No. 14: 60 Seconds with Harrier Harko

An Easter Sunday afternoon treat for all you Clonliffe Harriers currently confined to quarters it’s 60 seconds with Harko (gets my vote for Best in Show!).

Bio: I’m Stephen Harkness. Carpenter/Joiner SOLAS Instructor. Joined the club as a sprinter but now find myself slogging the distance work. I’ve come a long way since racing 60 meters.  They say you’er not a true Harriers unless you’ve locked horns with club captain Joe Cooper, must be a lifer at this stage so.

What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why?  I stared when I was 15, ran a few school races for St Aidans CBS, came away with some medals and thought hang on with some training maybe I could get somewhere. I joined Conliffe as a sprinter with the then coach Vincent Ragazolli, after he stepped down I went to Paddy Fay Around 2004 I started my apprenticeship and was finding it hard to make the training, not wanting to stop the sport I started training with Peter Mac Dermott where I was able to train more from my house instead of having to make my way up to the track all the time the distance training suited me better.  

When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? I joined Clonliffe Harriers in March 2000. I was in second year in Aidans, there was a teacher there called Tom Ward (aka Skeletor,he called me worse!) who put me onto Peter Mac Dermott, who I had for first year math’s but when I went to him about joining Conliffe he hadn’t a clue who I was. Must not have stood out in that class , all changed for 5th and 6th year math’s that’s right Peter and the rest in history. 

What is your favourite training workout? When I was sprinting the speed work coming up to races. From a distance perspective the tempo runs starting and finishing at the VisCount pub, as well as hills session in Howth. 

And your least favourite? When I trained with Paddy Fay as a sprinter on a Friday, we use to do some core work/med ball/ plyometrics and circuits at the end. The circuits at the end had 6 exercises by 4/5 sets each one taking 10 seconds to do with a minute recovery between each set. Now it was a tough enough exercise made even harder by Paddy, who would stand in the middle of a circle count out to 10 get to 6 see someone not doing it correctly proceed to correct said person then carry on counting but somehow starting back at 3 and continuing on to 10. Never managed to count to 10 in one go.It was some session though. 

From a distance perspective trying to remember how many intervals you had done on a 12 x 400m session, luckily peter was there to remind you. 

What’s your favourite race / athletics meet? Has to be the Cake Race. One of the best club races put on every year great night afterwards. I remember finishing second still a junior and been presented with a bottle of Jack Daniels. I had to swap it for the 1st prize which was a brown box with a clock inside it, wasn’t too happy when I opened that. But it was all good gave it to me mammy for a Christmas present.  

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? (as athlete and/or coach) Winning the Leinster 400m in my final year of school. Finally breaking the 2min barrier for the 800m and recording 1:55:80. Winning the club 2011 800m championship gun to tape. There was a lot of big talk before that race, they were all put in their place by the finish.  

2011 club 800 c’ship: Floating like a butterfly Harko arrives in the promised land (1.55.8)

What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it?  Working in the construction industry people always warned me about the effects it takes on the body. Well finally in 2014 it caught up with me, it seems with all the running, kneeling, and the manual labor associated with the job, my knees decided they has enough.  I was advised plenty of rest, so back to college I went and started a degree in Training and Education with NUI Galway. For the last year or so I’ve been back running building up the mileage, I started doing some more gym work which is helping with the knees. Time to time they are still at me but not enough to stop me running. Training going well, so hopefully I’ll be back racing soon. 

(For a coach or seasoned athlete) What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete?  When it comes to training it’s about quality and quantity. You leave it all at the finish line not in training.  

Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? (the censorship board may review!) 

After spending the last 20 years in the club where do you want me to start, we could be here all day. With this censorship board I don’t know what will get through. Sure, I’ll give it a go. 

1. Me self and Daniel Tobin headed up to Belfast to run the first indoors meeting to be held in the Odyssey arena. We got a lift of Joe and Pamela Cooper and turned out we were all staying in the same hotel. Now this was a world championship indoor year being held in Birmingham and Tobin had a chance of making the team. I went out in the semi, but Tobin made the final. So whatever Tobin needed, Joe and I made sure he got it. 

So back at the hotel Tobin and I were sharing, he took the window bed and then proceeded to open the window. We then headed downstairs to meet the Coopers and get some dinner. After dinner back to the room to catch match of the day. During the night I woke up and the room was bloody freezing, Tobin had left the window open it was colder than the deep freezer back home. But Tobin slept that way, he had opened the window and whatever comforts Tobin needs he got.  

Next morning, we make our way down to breakfast to meet Joe, Tobin heads off to get his breakfast I’m still fighting off hypothermia.  

Joe: Well Harko  you sleep well last night.  

Harko: Not really Joe, Tobin had the window open all night the room was freezing I think I’m fighting off hypothermia here. 

