sister made the bus journey with her as there was no club near them in Limerick.
From that first day her talent was obvious to all and it wasn’t long before she was picked to represent the club. To get an idea of the competition, there were more than 160 girls trying out for the coveted spots on the club team and she beat them all.
“Fr Kelleher used to gather athletes from everywhere to compete at the club and for the club and I was lucky enough to beat them all and to represent the club at such a young age,” Annette said.
But her first time representing the club didn’t go as well as she hoped, at least in one regard. Even though she was just eight Annette ran in the U11 Cork County Cross Championship race and managed to finish ahead of all her opponents.
An incredible achievement for such a young and inexperienced runner, but her joy didn’t last long. After the race and with the medal proudly around her neck Annette was disqualified for being too young.
But that setback didn’t deter her as she started to improve under the guidance of all those involved with the North Cork Athletics Club, especially Dave Doyle, who coached her throughout her time in secondary school.
Determination was certainly a word that was part of Annette’s make-up and fast-forward to 2018 when she was running in the 800m World Indoors in Torun in Poland and not long into the race she had a bad fall. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she got up and put everything she had into the race and managed to finish second — an incredible achievement considering the fall.
At the same event she also came second in the 400m. These two seconds is where the bridesmaid joke came from. But in between those times a lot happened for Annette, including giving up running for several years, before taking it up again.
During her school years Annette won many national juvenile club and school titles over 800m and 400m.
I also represented Ireland as a juvenile at the Intercooler and Youth Olympics, winning gold over 800m and 300m and I also got a senior cap at the age of 16 on the 4x400m team at the European Cup.”
When she finished secondary school, the US beckoned and she got a scholarship at the University of Arkansas where she studied Kinesiology K-12.
“It was tough at times to be over there and then it was a lot further away in terms of being able to get home or contact home.
“I enjoyed my time there but being away from home was not the easiest and it was during my final year at college that I decided to give up running and competing. I think I just had enough at that point and packed it in before I left college.”
She returned came back to Ireland and after having her children, on a whim took up running again in 2008, but she doesn’t do things in half measures.
After one event she decided to run a marathon and after a few months of training she completed the race in three hours and 10 minutes, again another great achievement.
“I met Donie Walsh thereafter and I trained for longer distances. I ran my first international in 2018 in Madrid at the European Masters Indoors and won bronze over 800m.
“Donie said he used to see me running around parts of the city and eventually we bumped into each other. He got me to come down to Leevale and he has been my trainer ever since. He is the heart and soul of Leevale. He is far more than a coach to me; he is one of my closest friends and he has helped me through some of my toughest days personally.
“I have amazing team-mates and training partners. Sinead O’Regan from Kinsale AC has been my rock over the last year or so especially in the gym. We trained all through Covid together and we have continued to push each other on and off the track. I absolutely love what I do.
Athletics is mainly a self-funded sport so having constant support from my friends and family is so important. My two girls are what make me want to be better.
“As a mum you want to inspire those coming behind you and they are so proud of me. They have put up with many days waiting for me to finish up at the track or follow me on the bike.
“My partner, Darren is also a master athlete and I am lucky that we get to train and race together. He is so supportive and without that I would not be able to do what I do.”
Annette was a full-time mother for several years but is now working for herself.
“ I am currently doing Sports Massage and PT and starting out on my own business adventure. Athletics is a self-funded sport so being able to work around training and my children is imperative. Anyone can reach out and contact me on my Instagram account or Facebook.”
Annette is currently the National Masters 800m and 400m champion and the British Masters champion over the same events and competes for a British team, Tynedale AC, as well as Leevale. And on current form, there is simply no stopping her.