James Sullivan has been having a chat with Brian Gregan, silver medallist over 400 metres at the 2011 European Under-23 Championships.
Brian Gregan is an elite sprinter from Dublin, Ireland, who specialises in the 400 metres. At the 2011 European Under-23 Championships he claimed the silver medal in a personal best time of 46.12 seconds. He backed this up with a 5th place finish at the World University Games, where he bettered his PB to 45.96 seconds, the fastest time by an Irishman in 2011.
James: Thank you for taking the time to talk to The Running Review. So to begin, how did you first get involved in athletics?
Brian: I guess through the community games was my first exposure to athletics. I would go down to my local community centre in Belgard and do a bit of everything. Cross country was where I started (I hated it but it got me to Mosney which I LOVED ). I then eventually moved to long jump and high jump (my first national indoor medal Under 17s). I guess it was all just a bit of fun as I had a lot of energy and needed to be doing something all the time. As I got a bit older I started sprinting. At first I refused to do it but anything away from the miles was a good thing! I got better and better before winning schools medals at 400m hurdles and 200m! The obvious choice was to run the 400m as the hurdles got in the way and I tended to high jump the hurdles but my raw speed got me through most races.
James: Did you have a particular athletics idol growing up?
Brian: I am a massive Manchester United fan so the likes of David Beckham and Paul Scholes really stood out for me. In terms of athletics idols there are many people who I look up to. Obviously Michael Johnson in my event, but also Seb Coe is an athlete in which I would look at his races and be really excited by them. Then close to home there is Eamonn Coghlan who I admire.
James: At this year’s European Under-23 Championships you claimed the silver medal. Can you put into words that experience?
Brian: The medal means more than words could ever say. The ups and downs I have been through over the past number of years from being told I would never run, to pulling my hamstring in the previous Euro u23s. I have put in so much hard work under the guidance of my sprints coach John Shields and strength and conditioning coach John Kelly and it all paid off with winning that medal. To stand on the podium and receive a medal at a European Championships is such a special feeling. There was nothing going to stand in front of me from winning a medal. I wanted it more than anyone. I may have been ranked 8th going into the championships but that meant nothing. Once I get into a championships fit and healthy I’ll perform! Hopefully this medal will open a few doors, leading to better races and ultimately faster times and more medals!
James: How would you assess your 5th place finish at this year’s World University Games, where you ran sub 46 seconds for the first time?
Brian: These championships were amazing! I owe a lot of credit to Teresa McDaid, everyone in Cusai and DCU for me just being at these championships as it was all last minute.com! I literally got my visa the day before the team left! The experience gained at these championships will definitely stand me in good stead for future championships. The Chinese really did an amazing job. Everything was incredible. The stadium really stood out to me and really gives me motivation to compete in major championships with packed stadiums.
James: What are your goals for 2012?
Brian: 2012 is a tricky year with both the European Championships and Olympics. Obviously I would love to qualify for the Olympics. The Europeans offers a last chance at Olympic qualification but I’ll see how training goes and will give my all to gaining a sneaky qualifying standard.
James: What would an average week of training be like at this time of the year, specifically in terms of key sessions? How does off-season winter training differ from spring and summer training?
Brian: Winter training revolves around endurance sessions as it’s key to build a good base, while the summer is all about sharpening up and keeping healthy.
James: What are your favourite and least favourite training sessions?
Brian: Something like fast 200s or 300s off long recovery are my favourite sessions as you know if you are in shape when you’re knocking out some quick times. Least favourite has to be fartlek but it has got to be done!
James: Nutrition obviously plays an important part in the life of an elite athlete. What would be your typical dieting habits in the lead up to a big race?
Brian: I am quite lucky to be working with an excellent nutritionist in Crionna Tobin. DCU have supplied me with Crionna’s expertise which has made a massive difference to me. I tend to rotate around a couple of meals but I tend to eat plenty of good quality foods such as all our veggies, good quality carbs such as sweet potatoes, quinoa etc. and mix up my protein with fish and lean meats.
James: How much emphasis do you put on core strength? What specific core strength exercises do you incorporate into your training?
Brian: Core is an important part of my training. Training is like a jigsaw and trying to fit so many different elements of training into a day or week is tough. Having a strong core is vital as everything else branches out from this central component.
James: Would you describe yourself as a speed based or endurance based 400m runner?
Brian: That’s an interesting question. I think I’m pretty down the middle but if I had to choose I would say speed as my PB for 200m puts me 10th on the Irish all-time list.
James: What is your ultimate ambition in the sport?
Brian: To win medals at major championships!
James: The 2011 World Championships in Daegu saw some great performances from European sprinters, in particular David Greene winning gold in the 400m Hurdles and Christophe Lemaitre and Kevin Borlee taking bronze in the 200m and 400m respectively. How important are these results with regards to helping strengthen the attitude that Europeans can compete at the very highest level with the Americans and the Jamaicans?
Brian: Yes they are important, The two Borlees are great guys whom I meet on the circuit and they would always stop and say hello, so to see Kevin win medals is a boost for European sprinting. It’s great to see the Europeans do well at majors but as important as it is I would never doubt myself against anyone I race no matter what country they are from. You have to go into a race with the attitude that you’re going to win otherwise you are beaten before the race starts.
James: Do you feel that athletes in Ireland sometimes don’t get the credit they deserve off the Irish media when compared to comparable achievements by individuals and teams in the more popular sports such as rugby, football and golf? What can be done to help the sport gain more media exposure in Ireland?
Brian: Yes I do feel we are over shadowed by other sports and some people think Athletics is a sport that comes around every 4 years at the Olympics. For any individual to make finals at majors let alone win a medal deserves a lot of media attention! As an athlete the only thing we can do is perform to our best and hopefully make finals and win medals to put our names out into the media.
James: 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?
Brian: Yes the vast majority of runners in Ireland are involved in fun runs and marathons. Road running is very accessible as it is cost effective. All you need is a pair of runners and some gear and you’re away. Many see track as the elite end of the sport. However when you come down to Santry there are many groups with a vast range of ability levels. It is really a matter of you making the effort to get to a track as the advertising of tracks and training groups is minimal, which is something we must look at to help increase numbers.
James: What are your views on athletes with B-Standards being sent to the Olympic Games?
Brian: My honest opinion is that they should be sent. To achieve an Olympic B standard is something very special and the athlete deserves the chance to compete in the games if they achieve the standard. For someone in my situation it is so important with regards to development. I know I am not going to win an Olympic medal next year but if I achieved the B standard the experience would help me immensely with regards to preparing for the following Olympics.
James: Away from the track, what one country in the world would you like to visit most and why?
Brian: Australia. My sister lived there for a few years and the place looks amazing.
James: That’s great Brian. Thank you for your time and best of luck in 2012.
Brian: Cheers, just one more thing. I could not have done anything without the continued support of my family, friends, girlfriend, coaches, support staff, DCU and Clonliffe Harriers.