No.22: 60 Seconds with Harrier Ciara McCallion

400 specialist, medallist at Nationals, Irish International and one of the sports top physios, Ciara McCallion.

Bio: I’m a physiotherapist who has always loved athletics. I have been lucky enough to represent Ireland and Clonliffe Harriers as part of the Irish women’s 4x400m relay team. Although not competing at that level now, I can’t seem to stop running around the track (or on the road since the lockdown).

What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why? I competed in athletics at the Community Games when I was 8 years old and then joined the local athletics club. When I was older I transferred to Clonliffe Harriers. I feel like I’ve never not done athletics!

When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? I joined Clonliffe Harriers when I was in my early teens (a while ago now!). I joined to train with John Shields and his group. At the time my main even was 100m hurdles believe it or not, and John had a group of girls my age who I could train with. I loved it.

What is your favourite training workout? This might sound crazy, but my favourite workout is probably split 400s (300m, 60 sec rest, 100m) just before or during outdoor season when you know you’re in good shape. It’s nice to run fast relaxed. I don’t know if I would enjoy trying to do that right now, but right before competition it was a great confidence boosting workout.

And your least favourite? I love all running and training, but at the moment my least favourite session would be Fartlek because my fitness isn’t what it used to be!

What’s your favourite race / athletics meet? Irish national outdoor championships in Morton Stadium. Nationals is the pinacle of the domestic track and field calendar for amateur athletes and I almost always ran a PB at Nationals so I am a little biased by these good memories.

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? (as athlete and/or coach) Running the anchor leg of the 4x400m at the European Championships in Amsterdam in 2016. It was amazing to run in the Olympic Stadium at an event (Europeans) that years earlier I had been a spectator at with a group of Clonliffe athletes.

Ciara at European Championships, Amsterdam 2016

What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it? Achilles tendinopathy – although I always had a mild tendinopathy it recurred a few times in the last years of my competitive athletics, and even a mild tendinopathy can keep you out for 2 or 3 months. I did a lot of heavily weighted rehab, changed my training load (I had to reduce what I was doing as I work full time on my feet) and did a lot of my training in racing flats with a customised spike plate rather than sprint spikes.

(For a coach or seasoned athlete) What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete? 1. Enjoy your athletics, try new things and ask questions. 2. Try to get your information about training, nutrition, injuries etc from reputable sources – be careful what advice you listen to on social media. 3. If you have big dreams don’t be afraid to make them goals and really go for them.

What’s your favourite meal? A. For competition – chicken and pasta pre competition (plain and simple) B. Outside competition – chocolate cake (is cake a meal?)

Who is your sporting ‘hero’? (athletics or other) A. Irish Sonia O’Sullivan B. International Allyson Felix

What’s your favourite holiday destination? South Africa

What is your next running / athletics goal? (whenever normality returns!) For once, I don’t have any performance goals for athletics. I’m just enjoying training so my goals are to continue to enjoy training and to stay injury free.

How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times? I have trained more consistently since the lockdown started than anytime in the last year. My job as a sports physio involves a lot of travel and very long days so my training time has been very limited. Now that I am working from home my motivation to train is very high as I have the time for it (I’m working reduced hours), and I need a break from sitting at my laptop. The nice weather we have had recently definitely helps motivate me to get out for a run!