Meet the Members – Neil Campbell

Categories: Member Profiles

Q1. When and why did you first take up running?

2013 Belfast half marathon. I had stopped playing football and was only playing 5 a side a couple of times a week, so I was putting on a bit of unwanted timber and losing fitness. I had always enjoyed running and it was a long-time goal of mine to run a marathon. I just couldn’t make it work along with football.
I went to watch the Belfast marathon in 2013 and decided there and then I wanted to run the next one. So, I started training from then and in preparation for the marathon I ran my first ever race, the Belfast half marathon in September that year finishing in 1:33. I absolutely loved the event and the day, even though the final couple of miles were really tough as I had no real idea about pacing. I then went on to run my first Belfast marathon in 2014 in 3:28.

Q2. What running-related achievement are you most proud of and why?

2018 Dublin marathon. This was one of the races where luckily everything went to plan. I was part of a group that decided to try and run a marathon under 3 hours. I didn’t really think it would happen but thought I might get a PB out of it. I had trained very well with the group pushing me all the way and luckily managed to stay injury free. Lee ran 2:55 in an EAMS event the day before Dublin so I gained some confidence from his run. My race was incident free, and I stuck very closely to my race plan. I found Alan Ladd at the halfway point and we ran together for the rest of the race. It was the most comfortable I have ever felt in any marathon and it was my fastest time by 10 minutes coming in at 2:58.

Q.3 What is your favourite race and why?

2019 causeway coast ultra 39.3. The scenery along the way in this race really does make it worthwhile. It’s mostly a runnable route, with a few walks on occasion for some of the steeper climbs. If the weather is good, with little wind especially, I think most runners would love this race. I had run the marathon here the year previous and really enjoyed it, so I targeted the ultra over all other races in 2019. I had a great race and managed to finish 8th in a time of 6:13. Laura was running in the half marathon along with a good few of the Harriers that day and everyone ran well and loved it. When everyone had finished, we walked into the sea for an ice bath and a few cold beers. I’m sure both helped aid our recovery. Thankfully big Owen had offered to let us stay in his family’s holiday home in Portballintrae, which couldn’t be more perfectly placed as it was about 50 yards from the start/finish line. This was one I’ll never forget.

Q4. After we get through these uncertain times, what is your next big running goal?

London 2020? I’m really trying not to plan too much because it could be pointless, and I’ve all had a few races cancelled or postponed so far this year. I am in for London and Belfast, but I’d be very surprised if either of them goes ahead this year. The main thing I am looking forward to is getting back to running with others and training nights. Right now, I’m just ticking over as I have no real reason to do extra miles. I still train harder on a Tuesday and Thursday but it’s not as easy or as much fun on your own.

Q5. What is your favourite workout and why?

I love an easy/recovery run with one or more others, where there’s no pressure on time and all we really have to do is keep the heart rate down and chat about everything and anything. I really look forward to these runs or ‘therapy sessions’ as they’re known in the club. They don’t really take too much out of you either which is a great way to build up your mileage.

Q6. What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you while running?

Dublin 2017. Going into this marathon I had missed a good bit of training due to an injury and only decided to go for a time of under 3:15 on the start line after a conversation with ‘marathon man’ Alex Davidson. His training was as poor as mine, but we still thought it’d be worth pushing hard for a good for age time.


You hear about hitting the wall and always think you’ll know how to avoid it or hold it off until you finish, but that’s not how it works. I was fine until about mile 24, when things just weren’t as comfortable as they had been. The last half a mile was awful, worst I’d ever ran, even though I was putting in more effort I was going at a pace that was like a slow walk. It was hateful.

I think it took me 10 minutes for the last half mile or so. I finished in 3:20 but crossed the line and just stopped. I couldn’t take another step. Alex came over the line around the same time with the same issues but surprisingly looked ok all things considered. I went to the medical tent for 20 or so minutes and I came out feeling 100% better. Meanwhile Alex had made it about another 20 yards before it hit him, and he just dropped where he was. This was the hardest lesson to learn for both of us.

But because of this absolute nightmare I think it made me more determined to train better and race smarter which thankfully happened when I ran Dublin the next year.

Q7. When and why did you join Mallusk Harriers?

January 2015. I had been running on my own for a couple of years with no idea how to train properly to improve.
I had run Belfast marathon twice and as much as I enjoyed training for both, I knew I needed to train differently or risk burning myself out. Every session I was just going out to beat my previous time. I had found the club on the internet and I just turned up on a Tuesday night, took part in the interval session and that was me hooked. I was only running 7 miles for my long run at this stage, but I was talked into running 10 miles with the group that Sunday. It flew by and I really enjoyed it. I have always loved team sports, and this is just the same. I train way more now than I ever did when I played football and although we have a healthy rivalry at the club which helps us all progress, it never goes any further than a bit of friendly banter. Everyone is always very supportive and glad when someone else does well.

Q8. What have you learned most about yourself since you started running?

That I love a challenge and always want to push myself to see what I’m capable of. While training for my first marathon, I had been reading books on ultra-running and wanted at some stage run one. But it took a bit of time to get there as I had no idea how to train for one. That’s why I’m glad to be part of the club. I trained along with a few other first timers and Micky for Connemara 39.3. I had an annoying niggle going into the race, but it went well on the day as I finished in 6:16. I definitely wanted to do some more of this type of running as I really enjoyed it.

So, when Alan and Louise came up with the 24in24 it was a perfect next step. This gave me a taste of what it was like to run through the night which I absolutely loved. I was hoping to do a 24 hour race this year, but obviously that won’t happen now, so I’ll probably target that next year.

Q9. Outside of running, what is your favourite activity or hobby?

Is holidaying a hobby? I love watching most sports and listening to music. I do way too much of both. I also love a beer but again I’m not so sure that’s a hobby.

Q10. Name one club member that inspires you and why?

Can I give you 2 because they’re a team? Having been part of the committee over the last few years and seeing first-hand the amount of work that goes into the running of the club, I think the way Paul and LeeAnne manage to do so much is amazing. These guys are always working behind the scenes and at the same time keeping up their own training with Paul finishing a half ironman and LeeAnne running marathons last year alone. I can’t for the life of me work out how they make the time to do so much. But if I can only pick one it’ll be LeeAnne. Sorry Paul.
P.S. Not sorry!

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