James Sullivan has been chatting to Irish middle distance runner Claire Tarplee, who competes in the World University Games next week in Kazan, Russia.

Claire Tarplee is a middle distance runner who has recently declared for Ireland. She competed at the 2013 European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg over 1500m. She has been selected to represent Ireland at the upcoming World University Games in Kazan, Russia.

Competing at the 2013 European Indoor Championships

James: Thank you for taking the time to talk to The Running Review. Easy question first, how did you first get involved in athletics?

Claire: I first became involved in athletics in primary school when I was 8 years old. My teacher at the time noticed I enjoyed athletics and got in touch with a local running club, and as they say the rest is history.

James: Did you have a particular athletics idol growing up?

Claire: Not particularly. I was on the ‘On Camp with Kelly’ programme with Kelly Holmes for a few years, so she became a huge inspiration to me.

James: What do you believe to be your strongest attribute with regards athletics, and what area do you feel you could improve on the most?

Claire: I believe my strongest attribute in regards to athletics is positivity and my enjoyment of it. I still love the sport and love all aspects about it; the travelling, meeting new people and competing. When I’m positive, I train and race well.

I have just switched coach to George Gandy and the last 6 months have gone so well in terms of racing and PBs, so I feel just improving over the new aspects of training, such as drills, weights and more focused speed work which I didn’t do before will be key to my ongoing improvement.

James: You were raised in the UK and are currently based in Loughborough. Can you explain your Irish roots and what were your reasons for declaring to run for Ireland?

Claire: To be perfectly honest, probably quite naively, I didn’t realise athletes could declare for another country. I would have declared for Ireland many years ago if I had known. My mom was born in Ireland and moved here as a baby, coming to England with her brothers and sisters and parents. My grandparents are both from Dublin and I have relatives that live in Skerries. It’s a great tribute to my Nan and Granddad that I run for Ireland and in particular a Dublin club.

James: You represented Ireland at the 2013 European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg. Can you describe that experience? What have you learned from competing in such a high level international event?

Claire: It was my first ever international vest, at any age group, so it was a huge thing for me. I was immensely proud and pleased as soon as I got the call from Kevin Ankrom. I had done a few European indoor races so I had competed against some of the girls before, so I wasn’t overly nervous about the race. Saying that I don’t feel I executed the race particularly well and feel like I ran an other athlete’s race rather than my own, so possibly the race got the better of me. I have taken so much away from the European Indoors though, and can not wait to hopefully compete in that sort of race again.

Claire Tarplee

James: How would you assess your indoor season as a whole?

Claire: Indoors was never a real focus for me, as I had never had an indoor season before. Myself and my coach decided to race one or two and see what happened. I ran 4.14.5 in my second indoor race and bearing in mind the qualifying standard for the European Indoors was 4.14 we decided to continue with the season. The season was a bit of a blur. I won the UK championships as a guest in the 800m, just outside my outdoor 800m PB of 2.03.4, and was also invited to compete at the Birmingham Grand Prix and the XL Galan in Stockholm, running the qualifying time and overall PB in the latter, and therefore being picked for the European Indoors. I was extremely disappointed with my performance at the European Indoors but apart from that I was really pleased with my indoor season.

James: What particular moments from your career to date are you most proud of?

Claire: To be honest they probably come from this indoor season. Gaining my first international vest can’t really be beaten.

James: What are your goals for the 2013 outdoor season? Are you satisfied with how you have begun your summer season?

Claire: I have had a few ups and downs so far. I had a kidney infection at the end of May, and recently caught some form of bug which I couldn’t seem to shift. This meant not being able to compete at the European Team Championships in Dublin, which was a huge disappointment for me, as I was extremely excited about that race and competition. In between this though training has been going really well, and I ran a PB of 4.11.3 two weeks ago, so now just looking forward to the World Student Games and performing the best I can there. In terms of PBs I would love to run sub 4.10, and with the right race and conditions I  feel confident that this is possible. I also want to have a go at a few 800ms when I can and see what I can run in that.

