Following her World Championships debut, Leahy is hungry for more
Adam Moynihan met Killarney sprinter Sarah Leahy at the Killarney Valley AC Arena to chat about her recent appearance at the World Championships, her goals for the rest of the year, and a very special pair of socks
Hi Sarah. Thanks for showing me around Killarney Valley’s facilities. It’s an impressive set-up.
The track facilities here are perfect. We have everything we need and Killarney Valley are always looking to improve the facilities and the club itself. All the people behind the scenes at are the MVPs, people like Jerry and Tomás Griffin, Jean Courtney, and Bríd Stack to mention just a few.
You recently competed in the World Championships in Oregon as part of the Irish 4 x 100m relay team, finishing eighth in your heat. How did you feel the event went for you?
We're very proud of each other, and we did well, but we definitely could have run better. We had more. We were aiming for and felt we were capable of running a national record. But on the day, it just didn't happen.
Personally, it was a great experience. I loved every second of it. But I will admit that the actual running part is a bit of a blur. I came onto the track and there's this huge stadium, but I was more looking around at the people I was running against. Ewa Swoboda – I thought she’d win the World Indoor - she was four people away from me and I was looking at her… She was probably like, ‘Why is this woman staring at me?’ I was very nervous. But it was still amazing and I hope I can do it again.
The fact that I was running against international athletes that have been to the Olympics and been finalists, I was kind of star struck. My trainers are like, okay Sarah, calm down. You're meant to be here. Don't act like you shouldn't.
Can you describe your mindset before a race? Do you often get nervous?
On the line it's all about how you're feeling, what you can do. You just have to get mentally prepared for a good start. Especially for me. Get out, and run as fast as you can. Just getting in the zone, I guess. I’ll know if I'm not in the zone, because I’m thinking of other things. If I'm on the blocks my head shouldn't be wandering. It should be blank and all I should be waiting for is that gun.
Would you say that you're an ultra competitive person?
I'm a competitive person, obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn't be competing at this level. But I also come from a team background, and I’m friends with a lot of these girls, so I want them to do well as well. And if they happen to beat me, fair play. You put in the training, you did very well. I'm very happy for you.
We all kind of get prepared differently. A lot of people for the warm-up, which is an hour or half an hour before the race, have the earphones on, gameface on, not talking to anyone, not smiling at anyone. I’m completely different. The more nervous I am, the more I’m going to talk.
There was a situation in Greece where everyone had their earphones on and I was mad to talk to everyone. That could change but as of right now I do tend to talk a lot. And then, going on to the track, obviously there's no more talking. You’re getting ready for the race and mentally preparing.
Tell me about the socks you wore in Oregon.
[laughs] My socks were a Valentine's Day gift from my boyfriend, Daniel. They had his face all over them and they say ‘I love you’. So yeah, I just ran the Worlds with my boyfriend’s face on my feet. He was delighted!
Daniel was the person who pushed for me to go back to running. He knew I was no longer enjoying the football and he heard the way I spoke about athletics. He helped me make the decision to go back. It was the best decision so it was only right I wore the socks and he was there in some way. I probably wouldn’t have been there without him.
Did you have some of your own supporters over there?
Yes, my mom and dad (Marie and Mike) actually travelled over. They spent the week and it was unreal to have them there. And then my cousins from Vancouver in Canada drove down which was I think over 10 hours. I was actually warming up before the relay and then I saw and heard my family with all their Kerry jerseys, Irish jerseys, Irish flags, roaring my name. That was really nice.
What’s the plan for the rest of 2022?
I was hopeful that we were going to send a 4 x 100 relay team to the Europeans but I just got an email saying that we wouldn't, which is disappointing. I know some of top 2022 female sprinters aren't available but some are and with any of them we would do well over there. We would be competitive. We held our qualification of being in the top 16 teams all summer so it's a pity that, at the last second, we aren't going.
In saying that, the women's Irish relay will continue to work hard and we have a lot more to give. We will prove that next year.
You’re moving to Dublin for work later this year. How will this affect your training?
I might have to change coaches again, which I'm a bit sad about because I really liked the Limerick training group (Leahy was in UL where she trained with the Hayley and Drew Harrison). I think I performed well and I loved the training. I was surrounded by the right people who were really lovely. I hope to find a group like that in Dublin and keep running well and performing better.
And what about next season?
