Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Blog post from Sonia O'Sullivan...The Early Days Pt.1

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Blog post from Sonia O'Sullivan...The Early Days Pt.1

Sonia O'Sullivan is of course known to everyone as the best female Irish athlete ever. Her old club Ballymore Cobh AC are organising a set of 3k races in the town of Cobh on Monday evening, the 25th of August. More details in this previous post.

Ballymore Cobh AC played a huge part in the development of Sonia O'Sullivan as an athlete from an early age. She fully supports this new initiative from the club and will be present on the night for the inaugural race.

She has also written this blog post below which outlines her early days in the club.

The Early Days Sonia O'Sullivan
My first memories of Ballymore Cobh AC are the training sessions we used to have at the "track". The black bitumen surface at the Cobh Vocational School was the only track we knew and it was perfect, especially in the winter as the fields tend to get very muddy and slippy so it made running feel easy and fast.

I remember particularly spending a lot of time at the track in the dark, we used to stand under the light post in the far corner, just near the current clubhouse. Pat O'Halloran was our coach then and we listened to everything he had to say and followed his instructions. There was a big group of girls, mostly from my class in school and we used to really enjoy those nights. It was never hard work and we used to laugh so much we could stay there all night. It didn't matter that it was dark, as there were six lights around the track and our sessions were based on running between the light posts. We always thought the track was probably a little shorter than 600m, but the drag up the back meant it often felt like running 600m on each lap.

In the summer time we used to start over behind the school and all gather in a circle with the ever enthusiastic Phyllis Kidney directing the series of stretches. Phyllis had a real special connection with everyone, she could tell you off in a nice way, but always made sure we got the training done and she didn't stand for any messing. Then we would run around and do some laps, followed by some hills. If you can believe, the bank up the side of the track was considered a decent hill - but we went up and down dozens of times! The part we enjoyed most was the warm down on those bright summer evenings when we got to play a game of scotch and that was where we got most of our running and core training through balance without even knowing we were training, just having fun playing games.

I always looked forward to the weekends, particularly during cross country season, we would all pile into Butlers mini bus on 'Top of the Hill' and head off to places like Carrigtwohill, Midleton, Youghal, Carraig na bhFear and Glounthaune to name but a few. All of these places seemed so much further away than they are now but it was a day out and the cross country race was only ever a small part of the day, the real fun was having lunch after, maybe stopping for chips on the way home or if we were really lucky a quick trip to Perks fun fair in Youghal.

We were given a black and yellow cotton singlet to race in and would hand it back after each race. It was a good time for running in Cobh, we always had a team at the East Cork and County Championships, so it really was a fun time for me to have friends to train with and go to the races with on the weekends.

I remember one Sunday in September we gathered a big group together and we took part in one of the very first fun runs, The Evening Echo mini marathon. This was in 1985. I was 14 years old and the race started in McCurtain Street street outside The Evening Echo offices . We all wore our Ballymore Cobh singlets, pioneers of the groups going to fun runs that you see every week in every town in Ireland these days. There was a picture in Mondays paper and I was leading the race as we turned onto Patrick street, proudly showing off the black and amber colours.

I always looked forward to going up the "track" and I could just dash out the door a few minutes before we were due to start as we only lived less than 400m away.

One day I had a 3000m time trial and although I didn't know the actual distance, 5 and a bit laps by my estimate, I was convinced I ran under 10minutes for the first time ever. I was so excited as this was a qualifying time for the European Junior Championships . The following week, on a fairly windy day I ran 3000m at The Mardyke and clocked 9:41, I'm sure the confidence of my trial in Cobh helped me that day. It seems that 3000m was the event I was destined to be good at and I can honestly say it really was my favourite distance . I even got to run 3000m in the Olympics in 1992 (, finishing 4th,) before it was changed to 5000m . I think the 3000m event requires a good balance of speed and endurance and this was what I had and so it proved to be the perfect distance for me.

I am really excited to be returning home to visit next month, 20 years after a glorious summer of racing in 1994 which was topped off with my first senior international gold medal over 3000m (8:31.84) at the European Championships in Helsinki.

We'll be running through the streets of Cobh on August 25th. Come and see what you can do over 3000m, the perfect distance.

More info about the race in this earlier post. Sonia will also be present after the races in the Commodore Hotel for a Q&A session with sports journalist Feidhlim Kelly.

Personal bests:
800 m – 2:00.69
1500 m – 3:58.85 NR (July 1995)
Mile run – 4:17.25 NR
3000 m – 8:21.64 NR
5000 m – 14:41.02 NR
10,000 m – 30:47.59 NR
Half marathon – 67:19 NR
Marathon – 2:29:01

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