Although he only arrived from the Emerald Isle a year ago, Garvin McCloskey, manager of Shea O’Brien’s, has integrated well into the New Paltz community. With his endearing Irish brogue, charming wit and commitment to giving back, this 50-year-old cancer survivor and avid runner has pledged to shave nary a whisker off of his formerly clean-shaven face until he’s reached an ambitious athletic goal for an altruistic cause. On April 21, McCloskey will lace up his well-worn Saucony running shoes to join 36,000 intrepid runners as they compete in this year’s Boston Marathon. Having only begun running at the age of 40, he will run in his eighth marathon in ten years and his fifth after being diagnosed and treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2007.
“I suppose I started running because I wanted to do a marathon,” said McCloskey, greeting people at Shea O’Brien’s in downtown New Paltz. “I suppose that’s not why most people start running, but I always admired people who could do one. I ran my first mile and thought. ‘This is terrible! How am I going to do that 26 times in a row?’”
Well, he did, completing the Dublin Marathon at age 41 and the New York City Marathon in 2007. “I’d lived in New York for a time, and it’s where I met my wife, Aileen. We went back to Ireland to raise our family, but I’d always dreamed of running the New York City marathon with millions of people watching the race.”
While McCloskey had a fantastic race in New York, clocking in a 3:16. Unbeknownst to him, he was running with cancer. “My friends kept telling me how terrible I looked, how thin I had gotten.” That was an understatement as a description of the wiry, 6’4” Irishman. In denial. he thought to himself “That’s great! Endurance athletes kind of resemble prisoners of war.” Then he detected a lump on his neck.
Diagnosed with cancer, McCloskey spent a year getting treatment and another year recovering from treatment. Then he was back on the roads of Donegal, helping raise $500,000 for cancer research in a relay-for-life event in his home town. “That was certainly a highlight of my life,” he said. “It was in a midst of a massive recession in Ireland, but everybody came out and participated. One of my dear friends helped me organize the event and ran in it after having recovered from breast cancer, but sadly the cancer returned and took her life.”
The resilient, McCloskey, now an active New Paltz Rotary member, is dedicating his upcoming marathon and whiskers toward raising $10,000 to a Rotary project that is close to his heart, renovating Family of New Paltz’s A.J. Babb memorial meeting room, which has fallen into disrepair.