Since the first New York City Marathon in 1970, more than one million runners have crossed the finish line in Central Park. Recognized as one of the 6 World Marathon Majors, the 26.2 mile run begins with the blasting of a cannon on Staten Island. Runners set off across the peaceful Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, into the city that never sleeps and are put to their paces as they navigate through all 5 boroughs of New York.
It happens in November every year. Tough conditions for a tough race.
Amelie O’Brien, a validation engineer with ESP, has been selected through lottery application, to participate in this world renowned marathon. Amelie, who has been an ESP employee for over 10 years, has inspired many of the team based in Ireland to run in the Cork City Marathon relay throughout these years.
But running wasn’t always Amelie’s passion. Growing up in France, her interests were never piqued by sport. She played tennis and basketball, mainly for the social aspect, but was always “allergic” to running! That all changed 6 years ago, when her son was born.
She realized, after the birth of her baby, that she needed sport to help get fit and healthy, as well as to create some “quality ‘me-time’”. Amelie vividly remembers her first run. Reluctantly, she joined her friend on a beautiful, sunny, summer’s day in Blackrock Castle, Cork.
Amelie told us “I started walking. Soon after, I broke into a light jog for all of 1-2 minutes, returned to walking and jogged again until 30 minutes had elapsed. I was delighted with myself! The following Sunday, I went with her again and slowly increased running time and reduced my walks. It took 6 weeks before I could run a full 35 mins without stopping; from then on, I was hooked!”
A Team Effort
In August 2012, Amelie participated in her very first race – the BHAA Novartis 5K Road Race in Cork. Inexperienced – she had a full dinner an hour before running, started too fast and was completely overdressed. But for all of this, Amelie crossed that finish line – “I literally fell into my friend’s arms, crying like if I had won the race (and oblivious to almost finishing last!). I recall then, as the Irish might say, that ‘I nearly died’.”
The following year, Amelie entered the Cork City Half Marathon alongside a handful of her fellow ESP colleagues – Claire Blair, Diarmuid Quinn, James O’Donovan, Anita Boyle, Anita’s husband Ronan, Liam O’Brien, and Amelie’s sister, Laure who came especially from France to share her very first half marathon with her sister.
Amelie describes this race as “an amazing feeling to be part of this joint human endeavor!” This occasion prompted the start of the ESP Sports Club and the ESP Relay Team that now gathers each year to run the Cork City Marathon. In 2016, ESP entered 6 relay teams in the marathon – equating to 30 runners. No mean achievement.
For Amelie, the following years saw her achieve many personal goals: running longer distances and achieving faster times. Throughout, she has always held on to the inspiring words of Emil Zatopek:
“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.”
In 2015, after 6 months of intensive training, Amelie ran the full Cork City Marathon. With the aim to “finish it, no matter the time.” Despite a Yellow Weather Warning and terrible wet and windy weather. Amelie’s determination and grit saw her cross the line alongside her husband Steve and her dad. ”I was completely soaked but at that point everything changed forever! I believed then, as now, that nothing is impossible; no dream too big to be realized – it only takes hard work!”
“nothing is impossible; no dream too big to be realized”
Since that very first race back in August 2012, through to marathons, duathlons and triathlons, her dream of crossing the finish line in Central Park grew. Originally she planned to run it in 2018 – for her 40th birthday , but due to the low acceptance rate Amelie applied a year in advance. On 2nd March, 2017, the day of the draw, she waited anxiously for news. But, it wasn’t until the early hours of Friday, 3rd March, that she got notification that she was chosen! “I simply couldn’t believe it…. And still quite can’t: on the 5th November 2017, I will take my place at the start line on Staten Island !”
A Dream Come True
Amelie has come a long way, but after running the 2015 Cork City Marathon in a Yellow Weather Warning she feels she is prepared for anything. Her goal for New York is, “not to beat any personal best but to run the race without pain or tiredness so [she] can enjoy the electric atmosphere.”
Joining her, will be her parents, her husband and two children. In preparation, Amelie has begun a rigorous 8 months of training, but she is already looking toward the other majors – London, Tokyo, Boston, Berlin and Chicago.
Amelie has chosen the charity Concern for those wishing to support her. Concern work in over 50 countries, and operates in 26 of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to achieve major and long-lasting improvements in their lives.
Hunger and poverty continue to devastate lives in the developing world – Concern’s work is needed now more than ever. To show your support to Amelie and give back to a worthy cause, you can donate by following the links below:
or directly to Amelie.