No. 45: 60 Seconds with Harrier Claire Marie Roche

Next up an athlete who bravely stepped up to the mark in terms of competition this past cross country season moving from meet & train races into the fray of Novice and Intermediate levels. A Mayo GAA supporter who still believes…..ah well!

Bio:Primary school teacher, ‘up from the country’, running with Clonliffe Harriers for almost 6years!

What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why? I always had an interest in sport from a young age. Both my father and uncle played a lot of Gaelic football so sport was, and still is, a big talking point in our house. I enjoyed watching athletics competitions on tv and we were blessed to have Sonia O’Sullivan and Caitríona McKiernan doing so well at the time. I took part in some athletics competitions while in secondary school. At one of these events I took part in the Shot put competition, I’m not sure why, considering my stature and complete lack of upper arm strength. Perhaps I thought it was an amusing thing to do at the time, the folly of youth I suppose! Lets just say the ball didn’t travel very far from the ring. I suppose I really only got into athletics at the age of 24 when I started running with a Fit4Life group in Castlebar, organised by Maggie Heneghan and Ann McDonnell. I really owe a lot to those girls for getting me started in running. They were a hugely encouraging and a positive influence at the time. They had a word of encouragement for every member of the group and could easily adapt their advice and methods regardless of your level.

When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? I joined Clonliffe Harriers in September 2014. I think I may have heard a friend who was already living in Dublin mention the club a year or two previous to that, but it was definitely in the sub conscious mind when I started to look for a club to join. Having moved to Dublin only a few weeks previous I really wasn’t too familiar with the geography of the place and presumed that Clonliffe Harriers was on Clonliffe Road! A road I was very familiar with as Mayo person, and one I had walked down many times around those years of 2012, 2013, etc! That is the main reason I rang the club to make enquiries. Funnily enough Raheny Shamrocks is closer to where I live, but I won’t be transferring, Clonliffe for life!

What is your favourite training workout? I have to say there’s nothing better than a cold, crisp night with the moon shining down on Trinity fields! I suppose I enjoy pyramid sessions and most work on grass.

And your least favourite? 10 x400’s on the track can be pretty gruelling. You do feel great after a track session though. Great sense of achievement. What’s your favourite race / athletics meet? I quite enjoyed the Dublin half marathon, particularly my first one in 2016. There was a great sense of comradery as there was a good number of us there from the club and it was great to see Pam and Ben near the finish line. I was proud to complete it and ran faster than I thought I would. I also found it fairly comfortable as I suppose I wasn’t looking for a time, I was just happy to complete it. Training for that event helped me to see that if you put the work in consistently you get results. It got me to take my running more seriously. I took part in my first Novice XC race the following year, a week after the Dublin half and it really stood to me when the going got tough!

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? (as athlete and/or coach) While I haven’t been on any on podiums… I suppose I started off way back the field in my first Meet and Train cross country event in November 2014 and last year I was in the top 20 for one of the same races so that’s a big achievement for me. I was also proud to take part in the Novice XC and Dublin XC Intermediate race this December gone which I would not have dreamt of doing a few years back! I am proud to be part of a great group, Aideen O’Connor is great for motivating us and Orla Deighan always has an word of encouragement for everyone!

What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it? My worst injury would have to be an unusual ankle injury that started when I was 12years old. I think it may have arisen when I was training for a primary school Gaelic football competition. I went right over on it. Piercing pain would shoot through my ankle when I tried to run. It came and went intermittently between the ages of 12 and 19. At one point I was told by a Consultant doctor not to do PE for months in Second year. I attended a wonderful GP however, Dr. Ken Kane, in Kiltimagh and he advised me to keep swimming to help strengthen it. While it didn’t go away fully, the swimming did help and gave me some spells of time without pain, hence I could take part in a few schools athletics competitions. Sadly, this injury really affected my involvement in sport as a youngster as its persistence meant I could not dedicate to any sport for enough length of time whereby I could gain proficiency in it. C’est la vie though, I do think back on it and appreciate being able to run now. I still get a shiver when I think it could be starting up again!

(For a coach or seasoned athlete) What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete? The night you don’t want to go to training is probably the night you really should go. Stick with it. There was one August, when I coming back after a Summer hiatus and was starting to train for the Dublin Half Marathon, for about three or four weeks I was terrible, I was so slow, I just felt I am not getting anywhere. Then, one day when I was about to give up, it just turned a corner and my fitness started to come back! So don’t give up I suppose, you could be closer to getting your goal than you think!

Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? (the censorship board may review!) Ah there are so many funny moments to be fair. There are a lot of witty people in our group so one is never without a laugh. Myself and Yvonne McDonagh almost missed our Intermediate XC race at the end of last year due to getting locked into the soccer club beside Tymon park. Luckily a man outside heard us banging on the door! When we got down to the field I began to peel off my running trousers to unleash legs to the world that I hoped wouldn’t radiate light back to the sun with their whiteness. However, I had put on ample amounts of fake tan or so I thought. Pam turned to me and said those legs haven’t seen the sun in awhile, so much for my efforts! Had a few laughs over that which settled my nerves before the race I must say!

What’s your favourite meal? A. For competition – I would use the word ‘favourite’ loosely. Towards the end of last year I tried to eat porridge the morning of a race, I would say it’s more of a force feeding exercise, as anyone who has watched me eat it will testify. Putting blueberries on top makes it a little easier. I eat a few nuts before a race also. B. Outside competition – Pizza and anything that involves meat!

Who is your sporting ‘hero’? (athletics or other) A. Irish – Its only in recent years that I have come to realise how incredibly talented and gutsy Sonia O’Sullivan was. I was so used of watching her running and doing so well as a child. It’s only now when you watch all the clips put together you think wow, a class act, that kick on the bend going down the home straight, unreal! I really admire Fionnuala McCormack as well, a really tenacious, fearless runner! Along with Sinead Diver and Andy Moran, can’t forget the Mayo Sporting stars!

What’s your favourite…? A. Film – Clueless B. Song or Album – Jeff Buckley – Grace C. Book – Seen as we are talking all things sport, Paul Kimmage’s book Rough Ride and his book Full Time – The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino are very good. I don’t know a whole lot about either sport, especially cycling, but I really enjoyed those books.

What’s your favourite holiday destination? Slovenia – Lake Bled and Ljubljana

What’s your favourite hobby / activity outside athletics? Listening to a wide of range of music, and singing to myself, apparently I do that a lot!!:-)

If you were Seb Coe what changes would you implement to improve our sport? Maybe televise more events. Like the 2020 campaign for women in sport if you don’t see it, you won’t care about being in it.

How would your non-athlete friends describe you? (in 3 words) Talkative Easy going Perceptive (That’s what they said! Someone also said ‘Delegator’ but I would have to disagree!)

What is your next running / athletics goal? (whenever normality returns!) It is hard to know where to look in terms of a goal but I suppose try to maintain a reasonable level of fitness and work on my 5km time.

How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times? The Whats App group is really the cornerstone in terms of motivation these days more than ever. We have excellent coaches in Pam and Ben who provide us with sessions we can do each week. I try to do some work on the same days that we would have training to keep some semblance of normality.

Now if it wasn’t for that damn curse!