Joe: Why didn’t you close it.  

Harko: Tobin sleeps that way didn’t want to upset his routine. 

Harko heads off for breakfast. 

Joe: Well Tobin big final today, did you sleep well last night. 

Tobin: No Joe not really the window of the room was left open last night the room was freezing, I don’t know how harko managed to sleep last night, it was that cold I was afraid to go the toilet in case it froze. 

Harko: Returns to the table Joe’s in stitches laughing. What I miss.  

Joe: Harko who left the window open Tobin did.  

We had a good laugh about the whole experience. Tobin qualified for the team and when we traveled in the future, on one ever left the window open again. 

2. It’s a Friday night the usual few drinks with Larry Brady, meet at his and head off. This one night I come up with a great idea let’s put Club Secretary Noel Guiden’s car up for sale. We walk past it every Friday night. An A4 sheet of paper “For sale” and Noel’s mobile perfect. Car’s park right outside old man Guiden’s gaff, no one’s around, on with the signs and were off. Were at the top of the road, we bump into the Noel and the wife heading home from the Brian Boru. Shit were rumbled, no way I’m getting away with this, but it seems Noel has a few jars on him might work to my advantage. We say our pleasantries and head off. So were in the Porterhouse, and we get chatting to some randomers and I fill them in on what’s happening. They think it’s a great idea they start ringing about the car for sale. All night who ever we meet they call Noel. Fast forward a week, training out in the park Noel’s there with his group. 

Harko: Alright Noel any stories. 

Noel: Ya I have, you won’t believe it someone put my car up for sale last week. 

Harko: No way what happened, shocking who do a thing like that. Now there a gang of us around at this stage  

Noel: Loads of missed calls, messages left early Saturday morning people asking about the car for sale. 

Harko: Unbelieve what people will do, trust no one and come here are you selling the car. 

Noel: No, I’m not they put signs and everything on the car. 

Harko: Mad stuff altogether. 

After a while the penny dropped, Noel and everyone else figured it out. Even more shockingly the car was stolen a few months later, Noel didn’t know whether to call the guards or call me and see if I have moved it!

What’s your favourite meal? A for competition: I don’t have a favourite meal, I just always make sure I’ve had plenty to eat prior to a race. Only advice I would give is don’t have a spice burger before a training session doesn’t go well.  B. Outside competition: whatever I can get me hands on always try new foods, always try something different what’s the worst that can happen. FYI don’t get goats’ cheese as a topper on a burger just no.

Who is your sporting ‘hero’? (athletics or other)  A. Irish: The current Dublin GAA team. I’ve had the honor of supporting the team since 92, haven’t missed one home or way game, starting with the O’Byrne cup in January all the way through to the championship in the summer. 

B. International: That would have to be Homer me 13-year-old retired homing racing pigeon. Imagine the distance he traveled flying internationally. Mind blowing. 

Homer the International Racing Pigeon, what an athlete

What’s your favourite…?  A. Film: The Van and Where pigeons go to Die. Two great classics. B. Song or Album: Anything to do with the Dubliners and bit of Christy Moore in there too.C. Book: R 800 BAND SAW WITH INTEGRATED FEEDING USE AND MAINTENANCE MANUAL that was a tough read. Still having problems with the automated feed if anyone has any ideas. No/Yes let us know. 

What’s your favourite holiday destination?  Not really into a sun holiday, being part of a scout troop, every year we bring the lads away. So, adventure holidays I’m more into, don’t like sitting around by the pool. 

What’s your favourite hobby / activity outside athletics?  I have been part of 1st Dublin LHO Scout Troop since 1992, so anything to do with them really whether its hiking, canoeing or really anything scouts orientated. I also breed budgies and canaries, have a retired racing pigeon called Homer, Lulu a yellow headed amazon parrot and the 20 year old Jack Russel. So, they keep me busy. 

If you were Seb Coe what changes would you implement to improve our sport? Lifetime ban on drug cheats, no first or second chance either. 

How would your non-athlete friends describe you? (in 3 words) Dublin GAA mad. Left me mates wedding to go to the 2019 Ireland replay, true story went back though after the match. 5 in a row savage. There for everyone since 2011. 

What is your next running / athletics goal? (whenever normality returns!)  After been out for so long just to be on the start line of any race and finish, I’d be happy with that. 

How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times?  With the type of work, I’m in now and the travel involved trying to fit in training, I sometimes don’t be home until late. I’ve just figured out, I share a house with  two people, turns out they’re the parents! They’re great crack though really, but it is nice to get out for a run. But seriously the drive to be on that start line after been out for so long is enough. Stay safe and see you all up the club soon.

Harko and Mr. & Mrs. Harko

The house mates. Look after those close to us in these hard times.