Related: Blackrock A.C. chairman Barry Thornton pays tribute to Jerry Kiernan
Blackrock A.C. has been greatly saddened by the loss of our dear friend and mentor Jerry Kiernan. Below, some of our members share their special memories of Jerry.
Our Family Tribute to Jerry Kiernan
We will always remember Jerry Kiernan for all his kindness to all our family members and especially to Dublin City Marathon legend Paddy Craddock during his lifetime in athletics and in particular during his marathon years. Jerry Kiernan was a joy to watch running and a pleasure to listen to as a sports analyst/commentator.
Jerry Kiernan was also a wonderful and highly respected teacher in St. Brigid’s Boys National School in Foxrock. He cared for and took great interest in all the pupils in the school and especially our son Paul Smith during his 8 years of primary school at St. Brigid’s B.N.S. Jerry Kiernan was also an inspirational 6th class teacher to our nephew Ross O’Toole as Jerry knew both Paul and Ross all their lives through athletics as both Paul Smith and Ross O’Toole are grandchildren of Paddy Craddock.
Thanks for all the great memories Jerry. You will never be forgotten.
May Jerry Kiernan R.I.P.
Yours in Sport
Patrica Craddock-Smith, Mike and Paul Smith
A Message from Tommy
I hooked up with Jerry and the UCD crew via an introduction from Barry Thornton, I had done a bit of research into Jerry (I’m originally from Edinburgh) so was to a certain degree in the dark. For sure my initial searches were on his past exploits and they spoke for themselves. I did know of his “strong personality” and was a bit apprehensive, to be honest.
Needless to say, the intro was short, with a brief overview of my athletic past (Marathon PB, etc). But in essence, he was simply interested in my motivation to train and take on board his coaching methods. Not a hint of HR Zones, Lactic Threshold, Anaerobic sessions etc etc. He stripped out all the BS and made it simple, train hard when necessary and rest and maintain fitness the rest of the time. I had raced competitively in my twenties and after a near twenty years sabbatical from racing and competing, he was instrumental in giving me my motivation to train and race hard. More importantly, he coached me to get back the passion for competing (I always have run for fitness).
One discussion that sticks out is on the eve of the Seville Marathon in 2018. I was flying solo as all of the guys either pulled out pre-race or were injured. He called me the evening before the race and asked me how I was doing as he hadn’t heard from me. I said I didn’t want to disturb him as I knew he had plenty of top-class elite athletes running events on the Sunday also. He said Tom, I treat and give each athlete the same attention and support regardless of ability or stature and I love to see you race well and hit your targets. He called straight after the race to congratulate me and then to explain my next goal.
He coached and commanded respect as we all knew that any advice or praise (very seldom) was genuine. I for one will miss his motivation and coaching as will all his athletes and friends. Gone way too soon
Grateful for His Friendship
It feels like we’ve been friends all my life although I’ve known Jerry only since the summer of 2018. For me personally, he was a true friend, a coach, a mentor and someone who taught me a great deal about loving life and being grateful for everything. He kindly welcomed me to his running group of JK Harriers – a wonderful running community he had built, which has become a big part of my life. Jerry has supported me through ups & downs, and I will always be thankful to him for his generosity with time, care and love.
I can’t help admiring his big heart and the way he made me and every single member of the group feel – special and always welcome. He had an ability to tell you what you need to hear and sometimes without even saying a word and that’s so important nowadays. I remember on multiple occasions Jerry would call me right after I finished a race and asked me how it went and if I was pleased with the result. He always knew one’s ability to perform on the day, always cared and pushed to be not only a better runner but also a better person. Chats with Jerry brought lots of joy – he would share his life wisdom, great stories from his running career and give a friendly piece of advice.
Among many things Jerry made me fall more and more in love with Ireland – the country I’ve been calling home since I moved here from Ukraine almost 10 years ago.
I’ll be forever grateful to Jerry for his friendship and the positive role he’s played in my life!
May his kind heart rest in peace! ♥️
I joined the JK Harriers Group by chance after meeting one of the group (Niall Larkin) on the shuttle bus to the start line of the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in August 2017. He was asking me about my training and results. When I told him that I had just finished playing GAA and that my training regime consisted of a run about 3 nights a week and I had run 2:48 in the Dublin Marathon the previous October, he said that I needed to join Jerry’s Group. Jerry was someone I always admired growing up and from the TV so it took me 6 months to actually summon the courage to show up one Saturday morning (February 3rd, 2018). I didn’t think I was good enough to be coached by Jerry. When I introduced myself and asked if I could join his group, he asked what my goals were and then asked me – “will you do what I ask you to do – if you don’t, you can f*** off!” Once we got over that – I told him I was from Mountcollins (Co. Limerick), which is the neighbouring parish to Brosna (Co. Kerry) where Jerry was born. He loved that – we had something in common other than running (not that my running could be compared to his!).
