No. 58: 60 Seconds with Harrier Peter Bissett

Another one of Pam & Ben’s group of athletes, a guy who has made great progress from road races to cross country and track. The man with two names: Peter & BertieBissett!

Bio: I’m a quiet fellah (yeah…) from Skerries, still confident that I won’t be dragged around a marathon any time soon. Primary school teacher by day, short-shorts runner by night.

What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why? I dabbled with cross country in school and didn’t enjoy it at all, but began to run regularly during school exams to keep a bit of sanity, and for an excuse to get out of the house! I only started training formally in 2018.

When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers? End of summer 2018 – I used to live in Drumcondra, and searched for nearby clubs – never having trained with a club before. I nervously popped up one evening to meet Pam and the crew. I drove up, because I was terrified I’d run out of any energy needed to complete a ‘session’ (up to that point, this word was strictly reserved for Friday evenings…). The first session I completed was in the park, and I nearly lost a lung doing mile reps. I’d pay to do them now! I joined to improve my speed and to challenge myself more, as I was stuck in a rut of the same 5k loop in the same time for quite a while.

What is your favourite training workout? A good short & fast track sesion (with a good responsible warm-up and cool-down, of course!). I remember each Friday (and Saturday!) after my first few track sessions, I realised where my calves and achilles were, and how much they could hurt!

And your least favourite? A road session with a long speed interval (7 or 8 mins). They always seem to destroy me, and it’s very hard to stay at the right temperature as you’re not doing laps to undress and re-dress – yes I’m a diva.

What’s your favourite race / athletics meet? I don’t have a lot of racing experience, but in general a 5 mile road race anywhere is always great fun, especially when there’s a good sea of black & amber around! My first ever road race was the famous Raheny 5, and had such a blast with my training pals.

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? (as athlete and/or coach) First off, winning ‘newbie of the year’ in 2019 – this made me feel so welcome in such a fantastic bunch of people! Then, coming second (on handicap) in the 1 mile Grand Prix race in May 2019 and winning my first ever prize money in athletics – spent the next day on some replacement spikes and anti-stink-trainer-balls (I’m sure that’s what they’re called). I thought: If primary school Peter could see me now (he hated athletics) he’d be confused…

What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it? I stretched my LCL and partially tore my ACL in a dance-related injury (think dirty dancing – I was Patrick Swayze at the bottom of the stage). I’m aware that it’s not a major injury compared to many others, but to me it was pretty crushing, as I had never been properly injured before, and now couldn’t run for about 3 months. Physio and consistent stretching got me through it, and I’ll never forget the joy of running again, even slowly, when I was on the mend. On days when I feel lethargic, I think back to that and it makes it pretty manageable to go out to the track in the sideways rain on a December evening.

(For a coach or seasoned athlete) What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete? I’m not a seasoned athlete, so remove this bit if you like, but I would advise anybody who doesn’t already to start keeping a physical running log. I keep a hand-written one, and it’s a joy to read back over one year of progress in terms of mileage, races run, times, and anecdotes that go along with it. Go get one now!

Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? (the censorship board may review!) One of the GP track races in 2019 – I stumbled mid-race around a traffic cone, and on the second lap around stopped to throw it into the pitch inside the track while giving out to it (I may have cursed at the cone). The best part was one of my training buddies nearly passed out laughing at me, so I caught him for once on the straight. You know who you are!

What’s your favourite meal? A. For competition: Scrambled eggs on toast B. Outside competition: Pizza with waffles – student style

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

What’s your favourite…? A. Film: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – incredible dialogue! B. Song or Album: Fontaines DC – Dogrel (for something loud) C. Book: Shantaram by David Roberts

What’s your favourite holiday destination? The River Shannon (in a nice boat, when it’s sunny, not actually in the river…)

What’s your favourite hobby / activity outside athletics? Usually sailing, but given recent restrictions, I’ve become very interested in gardening – if we’re back to the club in time, I’ll put forward some fresh peas and carrots for a GP prize.

If you were Seb Coe what changes would you implement to improve our sport? Continue to encourage children to participate for fun from a young age – offering the chance for competition for those who want it, but equally offering a fun outlet without a racing element for those who simply enjoy running socially and the physical and mental benefits that come with it.

How would your non-athlete friends describe you? (in 3 words) Outgoing, loud, friendly

What is your next running / athletics goal? (whenever normality returns!) Complete a full series of races (whatever series that may be when things re-open)

How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times? Consistency is key. I’ve relied heavily on these three things: Firstly and most importantly – the reliable Tuesday and Thursday text from Pam & Ben detailing our session for the day. Thank you both so much, this means more than you can possibly imagine to us all during this time. Next, a running watch – I hadn’t been interested in one before this, but luckily acquired one from Dec just before restrictions began so that I could hold myself accountable for a session and measure the distance! I found out that 400m is actually a very long way in a straight line! Finally, a pen to write the session on my hand (no I don’t want to hook up my laptop to programme each session…) Thank you so much Pam and Ben for keeping us going during this strange time. We don’t know when, but when we get back together again, it will be a day to remember forever. Stay Safe everybody. Bertie. P.S. My name is Peter, but I was christened ‘Bertie’ thanks to a mix-up with my surname (Peter Bissett / Bertie Bassett) and I’m happy with either 🙂

Peter & Bertie play a two ball at the K Club!
At the Irish Runner 5 Mile, Phoenix Park