No. 54: 60 Seconds with Harrier Nicola Fallon.

An athlete who at one time was described by her coach as his “meal ticket and way out of here”, but unfortunately injury intervened and those best laid plans were torn up! So both coach and athlete are still with us! Still the lady in question has returned to the fold in a coaching capacity and is a valued member of the team: Nicola Fallon.

Bio: I am 34 and living in Rathfarnham. I ran for Clonliffe Harriers mostly as a Junior for over a decade. I was a middle-distance athlete who also ran XC to build moral fibre as Joe called it. I’m a qualified Geologist turned secondary school teacher. I am helping Joe Cooper to coach the Juniors and am currently on maternity leave from my post! I am the Mum of a 5-month-old girl who thankfully came the day after the 2019 National XC championship, I know Noel Guiden was worried I would have the baby on the National XC course. Five months on I am no longer “huge” as Kilian Lonergan told me that evening in the bar. 😉

What age did you take up the sport of Athletics and why? I started running in primary school. Our school always entered the Santry Games. The trials and training were held in Dalymount Park so the prospect of getting out of school was the first appeal and a trip to the sweetshop on the way home, the second. Each year I put myself forward for the trials and made the cut, from there, I really started to love running. I was told in later years by one of the groundsmen in Dalymount that he used to bet on me with the other groundsmen, that I would win my race.

When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? In sixth class the distance of 500 metres was on offer in the school’s Santry games. The day of the race I decided to take off from the gun and go on to win. My teacher told me she was approached by someone who worked in Morton stadium and that she was to tell me to join a running club. I looked across the track and saw Clonliffe Harriers, I didn’t know of any other clubs, so it was an easy decision.

What was your favourite training workout? I am long retired now. As an athlete I used to love training on the “Munich lap” as we called it in the Phoenix park or a fartlek session in Trinity sports ground.

And your least favourite? I always felt the need to front run when training so 12x400s on the track was tough mentally. I had a habit of letting my head wander mid-session so trying to focus was a killer.

What is your favourite race/athletics meet? Morton Games of course😊.

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in Athletics? I was unfortunate that I used to pick up quite a few niggles, but I was lucky to have had some great individual and team successes in the black and amber. In 2001 at the age of 15 I won my first All-Ireland 1500m medal and I got the call up to run for the Club’s Senior Women’s A-team in the National Road Relays in Raheny. We won team bronze making it my first National Senior medal and a big achievement for the Club’s Women. I have been lucky to win several All-Ireland medals but a year to remember for me as an athlete would be 2003 as a 17-year-old. 2003 was my most successful and memorable year as an athlete. That year I had the most consistent block of training coached by Joe Cooper. I won the National Junior and U19 All-Ireland 800m & 1500m. I broke through 2:10 for 800m, 4:30 for 1500m and ran a sub 5-minute mile. As someone who wanted to run track all year round these races were certainly great memories. I finished Top 5 in the National Junior XC and I led the team home to take the National Junior Team Silver. The National XC Championships were held in Rathdrum that year and Joe had us well primed with hill sessions. That was a really proud moment for Joe and his Junior Ladies 😊. Anyone who has ever been coached by Joe knows the time and effort he puts into you as an athlete and a person, so it felt particularly special to show up on the day for him. The pat on the back and some kind of slagging after meant you did well. He seems to have become soft these days and gives a compliment rather than a slag… 😉. In 2003 I also won my first All-Ireland Schools XC individual medal in the Senior Girls. This was a big moment considering my hatred for cross country races and with it being held in ALSAA down the road, the support was out in force from the Club. That year I got to put on the Irish vest for the first time which is something every athlete wants. I got selected to run on the Irish Schools team and for Ireland. Winning team gold with my teammates in the Senior Girls race for Ireland in Wales is a medal that means a lot. Another race to remember is me getting to race against and share a lane with Sonia O’ Sullivan. Finally, before I hung up my spikes I ran one last XC, winning team gold at the National Novice in 2005. It was yet another great day out with the club.

What was your worst injury-and how did you get over it? I suffered on and off with shin splints and knee pain. Building my legs up with specific exercises helped the knee pain and unfortunately rest was the only cure for the shin splints which resulted in blocks of missed training.

What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete? Have fun with it, think less and train hard. Everything else will follow.

Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? Joe had organised to bring our junior team over to Hannut in Belgium. We had been shown pictures of our accommodation and it was this amazing stone building which resembled a castle. Unfortunately for us when we got to Belgium our accommodation was quickly christened ‘Chateuax le Shit’ and everything else that followed was nothing short of Fawlty Towers. We did win first International Women’s Team and there was a marriage proposal so it was a memorable trip lets just say😉.

What is your favourite meal? Italian when I was competing, no change now

Who is your sporting hero? Sonia O Sullivan, watching her run and her success growing up was always an inspiration. Also, Brian O’Driscoll. He is a rugby player, Joe Cooper.

Nicola shares the lane with her sporting hero Sonia O’Sullivan

Favourite film? World War Z. Favourite Music? Like all types but will always be found in a dance tent at a festival. Favourite Book? The Book Thief, Gone Girl and any kind of thriller.

Holiday Destination? Alcudia, Majorca.

What is your favourite activity outside athletics? I play tag rugby and being an ex-athlete, I am a speedy winger.

How would your non-athlete friends describe you? Talkative, Funny and Friendly.

What is your next running/ athletics goal? I have started back running more since the lockdown, so my aim is to run a quick 5k by my next birthday.