Can’t believe its nearly 7 years when my old buddy Frank Hendron introduced Conor to me for him to join the group. Conor is a pleasure to work with and he has stuck with the training and 2019 was his best year with PB”s achieved across the board. Today’s athlete profile is Conor Cleary.
1. How did you get into athletics?
In school it was football all the way. I think I preferred training to playing though. I lived in Sydney throughout my 20s and took up recreational running with a few mates. Our focus was always the annual City to Surf 14km run, from Sydney to Bondi Beach, and I always gave that a decent crack. It was the summer of 2009 when, over a few Guinness, myself and two friends decided we would run the Dublin City Marathon that year – but I was the only one to turn up on the day! Two things happened in the final 400m of that race that set me on a course to complete every DCM since then. As I hobbled down Nassau St with advanced rigor mortis setting in, I overheard a race steward shouting at the surging crowd to please stand back and respect the athlete. “Athlete”, if you don’t mind! The second and more significant moment however, happened about 30 seconds later, when a 6-foot-tall gorilla cruised past me, high-fiving the crowd on his way to a sub 5-hour finish. I vowed right then that I would be back the following year, properly prepared to race to the best of my ability.
2. Why do you run?
Lots of reasons. To practice my 7.5 times tables! I run to clear my head and switch off from work or home life for a while. I run to spend time with those friends that would not recognise in anything other than shorts and singlets. I run to keep fit and healthy and to try to set that same example for my children. In the past year I’ve started trail running, and I’m getting a huge sense of freedom and empowerment from it. I now find myself looking at a faraway hill from the car and thinking “I could probably run there in a couple of hours”. And then I do.
3. Did you try different events or where you always a distance runner?
I don’t have a sprint in me at all and a mile is probably the shortest I’ve raced. It’s good to mix in the 5km and 10km races though, to keep things interesting and to improve my general pace. But I think the longer distances suit me better – I like the mental challenge as much as the physical.
4. Can you give a brief synopsis of your running career to date?
I’ve run all 11 Dublin City marathons since 2009 and 17 marathons in total, PBing at last year’s DCM in 3:16:58.
Last year was actually a great year for me. I also PBed in 5km, 10km (my first sub 40 mins) and the half-marathon (first sub 90 mins). And on 1st Jan 2020 I broke 19 mins in the 5km for the first time. There’s an advantage in coming to the game late I guess; I’m still improving.
5. What would you consider to be your main highlight?
Well, that’s a tricky question, Terry J My kids only talk about the time I won my local parkrun in Fairview (on a cold wet morning when all the sensible people were in bed). But for me, I think breaking 3:30 in the Dublin City marathon in 2018 is the highlight. I had run 3:22 in Limerick a couple of years prior, but could never manage to replicate it on my home turf, and it was really bugging me. That summer, five of us from TT racers took it on – 12 weeks of training together and motivating each other – and we all finished the race between 3:24 and 3:28. The relief of getting that monkey off my back, and the delight that we all achieved the same goal together, was immense.
6. When did you hook up with TT Racers and what was the reason for doing so?
In 2013 my marathon performances had flat-lined and I really needed some structured training in my routine. My wife was doing some research in Trinity College and a colleague of hers – Frank – used do laps of the track on his lunch break. Frank kindly introduced me to Terry one Tuesday afternoon that summer. I can still remember crying off halfway through that first interval session, gasping for air. But I loved the challenge to improve myself and the improvement started soon enough after that.
7. What would be in your eyes the main advantage of being part of TT Racers?
Having never been part of a running club prior to TT Racers, I had always considered running to be an individual event, and that put me off. But I was wrong. The friendship, advice and camaraderie I’ve experienced since joining this club has shown me that running really is a team sport. It’s great to feel that genuine interest from team mates in seeing you improve and achieve your targets. And the recent TT Racers singlets are a fantastic way to show our colours at races. Wearing it makes me feel like I’m not just racing for myself any more – I’m racing for everyone in the club.
8. What’s the best running advice you’ve been given which has helped you to become a better runner?
I hear it shouted from the side of Sean Moore Park every week: “Work together!”. During training and when racing. It’s incredible, until you experience it, how much of a lift you get in a race from a simple word or two from a pal beside you, or sometimes just knowing they are there.
Can I also mention the worst running advice I ever got (not from Terry, mind you): At the water stations in a marathon, pour some of the water on your thighs to cool them down. I did that once, and the water ran down my legs and pooled in my runners. I squelched my way through those final miles, furious with myself.
9. What’s your running ambition going forward?
I’m not close enough to the sub 3-hour marathon crew just yet, but never say never. I don’t really have burning ambitions other than to stay fit and injury free for as long as I can. “The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.” -Baz Luhrmann.