James Sullivan is back with another athlete Q&A, this time with 1500m runner Rory Chesser.
Rory Chesser is an elite middle distance runner from County Clare, Ireland. He has won multiple national titles over 3000m Steeplechase and represented Ireland over 1500m at the 2010 European Athletics Championships in Barcelona.
James: Thank you for taking the time to talk to The Running Review. Easy question first, how did you first get involved in athletics?
Rory: My cousins, Michael and Kieran Dee were training with Gerry Hayes at Ennis Track club. I tagged along and enjoyed it. I wasn’t that serious about it at a young age. I was more into it to meet girls but I did enjoy getting out and racing hard. I was going down a completely different path in my mid teens but I decided that it wasn’t for me and Pat Hogan and Gerry eventually put some manners on me!
James: Did you have a particular athletics idol growing up?
Rory: I liked watching Michael Johnson when I was very young. My cousin Kieran even ran like him. As I got more into it I loved reading about Cram and Coe but especially Eamonn Coughlan as I could relate more to him.
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?
Rory: I am tough. I can hurt myself in training which transfers into races. I need to continually work on my speed endurance and flat out speed. I can run fast for a long time. 1500m is mostly aerobic and people forget that, you need to be strong to run fast.
James: What one moment in your career to date are you most proud of?
Rory: I don’t know really. I haven’t done much. My first National title was a big one for me. Barcelona 2010 European Championships was a great experience. One that is right up there is getting a National Road Relays medal to be honest. It sounds corny but doing it with my mates who I have known since I was 10 or 11 and doing it with my brothers was great.
James: How would you access your 2012 season to date?
Rory: 2012 started awfully. I went to Monte Gordo with Tom Chamney and the Letterkenny lads. On New Years Eve I did a good session with the Letterkenny boys. I woke up on New Years day and couldn’t walk. I was out for about 8 or 9 weeks with that. I cross trained hard and got back running. It was only in my second stint in Portugal in Easter with Ennis Track that I started to go well. I have raced well since but there is a lot more in the tank.
James: In 2012 you achieved the qualification standard for the European Championships in Helsinki. You were originally entered to represent Ireland in the 1500m, before the AAI made a bizarre U-turn and omitted you from the team. What is your reaction to this?
Rory: I think everyone knows the story. There have been inconsistencies in selection. It is clear to the dog on the street. I am massively disappointed not to be running, but there is nothing I can do now except run my best. I hope that in future there is a policy which is followed.
James: What are your plans for the rest of 2012?
Rory: I want to improve my PBs across the board. I do not want to be in the position I have been in this year. A 3.40 man who can’t get in the big European races and getting bunked into B races where guys sit on me. I will keep going as long as my legs allow me and then start winter work.
James: What would an average week of training be like, specifically in terms of key sessions and total mileage?
Rory: In winter I would do about 80 miles a week with two main sessions and a threshold run in.Threshold runs are usually 5-6 miles at 5 -5.10 pace. Winter sessions would be hills, longer reps 1000m 12000m or Fartlek. In summer I do one longer rep session, threshold and one race pace or faster session.
James: With regards speed work, what do you consider to be the key sessions for a 1500m runner?
Rory: If you can do 10 – 12 by 400 in 60 seconds or faster off 1 minute recovery you know you are in good shape.
James: What are your favourite and least favourite training sessions?
Rory: My favourite sessions are the ones when you are tapering for a race so something like 5 by 200 where you can get the legs going. My least favourite is something like 10 by 1200m off 1 minute. I remember doing that session before work and just standing under the cold water for 10 minutes because I had overheated so badly!
James: It seems that the challenge of competing on the world stage without funding is not always understood and appreciated by the general public. 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 and better funded sports such as rugby and football?
Rory: We don’t but the fact is that athletics is not as popular as football or rugby. If athletics was as popular and everyone did it we would get much much more support. How do we become as popular? Win medals. But we are a very small nation and it is not realistic that we will win 60 or 70 percent of medals at world level. Sending as many athletes as possible with European standards would be a good place to start! Irish people watch athletics to see Irish athletes run.
James: What are your views on drug taking in athletics? Have you ever suspected a competitor? How do you deal with the frustration that some opponents may not be playing by the rules?
Rory: People will always cheat, simple as that. It is part of the human condition. Some people can overcome the voice that tells them “Everyone else is doing it, you might as well”. Others cannot. I know people I have raced have been on it. After Barcelona there was the whole “bags of blood in my fridge” fiasco. I know people who have been offered it, seriously considered it but decided it was better to be able to look yourself in the mirror as an honest man.
James: 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 a greater grassroots culture be developed in Ireland, with track running being made more accessible to the everyday runner, and if so, how can this be done?
Rory: The fact of the matter is that road running is more sociable, there is often more people watching and there often is a better atmosphere. One thing to spruce up Irish track meets would be to get some good speakers in and play some tunes. Have cheap beer and hot dogs, ice creams and candy floss for the kids. Make it a family thing.
James: When not competing, do you enjoy watching athletics? What current athlete do you like watching the most?
Rory: I like watching most of the disciplines in Athletics, obviously the distance events. I particularly enjoy watching the hurdle events and the high jump. The men’s sprint hurdles will be amazing at the Olympics this year!
James: That’s great Rory. Thank you for your time and the very best of luck for the rest of 2012 and beyond.
Rory: Cheers James
Keep up to date with Rory’s progress on his blog.