By Jerry Del Priore
While most competitive athletes tend to slow down later in their careers, Bronawyn O’Leary has defied the odds, by just getting better and better.
O’Leary, principal at Mt. Pleasant Middle School in Livingston, captured first place overall in the Women’s division in the Seaside Park Half Marathon in Ocean County with a time of 1:31:30.
That’s a remarkable less-than-seven-minute clip per mile.
“I have been running for about 30 years,” the 44-year-old distance runner proudly said. “I have always competed but I have been more successful as I have gained experience.”
O’Leary noted that she participated in a bunch of 5 kilometer races during the summer in order to prepare her body for the rigors of the half marathon, which seem to have helped.
O’Leary’s love affair with running started back at Keansburg High School, in Keansburg, Monmouth County, where she ran cross country. Then, she ran in college at Rowan University in Glassboro.
She has pulled down some excellent times along the way. O’Leary ran a personal best time of 3:02 in the New Jersey Marathon in 2011, and also completed the event in 2012.
Additionally, the Cliffwood Beach, resident placed among the top 75 women in the New York City Marathon several years ago.
Balancing family life, a challenging, demanding job, a long trip to work, and running isn’t easy for O’Leary. But she said she makes it happen by getting to the gym at 5:00 a.m., and then to work by planning ahead every day.
While most people turn over for a bit of extra sleep once the alarm sounds in the morning, she gets out of bed, puts on her active wear, and laces up her running sneakers to help her improve her state of mind and body.
“I think, if you plan, you can make most things work,” she explained. “My plan to make it work puts me at New York Sports Club (NYSC) in Livingston by 5:00 each morning.”
Moreover, it doesn’t hurt O’Leary one bit that she has the help and love of two special people in her life.
“My biggest obstacle is my commute but I make running a priority,” she said. “Running keeps me physically and mentally healthy. I have a very supportive family. My boys — my husband and son — are my biggest fans and they help me balance (life).”
The praise and support even came from a well-respected colleague, Livingston High School Principal Mark Stern, who Tweeted: “Congratulations to @MPMPrincipal_NJ for WINNING the Seaside Park Half Marathon yesterday. What an accomplishment! Not everyone has the ability to run an amazing school and race!”
But why does O’Leary keep hitting the pavement and roads every day while managing a hectic schedule?
“I think the inspiration it gives others is one reason (I run) but I have to say I love the competition,” O’Leary said. “(It’s) me against myself…wondering if I can be better than the last time.”