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Interview: Boyzone's Keith Duffy
Posted on: Saturday 21st May 2011
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World Champions, Ironman winners and Olympic medallists - interviewing all of these at various points over the past three years has become part of the 'day job', and something I always enjoy. A new one for me - but just as enjoyable - was my first interview with a member of a chart-topping boy band...
Boyzone's Keith Duffy may be more man than boy these days, and as well known for his role in Coronation Street, but come September 4th he will be hoping to cross the finish line in Galway at the first Ironman 70.3 Ireland (www.ironmanireland.com).
I spoke to Keith about why after running several marathons he was making triathlon his latest sporting challenge, and the motivation behind his sporting endeavours.
JL: So Keith, give us the background on why you are tackling the Galway race in September this year?
KD: "No problem at all - for the past eight or nine years I've been working and campaigning for an autism charity in Ireland, and indeed in the UK as well. The reasons behind that are that I have a child myself that suffers from autism, and she has done since she was 11, and over the last few years I've done various charitable events and activities to try and create awareness and funds for the education of children with autism. In that time I've run the New York Marathon and the London Marathon plus various shorter runs in Ireland and I read about the Ironman 70.3 coming to Ireland and I just felt that having never done a triathlon, or being involved in training for a triathlon, it might be a bit more interesting than running a marathon - as well as not being as hard on the legs, and a great way of getting exposure and raising funds for the charity I'm involved in. So, I registered to do it, got in touch with Ironman and said I was keen to learn more about triathlons, and the training...and I'm stuck into training now, moving slowly but surely... but getting there!"
JL: How has your training been going - were you a swimmer before, or is this completely starting from scratch?
KD: "I could swim... well, I could move without sinking... and I thought that was swimming until I started training for the Ironman, and realised that my swimming (lack of) ability was less than acceptable to meet the goals that need to be achieved in finishing this race. So, a great lady by the name of Carol Walsh who has trained a lot of our Olympic swimmers in Ireland has been helping me with lessons, so I'm fortunate to have a great coach. Unfortunately I had a lot of bad habits from swimming as a child, so it's a lot of work trying to get rid of those and get the correct technique and breathing.
"Cycling is going great. I've never cycled before either but I've been out quite a lot over the last couple of months and am really enjoying the cycling. I'd done so much running in the past that I'd become slightly bored with that... but the cycling is certainly the one I'm enjoying the most.
"The running aspect I can do pretty much effortlessly ...I don't enjoy it as much as the cycling, but I can do it, so my biggest obstacle at the moment is getting the swim to a decent standard so I can get a good time in."
JL: How are you finding fitting training in to day-to-day commitments, work etc?
KD: "It's pretty tough! When I'm not working on my own career I spend most of my spare time trying to campaign for the charity. I'm involved with Action Autism in Ireland but also now with autism initiatives in the UK and another thing called the Tree House Foundation in the UK, which is a day care facility for children with autism and so when they see a gap in my diary, they tend to fill it immediately (!), which takes any free time away, so a lot of the training I've been doing early in the morning or late at night because the days are pretty much full. But, I'm getting the training done and most evenings - with some good lights on my bike and my luminous jacket - I've got some great country lanes where I live in County Dublin which is more rural than the city, and have been getting the time in my legs at night - which is pretty relaxing as there aren't many cars on the road then!"
JL: We often find that a lot of newcomers to cycling say the same thing, cycling being less hurtful on your legs and - relatively speaking - quite easy to start from nothing, to be able to go and cycle for say two hours and get back without being completely wiped out and legs trashed.
KD: "Absolutely, I've actually had two major operations on both of my knees including a ligament transplant on both knees / cruciate ligament snapped on both legs, and my surgeon used the patella tendon to replace my cruciate ligament, so the running hasn't really helped that in any way. However the cycling has helped to build up my quad muscles and hamstring muscles, and that in turn has strengthened my knee and the muscles around my knee, and so it has actually been very beneficial to me."
JL: Have you got any plans to do a shorter triathlon / practice event before hand, or will it be straight in at the Ironman 70.3?
KD: "Yes, I've signed up to do a triathlon at Skerries on the East coast of Dublin in June...and I've signed up to do the Olympic Triathlon in Waterford; in total I will do three over the summer before the Ironman 70.3 on 4th September."
JL: Are you really starting to take triathlon to heart - might it be something you do again after this year or will there be another challenge for next year?
KD: "Absolutely, I'd never say never. You do need to train... you can't just jump on a bike and ride 90km.... but it's a great incentive to train for. I like being fit, looking well and being in good shape so something like the half-Ironman helps to tick all of the boxes in life which I enjoy, so there is no way I would do it, and then not do something else at least. Down the road I'd like to think that I could get enough training in to maybe do a full Ironman, but right now I've just got to concentrate on this one, see how the body reacts, and if it's something I enjoy...then maybe I'll look into a full one!"
JL: How is the fund-raising going, and where can people find out more if they want to support your autism charity?
KD: "It's going very very well, and we've managed to change the face of autism in Ireland. Over the last 10 years we've done amazing work - we've got a lot of schools spread around the country now and they are providing the appropriate education. Any information that anyone needs or donations people would like to make, go to www.autismireland.ie and that site will have links to UK based websites, so if people would like to donate to the UK rather than Ireland they can do it all through the same place. That's the best site to go to, with information from lots of specialists and all you will need to know about autism.
JL: Well we wish you all the best with your race, and hope you have a great day with this new race in Ireland.
KD: "You too buddy, and thanks for your time."
If you would like to support Keith on his Ironman 70.3 journey, you can do so here: www.mycharity.ie/event/keithduffy_ironman , or if you are racing in Ireland find out how you can join TEAM DUFFY HERE