Grit, Determination, and a Newfound Love of Running
The Norwood Police Running Club at the BAA Half Marathon last year.
By Grace Allen
“Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.”
– Jackie Joyner-Kersee, 3-time Olympic gold medalist in track and field
How old is too old to start running marathons? According to Tim McDonagh, you’re never too old, and middle age is a great time to start.
The 45-year-old Norfolk resident and Norwood Police Department (NPD) police officer had just finished the Boston Marathon this past April when he started eyeing the Chicago Marathon as his next goal. He’d been bitten by themarathon bug.
“I wish I had started running in my twenties,” admitted McDonagh, a detective sergeant. “It would’ve helped with reducing stress, kept me in better shape, and maybe I’d have raised more money for charity. But now I know, and it’s better late than never.”
The NPD police officer will run the Chicago Marathon on October 8 in support of the children’s charity, Open Heart Magic, which trains volunteers to become hospital magicians. Working alongside child life specialists, the magicians engage and empower children undergoing serious medical treatment.
McDonagh credits his colleagues at the NPD for their encouragement and comradery in support of a healthy, fit lifestyle. For the runners among them, McDonagh helped establish the Norwood Police Running Club, an official U.S. Track and Field club. The group’s members run as a team in local races, and the club designation lends a certain cachet and legitimacy to their efforts.
Last fall, the club ran the BAA Half Marathon and raised close to $6,000 for Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund. The group has also participated in Run for a Vet, Boston’s Run to Remember, turkey trots in Norfolk and Norwood, and other local races.
McDonagh also encourages the younger officers in the department to try running while they have more stamina and are less prone to injuries, telling them he regrets waiting so long to take up the sport.
“I tell them we have to be in shape for our job,” McDonagh said. “I hope that our running club helps motivate everyone to run and stay healthy. Maybe I can inspire some younger officers by showing them it can be done at any age.”
Mostly self-taught, McDonagh has immersed himself in the running world, focusing on nutrition and proper form—things he never really considered as he ran his first Boston Marathon in October of 2022. But he bested the time from that race in his recent April, 2023 marathon, which was the focus of an article in the April Norfolk/Wrentham and Norwood editions of Local Town Pages (see www.norfolkwrenthamnews.com/archives). He finished his second Boston Marathon in 4:30, shaving 19 minutes off his 2022 attempt. McDonagh had started to pay attention to the mechanics of successful distance runners and now draws inspiration himself from the older athletes—known as masters—he meets.
And while he is currently focused on the Chicago Marathon, McDonagh has a bigger goal in mind. He’s set his sights on the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a race series of six prestigious marathons across the globe. The Marathon Majors include the Boston, Chicago, Berlin, London, New York, and Tokyo marathons. Finishers of all six marathons receive a special medal and entrance into a global community comprised of Olympic and elite athletes, as well as amateur runners ticking off a bucket list goal.
McDonagh said after Chicago, he plans to run Boston again in 2024, followed by the New York City Marathon in November of that same year. In 2025, he hopes to run the London Marathon. Berlin and Tokyo will follow.
But for now, training for the Chicago Marathon and raising money for Open Heart Magic is his mission. The father of two said children’s charities will always strike a chord with him. McDonagh himself was born with a collapsed lung and a heart murmur, and struggled with bad asthma throughout his childhood. If he can give hope or inspiration to others struggling—no mattehow old they are--he feels all his efforts are worth it. McDonagh noted his children have started entering kid’s races, and he’d like to think he’s setting a good example by leading a healthy, active lifestyle. More importantly, he hopes he’s exemplifying that it’s never too late to start.
And in this era of community policing, McDonagh would like to think he is modeling a way to be involved with the greater community by supporting and acknowledging the needs of others. For him, police officers running for a charity is one way to do that.
“It’s the community that’s going to be there when we need them,” McDonagh said. “Forming strong relationships, getting involved, and giving back in ways like this, well, I hope it shows people we care.”
As McDonagh and his colleagues continue to run races for charities, he hopes they will not only show the community the value of a connected police force, but also model that no matter your age, you can still strive to make healthy life choices and, perhaps, even run a marathon.