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The first time Alan Brogan ran the GOAL Mile he cared less about the charitable aspect and more about beating his brothers. Things have changed since then – except for the beating his brothers part.
Because now as a patron of GOAL, Brogan understands a lot more about why the event started in the first place: this being its 36th year, and set for 130 venues over Christmas, the GOAL mile has grown up in other ways too.
“I started running it when I was eight or nine years old,” says Brogan, “and at that stage there was still the one GOAL mile across on the Belfield track at UCD. So my dad [Bernard senior] used to bring myself and Bernard across on Christmas morning to run the mile.
“I always remember driving across the city, not a sinner on the road, and rain, hail or snow we wouldn’t miss it. It developed over the years into a real family thing. My dad’s brother started coming along, and the whole extended Brogan family.
“And there would always be the bit of competition with myself and Bernard, my other brother Paul, and a couple of cousins as well. I think for the first time my brother Bernard beat me last year, so maybe that’s what happens when you’ve gone a year without playing for the Dubs. Bernard was always quicker over the 20m sprints, but I usually came out on top in the mile.
“My dad would have know John O’Shea over the years, and that’s where it all started. And I think as well for my dad it was to show us there’s more to Christmas morning than just presents, and toys all around you, and that it’s about giving something back as well, to other parts of the world, and to keep things in perspective.”
Since that first GOAL Mile, in 1982, there’s been around 1,031 different events staged, featuring some 250,000 runners and walkers: the event is now spread over Christmas, also featuring specially staged GOAL Mile events by members of the Irish Defence Forces in Lebanon, The Golan Heights and Mali will also be holding their own GOAL Miles on Christmas morning.
“We now do the mile in Porterstown Park,” says Brogan, “which is actually on St Stephen’s Day, just because it’s closer to the house. And Belfield is sadly gone now. But we still all get together, still love it, and the extended family wouldn’t see each other that often during the year. So it’s nice in that way too.
“Ultimately it’s all about raising a few quid for GOAL, to help fund some of their overseas operations. But of course everyone has that little competitive element as well. Eamonn Coghlan runs it in Porterstown too, and his son John, and they always give it a good lash.
“This year as well my nine-year-old son is hoping to run the full mile too. And I enjoyed it. I think I ran five-and-a-half minutes one year, it’s a family tradition at this stage, and I intend to keep it on with my own family.”
Retired since the end of the 2015 season, the three-time All-Ireland winner has no regrets about that decision – especially with no lingering ailments from his playing career, thus allowing him to still freely run.
“I’ve made peace with it now. It’s hard at first, But I had 13, 14 really good years with Dublin, and I knew my race was run. I was 34, with a very good team coming behind me, so I knew it was time to step away, and no regrets, no. I was never that fond of going back into the January training anyway.
His brother Bernard however still feels good for another year:
“If he has the time, and feels he has, why not? He’s 34 in April, and you look at the impact Andy Moran had in Mayo, and there’s no doubt Bernard still has the quality. You’re retired long enough, so it’s great he still has the desire to go back.
“You see players now like Con O’Callaghan, at 21, I’ve never seen a player with such physicality at that age. It’s the younger guys driving it now, but when the likes of Bernard, Stephen Cluxton, Paul Flynn, Diarmuid Connolly all retire, that will be a lot of experience gone, it will be hard to replace, so I think they’re going to try get all they can out of it.”
This year’s GOAL fundraising will focus on three overseas projects. In Syria, families who are forced to flee their homes because of the ongoing conflict can avail of critical emergency support; in East Africa, GOAL is implementing life-saving nutrition programmes aimed at preventing, detecting and treating severe and moderate acute malnutrition, and ensuring drought-affected communities have access to clean water; in Uganda, tens of thousands of people eager to earn a living in agriculture in the north of the country are benefitting from a new GOAL-supported programme that is helping them form a productive and profitable future in farming.
To find a GOAL Mile near you, see www.goalglobal.org