Runner's Profile - Clem McGrath, the Emerald Isle's Gift to the Westerly Track and Athletic Club

If you are lucky enough to be spending time in the Misquamicut area during the summer or fall, or frequenting area road races during this time, chances are good you have met or will be meeting Clem McGrath. If you happen across a tall, 60ish, handsome, athletic gentleman (who you have to be in good shape to keep up with) and his face is beaming with an infectious Irish smile, it's probably Clem.

Clem has been part of the local running community for years and has a vast array of accomplishments, and has some very good advice for aging athletes and runners (see below). However, being a premier runner as a young man, coupled with his more recent successes, he has some valuable wisdom to pass on to runners of ALL ages.

For young runners just entering the sport, Clem advises that the most important thing is to keep it fun. Although hard work can bring success, it is important to nurture and develop your love of running and this early stage of development should include more pleasure (fun) than pain (rigorous training).

For scholastic runners (high school and college), the time has come to run to your potential. It is important not to take all the fun and enjoyment out of your running, but do realize that this is your turn to shine and the opportunities you have now, will not come again. Your achievements during this period cannot be duplicated later in life, so make the most of these golden years of opportunity and accomplishment. Your successes now will stay with you for a lifetime, and no one can ever take away from you the things you achieve today.

For aging runners, staying healthy becomes a paramount issue. Clem suggests that you not ignore waring signs and be sure to get yourself checked out if you do not feel normal. The article below goes into his personal experience in this area and how you can benefit from it.

If you do not already know Clem, he is a gracious and knowledgeable ambassador for the sport of running, and making his acquaintance is sure to enrich your life. If you already know Clem, you know why this is true.

(Some of ) Clem McGrath's Accomplishments

  • Former student at Norwich Free Academy.
  • As a member of the Cross Country Team, in 1956 won none straight dual and triangular meets breaking NFA course record; won the Eastern Connecticut Sectional meet in record time; won the CIAC State Open Cross Country Championship; led NFA to the team state title; participated in the Manchester Road Race, finishing 17th and was the first high school runner to finish.
  • In 1957, was undefeated in the track mile in the State of Connecticut; won the State Track Open Championship in record time; and broke the University of Connecticut's Cross Country Freshman record by 32 seconds.
  • In 1958, finished third to Johnny Kelly and Norm Higgins in the Westerly Elks 5-mile Road Race.
  • After a 14 year "retirement" from running, Clem returned as a member of the Mohegan Striders and was a consistent top three finisher in the Master's Division and Grandmaster Division; he has been a Mohegan Strider Grandmaster Club Circuit Champion for 1990, 1991 and 1992; and a 1990 and 1991 member of the TAC Grandmasters State Championship Team.
  • In 1992, Clem was inducted in the Norwich Sports Hall of Fame.
  • In 1993, William L Satti, Mayor of the City of New London, proclaimed Saturday, August 7th to be CLEMENT "Clem" P. MCGRATH DAY in the City of New London.
  • In 2000, Mohegan Strider Veterans Division Grand Prix Champion; and fourth in his division at Manchester.

When In Doubt, Get Checked Out - by Clem McGrath

In February 2001, while escaping the Connecticut winter weather in sunny Florida, I had open heart surgery (5-way bypass). This came as quite a shock to me as I get an annual physical and the basic risk factors (high blood pressure and high cholesterol) were not there.

I retired from Electric Boat in 1999 and had been concentrating on my training as I entered the 60+ age division. I had a pretty good racing season in 2000 with divisional wins at Rose Arts and Kelley and a fourth place finish at Manchester.

As you know, we runners are a strange breed, especially when it comes to denial. Speaking for myself, I write off most discomforts as a "bad day", "I have a little cold", or "It's not easy after 60". The concern I have is "how many runners out there are like me?" The "running boom" came a little behind me so there are many runners approaching their "golden years" and, like myself, are not listening to the body signals. I can look back to last fall <fall of 2000> when I experienced some chest discomfort and achy joints and attributed it to the Connecticut weather. I figured once I got to Florida, I would feel better.

So here I am doing speed workouts and hill repeats on the Ft Myers Beach Bridge in preparation for the The Edison Festival of Lights 5K, and my discomforts are persisting. A week before the race, I decide to go to a Walk-In Clinic convinced that I had Lyme Disease. After an examination by the doctor (who happened to be a runner), he thought the symptoms were heart related and recommended I put the running shoes aside until I had a stress test. I had never had a stress test and thought it might not be a bad idea to rule out any possible heart problem. To my complete surprise, I failed the stress test and the rest is history.

Thank heaven there was no heart damage and I'm looking forward to full recovery, but I was lucky. How many runners, with no risk factors, are gambling their lives by not listening to their bodies. Genetics is a major risk factor that is easily overlooked.

The important lesson to be learned here is that, if you have any question as to why you feel the way you do, especially if it persists, don't blow it off. See someone and get it checked out. It could save your life.

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