05 Mar 2021 - Conan MercerOn Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018, I went for a run. I slipped on my running shoes at 5:40pm and headed out the door for an honest 15 mile run. At the time I was roughly 3 months into training for the Dublin Marathon. I was grateful to escape my Doctoral research and breath the Atlantic air. I was expecting some light wind, the chance of a peep of sun through the clouds, as well as fleeting hopes of no rain. I was not expecting to meet the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.
I was about 13 miles into the run, on the home straight. Bobbing up and down along the Salthill Promenade, the horizon waving at me, I spotted a well dressed figure meandering through the Ice Cream eaters and Coffee slurpers. The President of Ireland. At first I thought it was a joke, perhaps the run was harder than I thought? But then I quickly realized that what I saw was indeed the truth, my pace slowed to an eventual stop just in front of the Head of State.
"And what are you doing young man?", nudged the President. "Well I just ran to An Spidéal, you caught me on my way back to Salthill", Conan responded somewhat astonished. "Thats an awful long way to run young man, do you like running?"... "well yes I do, I am training for the Dublin Marathon, raising money for the RNLI charity" ... "Well fair play to you!", he bellowed.
Ireland is a geographically small isle. It has a famously rich culture, a friendly and hospitable place. One of the very great parts about living in Ireland is that most things seem within reach. There are very few countries in the world where you can just go out for a run and meet the Head of State, let alone quite rightly stop and have a conversation. I very much doubt that in the United States you could happen on Obama or Trump and stop for a chinwag without a small army descending on you.