James: What would an average week of training be like at this time of the year, specifically in terms of key sessions?

Claire: Monday : 35 mins in the morning / 25 minutes in the evening.

Tuesday : 20-25 minutes in the morning / session – example 2 x 600m at 90% with 15 minute recovery in-between.

Wednesday: 40-50 minute run if racing / grass session if not – example 4 x 4 minutes

Thursday – 35 minutes in the morning / warm up and warm down in the evening with strides.

Friday – day off

Saturday – session – example 10 x 400m with 1  minute recovery.

Sunday – 60min run

James: What are your favourite and least favourite training sessions?

Claire: My favourite sessions are probably the speedier types ones with longer recoveries, like the 2 x 600m session mentioned above. My least favourite is probably the 5 minute hills we do in the winter.

James: With regards speed work what do you consider the most important sessions for a middle distance runner? Do you run any 400m races?

Claire: Speed work was something which was missing from my training until these last 6 months. Since doing speedier sessions though, I definitely feel stronger in my 800m and 1500m races. I don’t run any 400m races though.

James: How important is core strength work for an 800m/1500m runner and how much emphasis do you put on it? What specific core strength exercises do you incorporate into your training? Do you include weights in your routine?

Claire: I do believe core strength is important for an 800m/1500m runner. I personally don’t put too much emphasis on it. I try to do a little twice a week at home if I can. However with studying and working as well as all the other training, I find I haven’t always got the time to fit as much core work in as I would like to. We do weights once a week in the winter only, focusing mainly on squats with bar and a mixture of arm weights.

James: It’s no secret that the financial rewards for athletes pale in comparison to the bigger sports such as rugby and football. Do you feel athletics in Ireland gets its fair share of funding or can more be done to help the sport develop? How do you support yourself financially?

Claire: I think athletics is extremely different from rugby and football, and probably doesn’t get the funding it deserves. Athletes work incredibly hard to be successful, and the hard work does often go unnoticed for many athletes, and unfortunately I also think this leads to many talented athletes having to retire much earlier than necessary. Irish athletes are probably more successful in terms of rankings in Europe and the World compared to football and rugby but the attraction just is not there at the moment. I think the fact it is an individual sport is one of reasons for this, but I don’t think it will be this way always. [pullquote]Irish athletics is stepping its games up hugely, recently finishing our highest ever position at a European Team Champs in 7th and more and more athletes are running A and B standards, and soon I am sure there will more than enough athletics to attract the media and in turn help the sport develop.[/pullquote]


I am currently unfunded so I can’t pass much comment on the distribution of Irish athletics funding, but I believe that I compete in athletics for enjoyment and personal satisfaction, not for money. Obviously funding would be a huge huge huge help to my goals for the season and I hope one day to receive funding, as currently I work whilst studying to fund everything required for athletics, and this can leave me lacking time for other keys aspects of training such as daily stretching and core, and also incredibly tired.

James: What are your views on drug taking in athletics?

Claire: Drugs do not belong in any sport at all. I think doping is a huge problem in our sport and it really is such a shame. I try not to think about it in my particular event as there is nothing I can do about it, and standing on the start line thinking that a competitor may be on drugs is not going to help my individual performance. But I do get so annoyed when it happens, and athletes later find out that they have in fact came 1st/2nd/3rd, they will never get that moment back again and it’s incredibly selfish. Even more so if someone is a fastest loser and deserved a place in the final of the Olympics for example, they will never get the chance to even run that final.  Drug cheats deny other people their own success. I think WADA are doing a great job, and a lot of people are getting caught, which is great, but I hate to think about the amount of people getting away with it. I do unfortunately think athletics will never be clean.

James: When not competing, do you enjoy watching athletics? What current athlete do you like watching the most?

Claire: I really enjoy watching athletics. My favourite athlete by far to watch is Blanka Vlasic.

Q: That’s great Claire. Thank you for your time and the very best of luck this summer.

Claire: That’s no problem at all, thank you!

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