An athlete who despite being a relative late comer to the sport set himself goals that have been well and truly met and surpassed, despite a dodgey start! Kieran Murphy.
What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why? When we moved back to Dublin in 2002, I had to have a stress ECG treadmill test as part of health screening. The doctor who did the test told me afterwards that I was only the third person he knew that had never reached maximum heart rate on the treadmill. When I casually mentioned this to a GP friend, he told me that I should try running as a sport so I started running short distances without any target or structure, mainly to maintain fitness and to keep my weight down.
When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? I went to a work conference in San Francisco in 2003 when I was 39 and work colleague and long-time Clonliffe Harrier Declan Murray persuaded me to run Bay to Breakers, a 12k race through the streets of San Francisco starting at the Bay and finishing at the ocean. To my surprise, I did better than some on the guys who were running with clubs so Declan insisted on bringing me to Clonliffe Harriers. The rest is history. Thanks Declan!
What is your favourite training workout? Have always liked the winter Thursday evening runs on the road even though we don’t do them so much any more. Although we are meant to be doing these as a consistent moderately paced run, the pace tends to quicken as we get closer to the club as everyone tries to get home first!
And your least favourite? I have never been good at shorter distances so least favourite workout is definitely 400 m interval repeats
What’s your favourite race / athletics meet? Definitely the marathon. You train so hard for so long and the result is dependent on so many different variables. When it works, it’s absolutely brilliant. When it doesn’t, it’s absolutely gutting.
What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? (as athlete and/or coach) There are two and both relate to the marathon. I spent years trying to get a sub 3 and was always very close. In 2011, a group of us from Clonliffe did the Rotterdam Marathon and I finally got the monkey off my back when I did 2.59. Maurice McCrohan and I ran together to half-way and he turned to me and said he had never run the first half so quickly. I didn’t know whether to be alarmed or elated! As I ran down the closing stages, I remember Conor Delaney was standing beyond the finish line beckoning me towards the line and into that elite club of sub-3 marathoners. The guys knew how long I had been trying for it and it was great to be able to celebrate it with them. Jeremy Chapman didn’t have such a good day though and has vowed never to return there. We’ll get you back there some day Jeremy! The second relates to the 2018 Dublin marathon. It was a beautiful day and everything seemed to go right. I never hit the wall and crossed the line in 2.57. The icing on the cake was M55 National Silver, Leinster Gold and Dublin Gold. It was a bit like buses – for years I never got medals and then all of a sudden three showed up together!
What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it? My worst injury happened in 2017 when I tore my soleus in the run-up to DCM. I was out for about six months but with physio and the help of a good sports doc, I slowly inched my way back. Initially started walking and then very slowly running on the treadmill, increasing by just one minute each time. When I finally got to 40 minutes, I started to run outside again and gradually built up my speed. Soleus injuries can be terminal so I only really believed I had recovered after DCM the following year.
(For a coach or seasoned athlete) What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete? The most important thing is to listen to your body. Respect your body, don’t ask too much of it and ensure you get plenty of recovery time, especially as you get older. Most people that I started running with who are my age have now stopped running, almost all because of injury.
Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? (the censorship board may review!) In one of my earlier years with Clonliffe, I ran a club road race (I think a 5 mile) and saw Pat Devitt in the distance with a big X on his back. I accelerated and passed him out delighted that, in my mind, I had taken his scalp. Of course, I had made my move too early and he easily passed me out on the final bend. The race was videoed and when the video was replayed afterwards, all anyone could see was Pat’s beaming grin after he had passed me by. I didn’t make that rookie mistake again!
What’s your favourite meal? A. For competition Pasta B. Outside competition I’ve been vegan for almost 10 years but I break out every Christmas and stuff myself with turkey and ham. There is nobody so carniverous as a lapsed vegan!
Who is your sporting ‘hero’? (athletics or other) A. Irish – Jerry Kiernan B. International – Abebe Bikila
What’s your favourite…? A. Film – Lord of the Rings. Love French cinema so maybe Jean de Florette / Manon des Sources too. B. Song or Album – Hard to pick just one. Like all types of music especially classical and jazz C. Book The China Study (for all you aspiring vegans out there!)
What’s your favourite holiday destination? Mallorca
What’s your favourite hobby / activity outside athletics? I play the piano
If you were Seb Coe what changes would you implement to improve our sport? Root out drug use – biggest threat to athletics
How would your non-athlete friends describe you? (in 3 words) If I find any I’ll ask them
What is your next running / athletics goal? (whenever normality returns!) I would like to get back into a regular training structure as soon as possible. Would like to look at the European Masters circuit.
How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times? It’s a bit harder to get motivated without the structure of weekly training and a race or two to aim for. However, running is so much a part of my daily routine that it’s not really a problem. Philip O’Doherty has started up a 5k virtual race so that will help too. I love when I get out for my daily run – it just clears the head and makes eating and drinking much more guilt-free!