June 25, 2019
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Mainer in Northern Ireland keeps up her busy life by literally running to work

Courtesy of Mark Ramsey
Courtesy of Mark Ramsey
Maine native Gladys Ganiel is shown competing in the marathon at the Commonwealth Games in July 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. The Narraguagus High School and Providence College graduate now lives and works in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

At work, Dr. Gladys Ganiel is completing work on two books in addition to her duties as a research fellow at the Sen. George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

At home, the Harrington native and her husband, Brian, are the parents of nearly 4-year-old son, Ronan O’Neill.

“[He] continues to keep me very busy. He is an extremely active little boy, but also enjoys his books and puzzles,” Ganiel said.

Ganiel also is an accomplished marathoner, having run fast enough to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials and compete for Northern Ireland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

But distance running requires time, which is at a premium in her life. Yet Ganiel has figured out a way to wedge her athletic passion into her daily routine.

“I am able to fit my training into work and family life because I can commute to Queen’s University by running back and forth every day,” said Ganiel, who has lived in Northern Ireland’s capital since 2006.

The former distance standout at Narraguagus High School and Providence College, now 42, ran a personal-best time of 2 hours, 37 minutes and 32 second, Sunday while finishing fourth in the women’s field and 22nd overall at the 38th Belfast City Marathon.

The race was held on a new course, which influenced her decision to run that event in her adopted hometown for the first time.

“I would have usually chased fast times on flat courses like London or Rotterdam, hoping to qualify for Ireland-Northern Ireland at European or Commonwealth Games championship races,” said Ganiel, whose previous marathon best was 2:37:55 at the 2017 Berlin Marathon.

“I didn’t expect to run a personal best, but I had practiced a lot on the course — which passes within meters of my house — and I was ready for all its ups and downs.”

Whether her time for the 26.2 miles will qualify her for future championship events is uncertain because of an error in the course setup.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, misplaced cones near the 3-mile mark caused the lead car to divert from the official, certified course, leading competitors to run an extra 460 meters — nearly 3/10 mile.

“We noticed something was awry in the third mile when we went from running 6 minutes per mile pace to about 7 minutes per mile pace,” Ganiel said. “I was running with some local men and we discussed this amongst ourselves and decided the mile markers must be wrong and just carried on.”

Ganiel’s posted time when she crossed the finish line was 2:39.18.

“I didn’t realize I had run a personal best, but I was still happy enough because I thought anything under 2:40 would be a good run on the course,” she said.

No ruling has been made yet on whether the adjusted times will stand up in the IAAF world rankings.

“Of course, that is out of my control, and overall I am pleased to still be running faster than ever at age 42,” Ganiel said.

The race also endured criticism from some local religious groups because it was moved from Monday, a public holiday in Northern Ireland, to Sunday for the first time.

For Ganiel, who has run many major Sunday marathons, the change had at least one benefit. She was able to walk to the nearby Fitzroy Presbyterian Church after the race to pick up her son from Sunday school.

“My belief is that the Christian principal of having a day of rest is a valid one, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be followed egoistically,” she told the Belfast News Letter.

“The idea of doing good on the Sabbath, going out for a run, particularly in the Belfast Marathon where a lot of people are going out to raise money, to me that is an example of doing good on the Sabbath, something that’s healthy and good for the community.”

Ganiel is well versed in such topics, as her academic focus is the role of religion in conflict and reconciliation. That topic is at the core of the two books she’s now completing.

The first, set for publication this month, is titled “Unity Pilgrim: The life of Fr. Gerry Reynolds” and is the biography of a Redemptionist priest based in Belfast who was involved in secret talks with paramilitary groups that were an important part of the Northern Ireland peace process.

“I started the biography a few months before Gerry died in 2015, and had access to decades worth of his personal diaries and papers,” Ganiel said. “It wasn’t an easy road for Gerry and his allies, but it was certainly inspiring to write his story and see how he persevered.”

The second tome, set for November publication, is titled “Considering Grace: Presbyterians and the Troubles.” It shares the stories of 120 people who lived through the Northern Ireland conflict of the late 1900s, and how faith shaped their responses to the violence and its aftermath.

“It’s the first book to capture such a full range of experiences of the Troubles of people from a Protestant background,” Ganiel said.

Ganiel also will host Mitchell for the second straight year next week as she visits Queen’s University to speak to its master’s students about his experiences as negotiator during the Northern Ireland peace process.

She also teaches a master’s level class, “Religion and Peacebuilding,” which won the campus-wide 2018-19 Student’s Union Module of the Year Award.

Undoubtedly, she will continue making time for the athletic avocation that’s been a major part of Ganiel’s life since she started running the roads Down East at age 13.

“I feel better now than I did when I was 22, and plan to keep training hard and racing marathons until I start slowing down,” she said.



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