We really need to keep this going. Today a great insight into a guy who has thrown himself 100% into the “way of the true Harrier”: sitting on the club committee, coaching, course building. Basically a brilliant “whatever is needed” Clonliffe Harrier.
Bio: 49 year old Structural Engineer with Irish Rail, Assistant Coach to Joe Cooper with Junior Men and Assistant Club Secretary. 12 Marathons under my belt and plenty of miles in road races. Love putting up the Cross Country Courses in Santry, don’t always enjoy taking them back down!
What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why? I ran quite a lot when I was young and was reasonably good, winning in school and local sports days. I represented my schools at both primary and secondary level and even made the National’s in Belfield one year and finished 9th in the North Leinsters. Then I fancied myself as a footballer and played Gaelic Football till my mid 30’s mostly with Ballymun Kickhams and finished playing with Dunderry in Co. Meath before my 3rd child was born. I won a couple of Championship medals and was player of the year a couple of times with Kickhams so I favoured the football. On reflection I really was only good at running around a pitch and was relatively fast so I probably should have pursued the athletics. After the football, I toyed with the idea of going back to running for a couple of years and then started back with Dunshaughlin AC with a bit of gentle persuasion from Paddy Mangan. My first race was the Dunshaughlin 10K on mid-summer night in sweltering heat after 2 weeks training, it was a real baptism of fire but I enjoyed it enough to keep going.
When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? This is my second stint in Clonliffe Harriers, I was a member when I was 12 -14 yrs old, got the club gear in the shop behind the Cat and Gage and remember the long runs out by the airport. When we moved back to Dublin 2016, my Daughter Sarah switched to Clonliffe and then I followed and joined Philip O’Doherty’s group. I ran a couple of Marathons in both Dunshaughlin and Clonliffe vests. Joe gave me a shout to ask if I would give a hand with the Juniors and I haven’t looked back. Noel asked me then to help out as assistant secretary which I was very happy to be involved in, it opens up a whole new area in Athletics which can be rewarding.
What is your favourite training workout? When I am fit I love a good long Sunday run but I was never good at getting up at 6.00 in the morning to do these. The longer the day goes on, the more difficult it is to get these done.
And your least favourite? Nowadays it is anything repetitive on the track or running with my daughter Sarah when she takes off and I can’t catch her!
What’s your favourite race / athletics meet? The Dunshaughlin 10 k is probably my favourite race as it always high quality and is well supported. There is an atmosphere around the race which is not matched anywhere else. That said even my best time there I was beaten by a guy wearing a beer bottle costume. The Dublin Marathon, of course, can be a great day but I have shuffled home from most of them. They are great when you think back on them though. We have attended the Morton Games for a good few years, I love the Morton Mile and it has been great to be involved as a volunteer for the last couple of years.
What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? (as athlete and/or coach) The last couple of years as assistant coach have been very fruitful for the club at Junior level with a number of individual and team medals in the cross country and a number of individual titles on the track in both schools and club. The athletes have done all the hard work under the guidance of Joe and personally I have learned an awful lot about the sport during this time. There have been races where someone may not have performed to their best but as a team and group they have always been there for each other. This is something I cherish with working with this group and something in the long run that the club should benefit from. As an individual stand-out moment Jayme Rossiter hurdling the water jump to win the 2019 Senior National Steeple chase was very memorable.
What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it? I was involved in a car crash in 2013 and following that I have had a number of problems with my back and hips mainly due to tighten muscles in my back. I was never the most flexible with regards to stretching but that accident has resulted in me being more limited. Like most athletes I still don’t always stretch prior to running and should not be surprised that I end up crooked.
(For a coach or seasoned athlete) What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete? The most obvious thing to me (now) and I hear Joe saying it often, that Athletes should listen to their own bodies. Many times over the years, both playing football and running, I didn’t and ended up with injuries. As a coach you can’t know what or how the Athlete feels, so it’s up to them to let the coach know.
Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? (the censorship board may review!) When Joe Cooper took me off whistle duties! One evening in the Trinity Grounds when doing a session on the whistle Joe asked me to keep the time and blow the whistle to start/stop the efforts. It was a windy day but to be fair more breezy than windy. I was working away but then heard Joe calling me to blow the whistle louder, so I put a bit more effort into it. However the next time the lads came around Ben Guiden gave me a message to whistle louder. At this stage I was blowing from my socks up. Next thing, still not happy, Joe comes over and yells “give me the ******* whistle”. He noted that I was the only person he ever stood down from whistle duties. I have only recently been re-instated!
What’s your favourite meal? A. For competition: Porridge it the morning and pasta the night before, fairly predictable. B. Outside competition: Steak, Chips and pepper sauce with a glass of red wine.
Who is your sporting ‘hero’? (athletics or other) A. Irish, John McCarthy, Dublin footballer. My mother always loved “the Dubs” and we watched as kids in the 1970’s. In my first senior Match for Ballymun Kickhams, my first touch of the balls was to catch and pass to the on-running “Macker” who took the pass and slotted it over the bar. B. International, Calumn Hawkins, hugely impressive Marathon runner you can believe in!
What’s your favourite…? A. Film – I like a black and white Ealing movie with Alec Guiness or Jack Hawkins. B. Song or Album – Johnny Cash, The American Recordings. C. Book – Watership Down, John Adams, but I can read anything. I not much interested in Sports biography as a genre, but Charlie Speddings “From last to First” was interesting. I like books around factual World War II spies and Bletchley Park.
What’s your favourite holiday destination? St Raphael in Southern France.
What’s your favourite hobby / activity outside athletics? A few pints and a chat with my Dad.
If you were Seb Coe what changes would you implement to improve our sport? Investing into athletics where most clubs and associations internationally are run by volunteers. I would like to see the sport regaining its high interest from spectators, promote profiles of high performance athletes to draw in crowds into stadiums again and get kids to see athletics as a sport to engage in rather than just GAA, Soccer, Rugby etc. Athletics meets need to bring entertainment to draw investors, sponsorship and crowds.
How would your non-athlete friends describe you? (in 3 words) Funny, Obliging, Reliable.
What is your next running / athletics goal? (whenever normality returns!) I would like to get back fit and attempt a marathon without falling over the finish line and ending up in the medical tent. I might even do the Dublin Masters Cross Country (if Joe selects me!).
How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times? The lock down allowed me to run more than I have for a long time. At the beginning I was very unfit and by doing 5k per day initially for a month or so I have been able to build this up to 60 Km a week. I feel that I am lucky to have running to keep busy and the mind occupied. It’s been good to have and I haven’t suffered from lack of motivation.