Profile: Meet The Man Who’s ‘Running The Kingdom’ To Fitness

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With the running season kicking off in earnest again, Fergus Dennehy of meets the man who has turned the town running-mad over the past year… 


Marcus Howlett outside the IT Tralee, North Campus.

Marcus Howlett, as founder of the Tralee International Marathon, Director of ‘Run The Kingdom’ and club trainer for the ‘Born To Run’ marathon club, should be looking tired.

Yet, when we meet it’s clear from the outset that his enthusiasm and passion for what he does leaves him far from weary.

He is looking relaxed and content as he sips his coffee in the canteen of IT Tralee, North Campus.

Continued below…

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I sat down with the man himself to discuss what he sees as the benefits of running to the town, his thoughts on the success of the sport locally and what he sees in the future for ‘Run The Kingdom’ and the race series that has been set up in the aftermath of such a spectacular success story.

Leaving his permanent position with the Irish Horse Racing Board after 19 years and returning to education at the age of 41, is not something that many of us would take on.

“I was coming up towards 40 and I needed to change of life so, I came back to Tralee as a mature student,” he said.

This is exactly what Marcus did though, to his credit, the gamble has certainly paid off!

He has roots in Kerry. He studied chemistry here during the 80’s and his grandfather was a train driver here in the past and while he values the history that he has here, it was the course in Adventure Tourism & Event Management that eventually drew him back to to the town.

He has just completed his BA (Hons) in the course in the IT Tralee and is currently working toward a Masters (MA) in studying the economic impact of marathons. This is one of the first studies of its kind.


Event Management of Road Running Events

A runner all his life, when he arrived in Tralee back in 2009, one thing struck him about the town.

So how the idea of the Tralee Marathon came about?

“It kind of struck me in Tralee there was no running events at all in the town.  In my view, Tralee maybe has a stronger community spirit than in other areas of Kerry. I’m a great believer in playing on your strengths. ”

“A girl I used to run with said why didn’t I set up my own marathon so I actually set up the ‘Tralee International Marathon’ then. I was doing my fourth year project and I was doing it on the economic impact of an event, so I decided to set my own event up.”

He admits that he never envisaged the success of the Marathon when they were starting out. Expecting only 55o entries for the run, they ended up with with over 1,000 people running in the half marathon and over 500 entering the full marathon.

They are now ranked as the largest marathon in Kerry and the eighth largest in the country.

It is clear that he is excited and passionate about the many benefits that the marathon itself and running as a sport, are having on the town.

The marathon, he says, is bringing people to Tralee from outside Kerry and Ireland.


”The benefit of the marathon is that it normally attracts people from outside Kerry and Ireland to Tralee that wouldn’t normally come here. The marathon is a tourist attraction in itself…they stay in hotels, bars. Then they actually realize how nice Tralee is,” he said.

On the non-economic benefits of running on the town, he states ‘Born To Run Marathon Club’ helps develop a very strong community spirit through it’s non-competetive nature, where people can meet up and go for a run and gain a good level of fitness with friends.

“There’s great community spirit around the town, and it helps with health and fitness. The running boom in Tralee through Born To Run is not based on competitiveness…there was a gap in the market for casual joggers where they can go run and just get generally fit.”

When you enter shops throughout the town, it’s clear that running has taken a strong grip on the town. Retail stores that might not have previously stocked gear for the sport, now have sections devoted entirely to the luminous green shirts and many different types of shoes!

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Born To Run Marathon Club for those who have never run before or who have just taken up running.

It is clear that Marcus is keen to stress the importance of the economic benefits of running on the town. When ‘Born To Run’ hosts his Christmas parties and post-race celebrations, he states that all of it helps to give back to the pubs and restaurants of the town.

Our last topic is geared toward the future and what he sees as the way forward for the marathon, ‘Run The Kingdom’ and running in general here in Kerry.

“Basically with Run The Kingdom, we’re turning down events at the moment. We just don’t have the manpower. We’ve been asked to organize our first event outside of Kerry. There’s a St. Patricks Day run that we’re looking to organize. A crowd came to us from Limerick, they want to organize a 2016 where there’d be a 5k run held in all the major cities around the world.”

The future continues to looks even brighter for the company with the talk of trips abroad fast approaching and plans to improve their current events here at home.

“Going forward, we’re doing marathon tours and trips abroad. We have the first trip coming up to Malta in February. Our short term goal is to grow the events we have and to build the Tralee Marathon up. We’re currently the eighth largest in the country, we want to get into the top five. We want to become the largest full marathon in Munster. That’s the future for ‘Run The Kingdom’.”

It’s clear to see that there’s no lack of ambition here!

As I bid goodbye to him, Marcus rushes off forms in hand, it’s clear to this writer that running in Tralee and Kerry is in good hands and we can all look forward to a very fit future!

Any information that you may want on ‘Run The Kingdom’ or ‘Born To Run’ Marathon Club, can be found on their website here.

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