A BALLYVARLEY man who won marathons during his athletic past will carry the Olympic torch through the village of Gilford in June as part of celebrations ahead of the London Games.
Dan Lennon, 88, was nominated by his son John who said he felt his dad’s achievements during his running days should be recognised as the UK prepares to host the biggest sporting event in the world this year.
Dan, a founder of Aghaderg GAC and former footballer and hurler, was a champion runner in his time having twice won the Dublin marathon. John, one of Dan and his late wife Joan’s 10 children, said he knew he had to nominate his dad when the opportunity arose for local people to become torchbearers.
“My father was one of the greatest runners in Ireland in his day,” said John, whose dad will be one of 8,000 torchbearers across the UK.
“In 1956 he was fourteenth best in the world and it is my strong belief that daddy should’ve had the chance to compete in the Melbourne Olympics at the time.
“But there were problems with politics within the running association he was part of and it is a great shame he never got the chance to represent Ireland at that level.”
Dan’s efforts in winning Ulster Novice, Junior and Senior titles and the coveted Wakefield Trophy in Dublin, were all the more impressive considering he was not a professional runner, said John.
“Daddy was holding down a full-time job in the Crystal Mill and the Railway, and raising a family, yet when he was training he would run 120 miles a week. He went to work in the morning and came home to run for a few hours that evening.”
On one occasion John recalls his father, who never drove, cycling to Newry to participate in a marathon and then cycling back home again.
While none of Dan’s children or grandchildren have followed in his athletic footsteps John said they will all be there to support Dan as he carries the torch through Gilford on June 5.
And, although Dan’s running days are now behind him, the former champ still takes a keen interest in all sports, said his son.
“He will definitely watch the Olympics this summer. He loves his sport still. He’ll watch any sport that’s on - except cricket,” he laughed.
Dan, who remains modest in his achievements, retains his sense of humour, telling the Leader he is looking forward to carrying the torch “as long as it’s not too heavy”.
The Olympic Flame will be travelling through the streets of Gilford, from June 5, with local street celebrations taking place along the route. Visiting some of the UK’s greatest landmarks and spectacles and travelling by different methods the Olympic Torch Relay will visit every geographical county in the UK before it arrives at the Olympic Stadium in London on the July 27 to mark the start of the Olympic Games.
For the full Olympic Torch Relay route visit www.samsung.com/uk/london2012.