March 18th, 2017 –
I’m in New Zealand, still trying to run faster than I ever have done before (times ticking I’m 30 next week), when I’m not doing that I research and write about factors affecting running injury and performance at the Sport Research Institute New Zealand (https://sprinz.aut.ac.nz/). I’m here on a 6 month research sabbatical from Leeds Beckett University where I lead the Musculoskeletal Health Research Group. After my first love, I am generally enjoying the tranquil life on the bay, conversations with people from around the globe and the head-space this part of the world affords to think and write blogs like this.
But I wasn’t always here. Up to the age of 15 I was an average soccer and gaelic football player, poor rugby player and awful hurler. Enter running. As Paul O’Connell (a recently retired Irish rugby forward) said in his autobiography in reference to swimming, with running ‘I just loved the fact that you could get better at something simply by working hard at it’. I was running for two years and enjoying the rapid rate of my progress. So was my body and mind. As I developed into an athlete the associated confidence followed, as did a dramatic rise in my grades at school. I was in love with this miracle drug. The lessons it thought me, through its requirement for intrinsic motivation, discipline and resilience, stand to me up until this day, as does the career and lifelong exercise habit it has given me. Within 2 years I had gone from making the top 100 in national cross countries to making the top 20. I had gone from not qualifying for All-Ireland track competitions to finishing in the top 6 over 1500m. By the time I was about to leave home to attend University aged 18 years, I was running 26:48 for 5 miles and 34:40 for 10km. To me this was the beginning of years of running and racing. Little did I know, it would be over 10 years before I would run another personal best (5 months ago in Leeds, 34:20 for 10km). I would be injured on and off for most of that time.
That 10 years led me through BSc Sport & Exercise Science, BSc Physical Therapy and PhD Exercise Science, two internships as a physiologist at the Irish Institute of Sport, 6 years of coaching and an IAAF level 4 endurance coaching programme, multiple training camps and coach education workshops as a sports science & medicine consultant for Athletics Ireland, countless running comebacks and all sorts of trial and error. So here I am with 60 weeks of training under my belt. I intend to use this blog to share what knowledge I have; scientific, philosophical and observational to assist runners everywhere never to have to spend too long away from my first love and I’m sure for many, theirs – running