Will you do what I ask you to do? If you don’t, you can f*** off!
It would be impossible to write a tribute to Jerry without highlighting the difference he has made to my running “career” (I use that very loosely having never earned a euro out of it!). Under his tutelage, I have gotten my marathon time down to 2:31. It’s hard to believe that I only ran 4 marathons in the three years that he was my coach. It definitely felt like more.
- The first marathon I did after joining the group was London in April 2018…. which was an absolute disaster largely of my own making. I had trained okay beforehand but wasted it all with my travel plans the day before the marathon. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell Jerry the whole story. He texted me immediately after the race with “Beidh la eile”, (there will be another day). And there has been.
- The following October, I ran 2:42 in Dublin (trailing fellow BAC man Tommy Gavin home). I will never forget the reaction of Jerry and Murt at the UCD flyover when I approached about 5 mins sooner than they were expecting! His first text after that was….”We are only starting Brian……Brosna and Mountcollins boys have to look after each other”.
- After that, it was 2:38 in Boston in April 2019….which was more notable for Jerry’s reaction when he found out that I was planning on running the Blackrock 5K two weeks later. “Rumour has it that you are running a race tomorrow Brian. Must be apocryphal because to do so would be folly”. Needless to say, I didn’t run! (PS: I may have been sabotaged by another BAC athlete).
- After that, it was on to Berlin in September 2019 – for which he primed me perfectly, backing off on the hard sessions 3 weeks out because he said he could see that I was peaking and he just needed to get me to the start line. He was right. I showed up fresh as a daisy and ran 2:31, with a 74 min second half which was a big HM PB for me as well. Cue Jerry “Brilliant intelligent race Brian. You will run faster of course!”
Brilliant intelligent race Brian. You will run faster of course!
But Berlin wasn’t the last marathon we trained for together. After a heated discussion one Sunday about whether to run Seville or Barcelona in the spring of 2020, I “won” and entered Barcelona. I say I won, but of course, I really should have gone to Seville in February. Barcelona was cancelled a week before it was due to happen. This training block was notable for the fact that, after two years in the Group, Jan – Mar 20 was the first time Jerry had me consistently running big mileage each week (c. 120-130k average). He was building me to that point. When the Barcelona marathon was cancelled on Saturday, March 7th – he got me into the Bohermeen HM the very next day for a big PB of 71:12, with Jerry in attendance to cheer me on. Finally, he encouraged me to enter the National Championships in August, which didn’t go according to plan but it was still a super experience and something I’m glad that he had me do.
Jerry was famous for his telling put-downs, and I was subject to a few of them myself (“Would I be right in saying that you are carrying a bit of an arse?” or after me asking him about dieting “no need to go on a diet, just lay off the packet of biscuits in the evening Brian”). But that was him being honest and also finding the right way to motivate you. He cultivated rivalries – he spent 18 months telling me that Tom the Scot was much better than me……and telling Tommy Gavin the opposite. He’d put me in a session with Jafer and tell me not to chase him coz he was half my age…….knowing full well that my sole aim would be to beat Jafer in the session! But behind it all, he was very generous with praise when it was deserved (see texts noted above and many many more). And to use a GBBO analogy – the day he told me that I was starting to look like a proper runner – well that was like receiving a Paul Hollywood handshake.
No need to go on a diet, just lay off the packet of biscuits in the evening Brian.
I’m going to finish with a line from Emmett Dunleavy who put it best “one of his greatest talents was making you think that your particular friendship was different from all the rest. He had a unique bond with each individual.” Like I mentioned at the start, we were born in neighbouring villages in a rural part of the southwest and that was something he loved to talk to me about and tell other people about (and how we were all stubborn down that way!). One time when I gave out about something at home, he responded with “I won’t have anything negative said about Mountcollins. I have the fondest memories.”
And I have the fondest memories of Jerry and of being coached by one of the all-time greats in Irish athletics and someone I am proud to have called a friend. I hope he has found a new group in the next life.
He has left an enduring legacy behind.
Rest easy a Chara,
You Have Nothing to Worry About
I first came to Jerry’s training group in Spring 2019. At the time I was 48 and hadn’t trained with any structure or group since before my intermediate certificate even though I had been running regularly since my mid-30s.
