‘You often see runners cry, there’s such emotion in it’

A friend once suggested therapy to Venetia Quick to help deal with grief after her husband’s death, which she dismissed. Then it was suggested she should do a 10k

When Venetia Quick ran the Irish Life Dublin Marathon last year, she cried. “It’s a really emotional couple of hours.”

The Q102 breakfast show presenter ran the race in memory of her late husband, Martin Thomas, who died five years ago after being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. “He ended up having a massive heart attack at home one morning when I was out taking my youngest to his first football training session,” she said. “The ambulance and the fire brigade screamed passed us. Casper, who was five at the time, said, ‘They’re in a terrible hurry... and they’re going to our house’.”

The first year after Thomas’s death was a blur, and Quick kept occupied with work and looking after her three children. But after her then-employers convinced her to take part in a 10k charity run, she bought some activewear for the first time and soon picked up the running bug. “I found it really, really helped my head,” she said. “At the time, the kids were smaller, life was full on.

“I was busy keeping things on track, keeping my own head together while making sure they were okay... But it became an outlet for me to have some quiet time to think and reflect. In general, I run on my own and keep my phone on silent.”


Everybody deals with grief differently, and she would know. Quick is also the co-host of Grief Encounters, a podcast focused on such experiences. “[Running] sort of became my own meditation,” she said. “Sometimes, you can be running and, before you realise, you have tears coming down your face. It’s like a mindfulness you don’t get when there’s people around.”

A friend once suggested therapy to help with her grief, which Quick dismissed due to her various family commitments: “I guess that was sort of an excuse in one way because, until recently, the floodgates weren’t ready to open – but when you’re running, they do. You’re running along, thinking about everything and you want to cry. You often see runners crying, I think, because there’s such emotion in it and such time to get it all out.”

Adding running to your day, while initially your energy levels might be lower as a result – it can increase your energy as you improve your fitness

—  Jessie Barr, Sport Ireland

Over time, when practising for the marathon, she built back up her self-confidence.

While running has obvious benefits for physical health, how can it help one’s mental health? Jessie Barr, sport and performance psychologist at Sport Ireland, claims just 10 minutes of running can make a positive impact. “A big element of depression is low mood [and energy levels],” says Barr. “Adding running to your day, while initially your energy levels might be lower as a result – it can increase your energy as you improve your fitness.”

She quoted research demonstrating that executive functioning, controlled by the prefrontal cortex in your brain, can be activated by running, helping you plan, pay attention and improve memory. “When you’re depressed, a lot of those functions can slow down. Mood is lower, energy levels are a bit sluggish, planning is poor – our brain is in this fog, and running can create some clarity.”

It is helpful to set a goal, she says, which can help with confidence and motivation, especially if improvement of mental health is the target. That’s what Quick – or “V Quick” as she was labelled back at school sports days – did to keep her mind on target. Now, even on rest days she’s eager to throw on some runners and get out there.

They say the Dublin marathon is the friendliest marathon. It certainly is the case. Everybody cheers everybody on

—  Venetia Quick

“The nature of running: it’s slighty addictive,” laughs Quick. On October 29th she’ll join about 20,000 fellow participants for the Irish Life Dublin Marathon, and she’s looking to raise funds for the Gavin Glynn Foundation, which helps families to travel overseas for specialist cancer treatment not available in Ireland.

Last year she didn’t look up the race route in advance, and passed by the hospital where she lost her father. “All along the way, you’re running through places that bring back memories, so it’s really nice, but hugely emotional as well.

“They say the Dublin marathon is the friendliest marathon. It certainly is the case. Everybody cheers everybody on. But it’s a memorial for a lot of people too.

“For anybody who’s thinking about doing one of the race series (see irishlifedublinmarathon.ie), just get your runners on, just give it a go. Even if you’re feeling crap, or the weather’s crap, you always feel better after a run. Just don’t put yourself under pressure, enjoy it, and do what suits you.

“The only money you need is to buy yourself a decent pair of runners, and then you’re on the way.”

Conor Capplis

Conor Capplis

Conor Capplis is a journalist with the Irish Times Group