Article courtesy the USATF New England (USATF-NE) Association. USATF-NE has been the host association for several mountain and trail running national championships at events including the Mt Washington Road Race (Mountain), Cranmore Mountain Race (Mountain), Loon Mountain Race (Mountain), Waterville Valley Mountain Race (Mountain) and Ragged Mountain 50K (Trail). Photo above by Freddi Triback.
With competitions shut down for the foreseeable future, USATF New England will continue the Athlete of the Month program to recognize members with long term successes in our events, series, and programs. Our first such athlete is Emer O’Donoghue.
Emer O’Donoghue (acidotic RACING / Maynard, MA) is the USATF-New England (USATF-NE) Athlete of the Month for April 2020 in recognition of her successful career in mountain running. O’Donoghue is the first woman to complete 100 USATF-NE Mountain Running Circuit races. She ran her 100th race at Mt. Greylock in September 2019, and extended her record at the Waterville Valley Mountain Race. Emer is also fifth overall in total career mountain circuit points, and first among women.
Over the course of her 101 Mountain Circuit races, Emer totaled almost 38 miles of elevation gain. That total does not include her multiple finishes at the historic Mt. Washington Road Race (7.6 miles, 4200′ of climb).
In addition to being a 16-time Mountain Goat, Emer has also scored in the All-Terrain Runner Series and is a multiple-time Ironrunner on the roads.
Outside of her running achievements, Emer serves as race-day youth coordinator at the Mayor’s Cup Cross Country meet and is becoming a USATF-certified official. Her three sons all found success in the Junior Olympics with Waltham Track Club and at Lexington High School; Thomas, her oldest, is an All-Conference decathlete at the University of Massachusetts.
USATF-NE spoke with Emer about her accomplishments:
[USATF-NE] How has your training been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
[Emer] I am lucky to have been able to keep up my training despite the postponement of the first few mountain races. Staying motivated was hard when you see races been canceled weekly. My coach, Chris Dunn of Ascend Endurance coaching, does a great job checking in and sending motivational quotes and videos. It helps that everyone is in the same boat. I miss my running friends.
[USATF-NE] How did you start running the Mountain Circuit?
[Emer] My husband Thomas ran the first USATF-NE Mountain Running Circuit race in 1996 and got me to stop smoking and start running. He thought the mountain circuit would be a good way for me to mentally and physically recharge having three babies in two years. He was right!
[USATF-NE] What has been the highlight of your mountain running career?
[Emer] The highlight of my mountain running career has got to be the people I have met along the way. Amazing friendships with love and encouragement when I developed alopecia and when I had my meniscus taken out. Friends for life. Running my 100th mountain running race was very special; I never thought I would get that far in the series.
[USATF-NE] Who would you like to thank?
[Emer] Firstly my husband, who introduced me to the sport. My three sons, who gave me my love of track by watching them compete. My twins, Michael and Daniel, spent a lot of birthdays at a mountain race, but especially my son Thomas who was always that kid who tried every event in track. (He is a multi’s kid at the University of Massachusetts Amherst). He made me want to try every aspect of running. Lastly, Chris J. Dunn who made it possible for me to return to running after my meniscus surgery when I thought my running days were over.
[USATF-NE] What’s next for you?
[Emer] Next for me is going to be becoming a track and field official, I can’t think of a better way to give back to the sport that has been such a huge part of my family’s life.