Gary Murray from Stranorlar, rolled back the years on Sunday last at the Donegal Cross Country Championships in Carndonagh.
The 32-year-old claimed a second Donegal Cross Country Championship in what was his first competitive outing in over three and a half years. And he did it in some style too as he showed the rest of the field the way over a tough course. At the finish he had almost a minute to spare over second placed Ciaran Doherty, Letterkenny AC.
“It is nice to win the championship again. It’s my second time - I won before in 2004,” said Gary, who insisted he was glad to be back running again after a three and a half year battle with a career-threatening injury.
“Sunday’s race was my first since the Northern Ireland Senior Cross Country Championships in Stormont. And to be honest, after what I have gone through over the last three years, it’s a bonus to be back running, never mind winning races.”
Shortly after winning in Stormont in February 2010, Gary ruptured his Achilles and after two operations and lengthy rehab, he returned to running towards the end of this summer.
He had his first surgery in Dublin at the beginning of 2011 and the second in Sweden early in 2012.
“The first surgery wasn’t a success and I thought I was going to walk with a limp for the rest of my life,” he explained.
But after some research and reading up on the injury on the internet, Gary came across Swedish surgeon Hakan Alfredson. Dr Alfredson specialises in rebuilding Achilles.
“The surgery went well and the operation was a success and it began the start of a long rehab process.
“ The objective when I went to Sweden was to get back walking without a limp. Running and winning races was the farthest from my mind.”
“Racing and winning again is a bonus and to win on Sunday over what was a very tough course is a real bonus.
“When I arrived down in Carndonagh and I saw the course first, it did cross my mind not to run. But I had committed so I decided to go out and give it a go and ended up winning.”
Gary, a national cross country champion in 2005 in Santry, was a most impressive winner of Sunday’s race.
The Derry-based school teacher pulled away from the field from the gun and was almost a minute clear of the chasing pack at the end.
Running for St Malachy’s, he negotiated the tough course with consumate ease and there was never any doubt about the winner after the first of the five 2k laps which saw the runners having to tackle two tough hills on each loop.
Next up for Garty are the National Inter-county championships, in a few weeks time as he continues his comeback to top class athletics. “I have no master plan, I’m just delighted to be back running again and I’m taking it one race at a time.”