Local Faces: Vivian O’Hanlon

By Aideen O'Flaherty

Vivian O’Hanlon is a familiar face to many in the local community, as a result of his 36 years of service as a Dublin Fire Brigade firefighter and his longstanding involvement in Tallaght Athletic Club.

While growing up in Milltown, Vivian, affectionately known as ‘Vivo’ to friends and family, got his first taste of athleticism by playing in the local football team, Millwell.

Vivian O Hanlon

Vivian O’Hanlon is a proponant of the positive effect that running can have on everyone

However, after leaving school at 14, Vivian, now 69-years-old, started working and also spent a year in Long Island, New York, before returning home when he was 21 and signing up to be a firefighter with Dublin Fire Brigade.

“My brother was in Dublin Fire Brigade, and he said if you get a chance you should join – you’d love it,” remembered Vivian.

When the opportunity arose, Vivian applied and underwent intense training before joining the ranks and becoming a firefighter.

“It was the action of it that appealed to me at first,” he said. “But it’s different when you get on the scene and see that it isn’t TV – it’s reality, and you see a lot of tragedy.

“But a few babies were also born in the back of the DFB ambulance too.”

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Vivian O’Hanlon

Initially stationed at DFB HQ in Tara Street, Vivian then went to Rathmines Fire Station. In the late 80s he was transferred to Rathfarnham Fire Station, and then in the 90s he went to Tallaght Fire Station, where he retired from 14 years ago.

Vivian and his wife, Emer, moved to Belgard Heights in 1979 and raised their children, Roisín, John, Treasa and Bróna, so by the time he was transferred to Tallaght Fire Station, Vivian was already settled into the community of Tallaght.

One of the key aspects of Vivian’s community involvement was running with Tallaght AC, which he began doing in the 80s after his daughters joined the club.

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Vivian O’Hanlon

“The club was destitute then – all we had was a dirt track. Now we have a clubhouse, and a running track with floodlights.

“And people seem to give more to running now, now there’s lots of physiotherapists and advanced paramedics.”

Following on from this, Vivian ran his first marathon in the late 80s, and went on to run 12 more marathons, before he had to take a step back from running in the last five years as a result of injuries.

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Vivian O’Hanlon, retired firefighter with a passion for running

“I had a thing called a Baker’s cyst on my knee, so I had to get a knee replacement, and I’d also injured my back so I had to go to a physiotherapist,” explained Vivian.

“I kept getting injury after injury and going to the physios, and the guy that looks after my back said I couldn’t do marathons anymore.

“I was told that those days were finished.”

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Vivian O’Hanlon

This dealt a blow to Vivian, as he was still passionate about running and athletics. He turned to low impact exercise instead, regularly cycling, swimming and running, and starting coaching junior runners in Tallaght AC.

“Running is like a release valve, and it’s great to see the progression in the kids who come here,” he said.

“We have one athlete, Rhasidat Adeleke, who was just an ordinary kid when she started here, and now she’s turning into an incredible athlete.”

Rhasidat is a double European Youth Olympic 100m and 200m gold medallist and she won The Echo’s Sports Star of the Year Award in 2018.

However, whether running with dreams of competing in the Olympics or just for the enjoyment of it, Vivian is still a proponent of the positive effect that running can have on everyone, and in particular the young people he coaches.

“It’s a good foundation that we’re putting into the children and athletes, and when you see the amount of effort that they put into training, it gives you a great buzz.

“It’s just terrific, I get so much enjoyment out of it.”

Vivian is part of the team that helps organise the annual GOAL Mile Run, for more information click HERE.

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