2017-03-17 / Family
A family that runs together
Barry siblings join half-marathon to support dad, boostfitness
The Barry family of Camarillo got a head start on this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration as they downed mugs of beer and donned green shirts after taking part in the fifth annual Seaside Marathon on Feb. 19.
Four members of the Irish- American family—father, Denis Barry, 69; son, Shane Barry, 37; and daughters Maeve Rios, 41, and Denise Alvey, 36—ran the half-marathon course. As they made it across the finish line in Ventura, they were cheered on by mom, Thelma Barry, 68, who was recovering from spinal surgery.
For each of those who ran, there was an added challenge. Denise was getting back in shape after having a baby in October and Maeve was marking her return to school to earn a nursing degree. Denis was grieving for his mother, who died this year in Ireland at age 104. Since moving to the United States over 30 years ago, he’d made the trip to Ireland every year to visit her. He acknowledged that his mother had a long life but said losing her was painful, no matter her age.
As for Shane, he was participating in his first organized race after losing 70 pounds. The father of three said his motivation for getting in shape was his growing family.
“Even thinking about running 13 miles made me exhausted. I was very inactive. I couldn’t go up a flight of stairs without being winded,” he said.
Shane and his wife, Michelle, an emergency room nurse, have two girls and a boy, all under the age of 4.
“I wasn’t able to keep up with the 2-year-old,” Shane said.
The Seaside Marathon is produced by Elite Sports and organized by Bill Escobar of Camarillo.
The annual run originally consisted of a half-marathon only, but this year marked the addition of a full marathon option that served as an official Boston Marathon qualifier event; 5K and 10K races were also offered.
Participants traversed a flat course that ran along the old Rincon Highway north of Ventura.
Shane said the family ran the 13.1 miles together to support their father, an avid runner, and work toward their various fitness goals.
The thought of cold beer at the finish line helped motivate all of them to finish.
“One of the selling points of the Seaside Marathon is that it ends with beer. For an Irish family, that’s an important selling point,” Shane said wryly.
Denis is a veteran of 15 races, but this was the first he ran with all of his children.
“The (Seaside Marathon) was very special. I’ve done races with my two daughters. But this one with all of us together was very, very special.
“And my wife and Shane’s wife waving flags at the end was very special,” Denis said.
The Barry family first came to California in 1986 from County Cork, Ireland. At the time, Denis was working for the Irish government’s industrial office.
“I came out on a five-year contract. I was based out of Santa Monica in one of two offices the Irish government had on the West Coast,” Denis said.
When it came time to return home, the Southern California lifestyle—with year-round sunshine and a nearby ocean—was too alluring. No one in the family wanted to leave it behind.
“We liked it here. The opportunities at the time were very, very good and my kids had become integrated and were doing very well in school,” Denis said.
Now retired, Denis enjoys spending time playing old Celtic tunes on guitar and pinwhistle at Ric’s Restaurant and Sports Bar in Camarillo.
He will be playing at the local restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day, which he said is celebrated differently in the United States.
“St. Patrick’s Day is a holy day in Ireland. We primarily go to church and wear the shamrock on our lapels to signify the trinity with the three leaves. The other big thing on St. Patrick’s Day is we have parades. But the day is more religious.”
Though they love to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Shane made it clear there was one American tradition the Irish can’t stomach: green beer.
“The Irish frown on green beer. That’s an American thing,” he said.
The family also eschews corned beef and cabbage, which is considered a low-class dish in Ireland. Shane and Denis agreed that the shepherd’s pie Thelma makes each year for St. Patrick’s Day is not only a taste of home, it’s delicious.
“We never order shepherd’s pie when we go out because the restaurant version doesn’t quite match up,” Denis said.
While the Barry household might be taking a day off to enjoy beer and shepherd’s pie on St. Patrick’s Day, they’ll soon be getting back to their healthy habits.
They do, after all, have another race to train for.
Even if there’s no cold beer at the finish line, there’s always family.