I was working with Cheryl Nolan in 2018 when I achieved a PB at the Dublin Half. She kept saying that I should come out with her group, which was run by Jerry Kiernan. I knew Jerry from his panel work on RTE, where he was never shy of sharing his honest opinion. I never imagined that he would have any time for a recreational runner like me, but Cheryl eventually persuaded me to give him a ring. I still remember how nervous I was ringing him for the first time. Of course, I had no reason to be nervous as his personable manner put me at ease straight away.
Right from the get-go, you had a sense that he was completely invested in making you the most successful athlete you could possibly be. I arranged to come early to a session the next Tuesday and meet him in person.
He spent 5-10 minutes getting to know about me and what I wanted to achieve. I remember telling him that I wanted to get under 2.45 for a marathon (I had a 2.46 from my last marathon, back in 2013) but felt that I was a bit too long in the tooth for it. He immediately cut me short and said I had nothing to worry about – he would get me over the line, and I had many miles to go on the engine.
He immediately cut me short…
Now, I trained as a Physiotherapist and work in UCD, mostly doing research related to human performance. As such I have a pretty decent grounding in exercise physiology, exercise science, and biomechanics and my knowledge of the field tells me that I shouldn’t expect gains at my age. However, Jerry seemed to have confidence in me and he infused me with the same. I still remember coming home from that first session tired but buzzing with enthusiasm. I quickly adapted to a new way of training and did everything Jerry asked of me. That mainly involved slowing down on most days and doing one hard session a week. Simple, but effective. Adapting to this was easy, and mandatory!
The second time I met him he quietly told me that he understood that, while I might be in charge inside the buildings in UCD (I think Cheryl had inflated my importance in UCD when telling him about me!), there was no doubt about the fact that he was in charge once I put my gear on and came out to train with him…….’out here you do as I say’.
Out here you do as I say.
The road for the next 6 months was pretty bumpy – a lengthy period out injured followed by a return to the experience the summer loop at the end of summer, and then a dose of man flu around the middle of October. The preparation wasn’t perfect but I got a late entry to the Dublin Marathon and had a nightmare. Nothing went to plan and my 2nd half was nearly 10 minutes slower than the first. I knew that Jerry didn’t approve of poor race strategy and wasn’t looking forward to the debrief. Again, I needn’t have worried. He rang me the next day and was at pains to point out all the reasons why I was up against it and shouldn’t worry about one bad day. My wife was in the car when I took the call on speaker and she was so impressed with how he dealt with my fragile state.
My wife was in the car when I took the call on speaker and she was so impressed with how he dealt with my fragile state.
Jerry immediately recommended that I sign up for the Seville Marathon and get straight back on the horse after 2 weeks of rest. I signed up that night.
There followed a 12-week block of training in which everything went as he said it would. The winter sessions in Belfield were often tough but the group effort, and seeing Jerry at his corner and Murt near the creche on every lap made it bearable – even bordering on enjoyable at times. As Seville approached the Dublin experience caused doubts to set in and I had a chat with him the week of the race. I remember saying that I thought 2.45 was out of the question and asked if I should recalibrate my expectations. I still remember what he said – go out with the 2.45 pace group and I bet you will hit a point in the 2nd half where you pull away from them. On the day of the race, I really didn’t believe it but I trusted him and did exactly as he said. Damn it if he wasn’t 100% right – I left the 2.45 pacers at 38-39k and my fastest km of the day was the 42nd one. I came in under 2.44 – a marathon PB at 49 years of age!
The first text afterwards had to be to Jerry…..of course, he downplayed his role in it but I knew that there was no way it would have happened without him. Jerry provided the structure, encouragement, discipline and confidence that were key to making it happen. Beyond that was the genuine interest Jerry seemed to have in everybody that he trained. All I had to do was keep putting one leg in front of the other….
I never got to know Jerry as well as some of the people in the group. I tended not to text or ring him that often between sessions as I didn’t want to take up his time. However, the short conversations I had with him before or after a session were always meaningful and would stay with me for long afterwards. And there was the sharp wit as well… back in October one evening, he mentioned to myself and Niall Larkin that we might consider the Saturday hill sessions. Almost in unison, we told him that we had family commitments at the weekend and it wasn’t possible if we wished for marital harmony. The quick reply; ‘you gentlemen didn’t marry well’.
The last time I met him was just before Christmas. I remarked at how I had just turned 50 and was still looking forward to cracking a few more PBs, something I couldn’t have imagined before I came under his wing. He shot back with a determined ‘we haven’t finished with you yet Brian you know’………
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