James Sullivan has been chatting with another of Ireland’s up-and-coming talents, middle distance runner Paul Robinson.
Paul Robinson is an elite middle distance runner from County Kildare, Ireland. He finished 9th in the 1500m at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada. He currently holds the Irish junior record for the mile with a clocking of 4:00.93 in August 2010. His current personal best times are: 1:47:31 (800m), 3:40.50 (1500m) and 3:59.99 (mile).
James: Thank you for taking the time to talk to The Running Review. So to begin, how did you first get involved in athletics?
Paul: I got involved in athletics at an early age. My father Gerry is one of the coaches at the local club St.Cocas AC, so I was always bound to give athletics a go at some stage.
James: Did you have a particular athletics idol growing up?
Paul: Sonia O’Sullivan was my idol growing up. It was always great watching one of our own dominate the world. I remember watching Sonia win her Olympic silver medal in 2000 and it is one of the greatest sporting moments I’ve witnessed.
James: What one moment in your career to date are you most proud of?
Paul: It probably has to be making the 1500m World Junior final in Canada in 2010. That was my main goal that year and was great to achieve something that I had worked all year for. There is no better feeling than mixing it with the best in the world. Also my family made the trip to Canada and it was great having their support.
James: What would you describe as the most disappointing moment in your athletics career? What positives have you taken from it?
Paul: I suppose it would have to be the European Junior championships in 2009. I expected to make the final and had never really suffered any major disappointments before. I fell with a lap to go when sitting in a good position. That was it, the race was over and there was nothing I could do about it. It was a sickening feeling and I was very angry for a while after but I fuelled that anger into my training and making sure that I made the final of the World Juniors the following year.
James: Can you describe how being part of the DCU Athletics Academy has helped in your development?
Paul: DCU is a great setup for me. It allows me to receive a great education and also live like an elite athlete. As with all colleges, distractions do exist, but the tools necessary to bring you to the next level do exist at DCU, but it is really up to the athlete and how much they want to succeed.
James: What are your goals for 2012?
Paul: I have a lot of goals for 2012 but probably the major one would be to achieve an Olympic standard.
James: You recently spent some time training in Melbourne. What were your reasons behind the decision to base yourself in Australia? How would you describe the experience?
Paul: I decided to go to Australia after speaking with my fellow club mate David Campbell. David has been to Australia four times and told me about his experiences down there. David has run 1.45 for 800m, so obviously something went right for him when he trained down there. My manager Nic Bideau, who is Australian, organised the whole training camp for me. It wasn’t really a hard decision for me as the weather is great down there and there is a great group in the Melbourne Track Club. The experience was priceless and I learned a lot training with experienced athletes such as Collis Birmingham, Nick McCormick and Ryan Gregson, to name just a few.
James: During your time in Australia you got in some early season races. How would you assess your performance in those?
Paul: It was great. I would have been racing indoors if I was at home so it wasn’t unusual to be racing at that time of year. What was unusual was the calibre of races down there with 1500’s being won in 3.35, and having the chance to run against Olympic gold and silver medallists. It was great to have the chance to run fast while also getting some hard training done, which is the most important thing at that time of the year. I achieved all my goals that I set for myself in Australia: train hard, learn a lot and run a PB.
James: What would an average week of training be like at this time of the year, specifically in terms of key sessions?
Paul: At the moment I don’t really have any key sessions to get me ready to race. I’m still doing mostly base work with a typical week consisting of a threshold session, long intervals, hills and a long run. I will start more specific work on the track closer to the start of the season.
James: What is your ultimate goal in the sport?
Paul: Growing up I always dreamed of winning an Olympic medal so I would say that an Olympic medal is the ultimate goal.
James: Do you feel athletics in Ireland gets its fair share of funding or can more be done to help the sport develop
Paul: Every athlete always wants more money and thinks they deserve more money so it’s hard to know where to draw the line. Athletics along with other minority sports can always be developed more, but one thing that is certain is that all athletes that do receive funding have earned every penny of it and then some.
James: As I am sure you have noticed, in Melbourne there exists a vibrant grassroots culture in track and field through competitions such as the AV Shield and the Vic Milers Club. In Ireland, could more be done to get the regular Joe Soap, regardless of age or ability, onto the track rather than having a disproportionate number of participants in our sport competing in road races, fun runs and marathons? Should track running be made more accessible to the everyday runner?
Paul: I think we have to look at how to improve the standard of athletics and how as a nation we will compete on an international stage. I don’t think we will ever get the Joe soap that runs a fun run once a month onto the track, it’s just too daunting for them and it won’t happen. However what I don’t understand is how we can’t get them to come and watch the nationals. I think we need to tap into the grass roots in schools and clubs here to get kids into athletics. There should be better initiatives put in place which would increase numbers and the standard of athletics here in Ireland in years to come. For example when I was altitude training in Falls Creek in Australia there were 200 kids from the ages of 14-18 who were all brought on a two week training camp. It was brilliant to see them all enjoying the sport and getting a glimpse of how elite athletes train. That was only one state.
James: What are your views on athletes with B-Standards being sent to the Olympic Games?
Paul: I believe developing athletes that achieve a B standard should be sent. If we are looking to produce athletes that are going to medal at an Olympics I think it is crucial to have an athlete experience the hype and excitement of the first Olympics, and get it over with when they are young so that they can then focus on what really counts, performing well.
James: What are your views on drug taking in athletics?
Paul: It’s cheating and the punishment should be more severe than a two or three year ban.
James: When not competing, do you enjoy watching athletics? What current athlete do you like watching the most?
Paul: Yes I love to watch Athletics, especially championship racing! I enjoy watching David Rudisha at the moment. I have seen him race three times in the flesh now and he is just incredible.
James: That’s great Paul. Thank you for your time and the very best of luck this coming year.
Paul: Cheers James. Anytime.
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