No. 17: 60 Seconds with Harrier Hope Saunders

Another of the club’s top female athletes, who uniquely was double National Junior Cross Country Champion in the same year 2015 (March & November).

Bio: Hope Saunders, 22 years old, college student studying exercise science in Wichita Kansas. Not too sure what I’ll do for a career yet but, I’ll figure it out as I go along 😉

What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why? I took up athletics at 14years old because If I signed up for cross-country I would get to miss a day of secondary school… Sounded like a good deal! When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? Well the day I took off school for cross country didnt go too bad… I think i placed in the top 10 in the race so my teacher tried to get me to join Raheny afterward. My dad said there was no way he was driving me all the way to Raheny (we live in Finglas) so he brought me up to clonliffe instead. That was in 2013 i think.

What is your favourite training workout? Definitely a fartlek in santry park with Joe and the lads. I like to run by feel so fartlek allows that instead of chasing a time. (1min,2min,3min,4min,5min,4,3,2,1) on half recovery is a good one.

And your least favourite? I don’t really have a least favourite session. if you have someone to pull you through a tough session, it makes even the worst of sessions bearable. Doing 5-6 x1000m alone isn’t ideal though.

What’s your favourite race / athletics meet? Morton Games is great craic, never raced in it but the atmosphere is brilliant.

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? (as athlete and/or coach) Probably when i won my first national u18/Junior cross-country title in Dundalk IT 2014. I’d say that is my most cherished moment as it was a huge shock. I never knew I was capable of winning a national title, I was new to the sport and I was also unaware that winning the race gave me automatic selection for Eurocross that December. I didnt even know what Eurocross was at the time.

What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it? As a Junior I always struggled with Shin splints and calf troubles. My calves would get so tight to the point that I couldn’t put any weight on them or even jump on one leg. This went on for some time and it was prolonged because I became hyper cautious about not wanting to cause more damage if they were even slightly sore, thinking that they would start to cramp again. I did a lot of full body strength work, management for the anxiety i had around my injury and I also worked with a dietician and learned how to recover better.

(For a coach or seasoned athlete) What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete? To know that you are worth a lot more than your personal bests and training results. Athletics is important to you of course but to also remember that there is more to who you are than just an athlete. You are an athlete but also a friend, maybe a sister/brother, a good cook, a dog walker, you name it. It is really important to have other hobbies and interests outside of athletics, because if it’s not going well you have something else to fall back on.

Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? (the censorship board may review!) When we were in the Juvenile group with Mick and Noel. A big group of us used to go running around santry park. There used to be a small river at the back of it between the trees and there was a rope attached to one of the branches. During one of our training runs we thought it would be a good idea to go to the river and swing across it on the rope. Sean Carrigg lead the troop and the rope broke and he fell into the river getting himself covered in muck and water. It was hilarious. Sean would always provide quality entertainment during those runs making training much more enjoyable.

What’s your favourite meal? I pretty much eat the same outside of competition and before a race. I’m not a fussy eater and I can luckily eat anything without any problems. My favourite dish is spaghetti meatballs that my dad makes with garlic bread. I try to keep it simple, no particular food is off limits.

Who is your sporting ‘hero’? (athletics or other) I don’t really have a sporting hero as I joined athletics as a teenager so didn’t have many athletic heroes as a kid. I played too many different sports to pick one. I guess a non-sporting hero would be my dad. He taught me how to be tough and to “Keep on keeping on” even when it’s not easy. (he loves Bob Dylan,he even called my brother Dylan after him)

What’s your favourite…? A. Film- Favourite film is without a doubt, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. B. Song or Album- i like to listen to upbeat music and podcasts when i run. Moon by Kid Francescoli is a good one. C. Book- I’m not much of a reader, I like podcasts more but my favourite book is defintely ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho

What’s your favourite holiday destination? I love Greece, it’s such a beautiful place. Great people, sights, weather and Food.

What’s your favourite hobby / activity outside athletics? I like dancing to music, playing with my dog, meeting or calling friends for a chat, listening to podcasts, watching youtube too.

If you were Seb Coe what changes would you implement to improve our sport? Not remove Steeple Chase from the Diamond league.

How would your non-athlete friends describe you? (in 3 words) Outgoing, fun-loving and funny .

What is your next running / athletics goal? (whenever normality returns!) I would like to get a Pb in the 3km and 5k again. A big goal would be to qualify and run in Eurocross in Dublin this year. If i achieved either of those goals I’d be delighted.

How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times? I just generally enjoy running, so whether or not I have races I still want to get out the door. But if I’m lacking motivation, I just make myself get outside with some good tunes and once I start running my motivation usually kicks back in. Either that or drag one of my siblings out the door with me haha.