I'd like another good indoor season. I was talking to Lauren Roy in Stockholm and she told me that I have the European standard in the 60m from last year. Which I didn't know! So that's kind of in my head now to try and get there, to improve my time. I think I could actually run faster. I ran 7.39 and I'd like to run at least 7.30, hopefully get another European standard, and actually go to the Europeans. I think it's in Germany. That'd be my target.
And then next summer, there's the Worlds again. So it'd be nice to continue making the Irish relays and definitely improve my time, because there's more. I can definitely run faster over 100.
What is your current PB in the 100m? Are you close to bettering it?
I ran 11.67, which I was delighted with. But it was my first run of the season. It's quite rare that you run a PB in the season opener. But I ran it, and I haven't ran it since. The closest was 11.70 in Switzerland. So I definitely think there's more in there. And I think I have a lot to learn as well. I'm still new to the sport and I’m a powerful kind of runner. I was doing a lot of gym work at the beginning of the year, before I ran my PB, and then afterwards usually people taper it off. So I did what other people do. I think that affected my running a little bit. I'm slightly weaker. So I've learned that maybe next year I shouldn’t do that. Then hopefully I’ll be running PB after PB, instead of just a one-off.
Onwards and upwards. Chat to you again soon.
Ireland’s oldest citizen has Killarney connections
Ireland’s oldest woman met with President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin this week. Máirín Hughes, who turned 109 on May 22 has strong Killarney connections. The previous record […]
Ireland’s oldest woman met with President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin this week.
Máirín Hughes, who turned 109 on May 22 has strong Killarney connections.
The previous record was held by 107-year-old Nancy Stewart who died on September 10 2021.
Although born in Belfast, Máirín went to school in the Mercy Convent. Her father was a customs and excise officer and the family moved around a lot eventually coming to Killarney after spells in County Down and Dublin.
Her mother came from the Rathmore area and her father was from Newmarket in County Cork.
She attended the Mercy Convent and has, in previous interviews, recalled growing up on the shores of Lough Lein.
“Neighbours who had three children were given the job of taking me to school,” she said. “They were annoyed because the children were going to school for two or three years but I was put in to the same class as them – my mother had taught me.”
In 2021 she featured in the book ‘Independence Memories: A People’s Portrait of the Early Days of the Irish Nation’, sharing stories of being kept in school in Killarney during an attack on the RIC barracks down the road.
In 1924 she started a degree in science and a diploma in education at University College Cork, before working in the pathology lab in University College Cork’s Department of Medicine for 16 years.
last year she recalled her story on the podcast: ‘Living History – Irish Life and Lore’.
During the broadcast she talked about her parents’ membership of the Gaelic League in 1910; the Spanish Flu in Ireland in 1918; The Black and Tans in Killarney in 1921; the early days of the new Free State; Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 1932, visiting the Basket Islands in 1929; and working in the UCC medical laboratory from 1932 until 1948.
This week President Michael D. Higgins hosted an afternoon tea event to celebrate the important role that a variety of people have and can play in different communities and Máirín was among the guests of honour.
Philip is running over 100kms for Cancer charity
Local runner and charity fundraiser Philip Kissane is set for the biggest challenge of his career as he lines up for the Cork City Marathon on Sunday. Phillip has already […]
Local runner and charity fundraiser Philip Kissane is set for the biggest challenge of his career as he lines up for the Cork City Marathon on Sunday.
Phillip has already completed four half marathons at various locations around Killarney – all in aid of Kerry Cancer Support Group – or the Cancer Bus as it popularly called.
This is the second time that Phillip has run four half marathon and an official race for the charity.
Back in 2021 he finished with 5km Run Killarney event but his finishing race this time around is over eight times the distance at 42kms.
“We are delighted with Philip’s continued fundraising support but also with his awareness raising for the charity,” Breda Dyland, Service Manager Kerry Cancer Support Trust.
“We are getting busier all the time and still get no statutory funding so are dependent on fundraisers like Philip’s to keep us on the road. We have just put our new wheelchair accessible bus on the Cork route so Philip’s funding will be going towards the operation of this vehicle.”
Ireland’s oldest citizen has Killarney connections
Ireland’s oldest woman met with President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin this week. Máirín Hughes, who turned 109...
Philip is running over 100kms for Cancer charity
Local runner and charity fundraiser Philip Kissane is set for the biggest challenge of his career as he lines up...
Game changer as Black Valley connects to 5G network
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Funding to tackle invasive Rhododendron in National Park
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