James Sullivan has been talking to another of Ireland’s rising stars, middle distance junior athlete Siofra Cleirigh Buttner.
Siofra Cleirigh Buttner is a middle distance athlete from Dublin, Ireland. She won a silver medal over 1500m at the 2011 European Youth Olympic Festival. At the 2012 World Junior Championships she reached the semi-finals of the 800m. She currently holds the Irish junior indoor record for the event with a clocking of 2:05.26, set in January 2013 at the new indoor track facility in Athlone.
James: Thank you for taking the time to talk to The Running Review. So to begin, how did you first get involved in athletics?
Siofra: My older brother was a very active young child and my mother tried every type of club to send him to but none would take him until he was 7. Then my mother tried the local Athletics Club and they were more than happy to take him! I just followed in his footsteps after that.
James: Do you have a particular idol in the sport?
Siofra: I always find it very difficult to pick out one person, as there are so many inspirational figures amongst the sport. If I had to name a few, Seb Coe, Kelly Holmes, Mo Farah, Fionnuala Britton, Paula Radcliffe and Usain Bolt would just be a few of many!
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?
Siofra: There is always room for improvement in every area but recently we have started focusing on biomechanics and my form. I’m constantly improving that aspect of my running style in training and races. My core strength is pretty weak so I have started to correct that as well. My strongest attribute I don’t really know, but with my endurance background I can be so strong. In saying that, I can switch on the speed whenever I need to. Not every athlete has speed like that so I really hope to keep that in order and improving too.
James: Would you describe yourself as a speed based or endurance based 800m runner?
Siofra: I would be mostly an endurance based 800m runner. Saying that, I always surprise myself with the speed I have. I can run a decent 400m so I’m really a speed-endurance 800m runner!
James: At last year’s IAAF World Junior Championship in Barcelona you qualified for the semi-finals of the 800m. Can you describe that experience?
Siofra: It is really hard to describe an experience like Barcelona. The competition was of the best standard possible, the stadium was amazing, everything was just perfect in terms of a major championships. I was happy with my performance especially considering I ran 2.05 and 2.06 back to back over two days in that heat. I am positive that the experience will stand to me in future championship races as it is so much different than racing at home. It felt even better to be able to share the experience with my coach and my family, along with my friends.
James: What other particular moments from your career to date stick in the memory?
Siofra: Just last weekend I won my 5th All Ireland Schools cross country which really means a lot to me. A big experience that sticks with me is the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2011 where I received the silver medal in the 1500m. It was an amazing experience with all my friends even though I was slightly disappointed. Another memorable moment was when I ran 2.04.82 last summer in Irishtown. I couldn’t believe I’d run that time at the time, and I’m very grateful to Sinéad Denny who paced me on the day.
James: You have competed on the Irish indoor circuit this winter. How would you assess your indoor season?
Siofra: I was very pleased with how everything went. I was very excited to be doing a track season for the first time in a few years, with my new coach Donal Hennigan. We wanted to get the European juniors standard out of the way early to take off any pressure coming up to the outdoor season. I knew I was in shape to get the standard but I did not think I had a 2.05 in my legs, so I was thrilled! Considering it was a National Indoor Record, it was even better news!
James: How would you describe the experience of competing on the brand new indoor track facility in Athlone?
Siofra: The new facility is incredible. I’d like to thank everyone who managed to make it possible! It’s a fast and bouncey track, and it really is state of the art. A lot of great times will be run on the track in the future.
James: What are your goals for the rest of 2013?
Siofra: I am looking forward to competing at the European Juniors in Rieti, Italy in July. I hope to make the final and run as well as I can with good competition. I will be racing in some BMC meets and I look forward to trying to break 4.20 for the 1500m. I’m aiming for sub 2.04 over 800m this summer also.
James: What would an average week of training be like at this time of the year, specifically in terms of key sessions?
Siofra: It really can change, depending on what is coming up. During my indoor season it would have changed every week regarding the track sessions but an example is as follows:
Tuesday: 5/6 at a steady state’
Wednesday: Warm up (2miles + drills), 3X500m and 4X200m, cooldown (1mile)
Thursday: Long recovery run of 7 miles
Saturday: Progressive tempo of 5 miles, 2, 2, 1
Sunday: Warm up, 4X200m in 30 secs with 2 mins recovery, 4 mins break then the same again, cooldown.
At the moment I am doing more miles and tempos as well as the odd fartlek session before I head warm weather training at Easter to prepare for the summer.
James: With regards speed work, what do you consider to be the key sessions for an 800m runner?
Siofra: To be honest, it really depends on the athlete. For me, I know my coach Donal Hennigan and I both love the 2 sets of 4X200m. It’s great for speed and endurance and it really benefits working on my form.
James: What are your favourite and least favourite training sessions?
Siofra: I surprisingly enjoy sets of 200m on the track as I feel so strong and powerful. I definitely do not enjoy any 1000m intervals when I’m training for the cross country season. They really take it out of me!
James: What should be done to get more young Irish people into athletics rather than the traditional sports of football, rugby and GAA? How can the profile of the sport in Ireland be improved?
Siofra: There is not much that we can do about that situation in my opinion. The GAA sports are taking all the potentially great athletes. All we can do is to continue what we have been doing lately which is performing well at major championships such as European Cross and the European Indoors recently. I do think it is frustrating how little recognition our sport gets when we do so well.
James: What is your favourite destination that you have traveled to for athletics and why?
Siofra: I don’t really consider the destination very important as such. Usually I’m just delighted to be at the competition with my friends and to be competing against the best. I did find Barcelona a lovely city to compete in, especially on the Olympic track. The Olympic Village at EYOF in Turkey was special too!
James: That’s great Siofra. Thank you for your time and the very best of luck this coming year.