The determination and bravery of the Spartan army is legendary, and Portlaoise man Ed O’Dwyer, Ireland’s ‘King of the Spartans’, has plenty of both.
Just eighteen months ago Ed, 33, weighed an unhealthy 19 stone, and was smoking 40 cigarettes a day. He knew it was time to change his life, or risk health problems.
The dad of three from Ashley Gardens threw himself into the challenge to get fit, without using any fancy diet plans or fitness gurus, just sheer willpower.
“I stopped smoking, stopped eating so much and started exercising. I run every day now, it’s addictive, and I go to the gym a lot. Just stop fooling yourself,” is his no nonsense advice.
Now he weighs in at 14 stone, and is a non-smoker. Last April during his training, he decided to enter Spar supermarkets’ Spartan challenge, a nationwide competition which selects a team of 26, representing each county, to run in the Dublin city marathon.
Much of the competition is based on online votes. Ed got the most votes in Laois and after an interview, was selected as Laois’ champion, though he is originally from Tipperary, Ed says he was proud to represent Laois.
“We began a 16 week training plan for the marathon with Karl Henry (Operation Transformation) and the RTE nutritionist Paula Mee,” says Ed.
The night before the marathon last October, Ed was crowned overall winner, the King of the Spartans.
“They said I was the person most dedicated to the challenge, and someone who inspired others,” said Ed proudly.
The next day he completed his first marathon, in a time of 3:44, and two weeks later he and his wife Sinead went on their prizewinning trip to New York to view the marathon there.
“It was awesome. We stayed in the penthouse suite of the Fitzpatrick Hotel for three nights,” he said.
Ed recently gave up his job as a special needs carer to mind Tadgh, Tiernan and Erin full-time. Wife Sinead is a nurse in Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise. Last month they presented a cheque for €1,539 to the hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit, which Ed raised during his training.
The unit is close to their hearts, not just because Sinead regularly does shifts there.
“We donated it on behalf of our son Ruairí, who died at 7 weeks old in 2007. Our two smaller children were born at 30 and 31 weeks, so we have spent a lot of time in the unit, we were practically living there at times, the staff were very good to us,” says Ed.
Last Friday he took on a new role, that of a leader in Portlaoise Leisure Centre’s new Wellness Clinic.
“All the staff in the centre were very supportive to me. Thanks also to everyone who donated money, especially Beechfield Healthcare and Gaelscoil Phort Laoise who held a non-uniform day,” says Ed. He is now training for the Portlaoise Try-athlon in April.