For Ann Arbor runner Stuart Marley, lacing up his running shoes for the first time in 2011 was less about enjoying logging miles and more about finding an alternative to playing soccer, an activity that had led to knee issues.

“I had played soccer for 20 years, and was looking for something new to motivate me and something that would be easier on my knees,” he says.

It definitely wasn’t love at first run — “I found it to be soul-destroying at first,” he recalls — but he kept at it because as it turned out, running was “very rewarding some of the time.”

Stuart, who owns the specialty shop Real Irish in Ann Arbor, soon enough discovered his groove with the sport.

“I went from a 10K in May 2012 to a half marathon in June 2012, to my first full marathon in November of 2012,” he says.

He’s since completed six marathons, the first five within 17 months of each other — “Number two and three were within two weeks of each other,” he says. He qualified for the Boston Marathon in Toledo in April 2014 and ran his first Boston this past April; he’s planning to return for his second 26.2 there in spring 2016.

Along with unearthing a passion for running, Stuart has built a business around another important part of his life — his Irish heritage — and this fall will mix the two with a 10-day running-oriented trip to Ireland. A few spots remain for anyone interested in joining this group traveling to Ireland and running the Dublin Marathon. The deadline for signing on is next week, Wednesday, July 8.

MRG caught up with Stuart to learn more about this trip as well as his Michigan running story.

The Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal, Stuart Marley’s family’s home county. “They are the largest sea cliffs in Europe. We’ll take a hike here on the trip, after the marathon.”

Tell us about Real Irish Travel, and how has running become a part of it?

Real Irish travel was started in 2014 when I opened up my retail shop Real Irish in Ann Arbor, where I have lived and raised my family with my wife Meredith since 1993. Irish stores are known to offer travel ‘back home’ and a running/cultural trip seemed obvious as it’s a passion of mine too. Some running friends are signed up to go in October on our first trip. The itinerary was put together by me – not a travel agency – based on many years traveling to Ireland so there are some special and unique activities that are “off the beaten path.” This trip will be active – no just sitting aboard a luxury bus watching the countryside pass by!

Will this be an annual trip you’ll be taking and offering to runners?

This is our first trip for real Irish Travel. If there is interest, we will return. People who have run the Dublin Marathon say that it is a good one – the course isn’t completely flat nor is it extremely hilly, and the route is lined with cheering people. Not to mention the fun to be had after crossing the finish line in some of the capital city’s famous pubs!

What kind of running/travel experience can runners expect if they join you on this trip?

I have chosen to be in Dublin for four days (3 before the marathon, day 4 is marathon day) and then to travel North and West, the less traveled route for tourists, then south to Galway. The highlight for me will be to take our group to Donegal, where my Mother and father are both from. We will be there for two nights staying at the amazing Harvey’s Point Hotel, voted the number one hotel in all of Ireland by Trip Advisor. Donegal is unspoiled in many ways and the scenery is stunning. I have set the itinerary to be considerate to those running the marathon, but without taking away any of the experience for other travelers. So the three days in Dublin before the marathon will give runners time to acclimate to the time difference and climate and there will be sightseeing and adventures – but none that will too strenuous on the legs. Marathon day is a free day for those not running or cheering to shop, visit a museum, or do something else of particular interest to them.

We have some spaces left on the trip and our group will hopefully max out at 20 travelers, to keep it intimate.

What do you like most about running in Michigan?

I run with a group, PR Fitness in Ann Arbor (in the winter with the Ann Arbor Track Club) and sometimes by myself. I enjoy both for different reasons. Running in the four seasons can’t be beat. Even the harshest of winter weather conditions us in ways you can’t get in San Diego for example. Plus, running the Bayshore Marathon provided my wife and I the opportunity to experience a beautiful part of Michigan – Old Mission Peninsula.

You can learn more about the upcoming trip at Contact Stuart at 734.846.2025 or at

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