Olympic runner Ciara Mageean aims for a happy, injury-free summer

EVEN though she’s a light traveler, Ciara Mageean hates packing.

“I think: what am I going to forget?” she says.

“Fortunately, in my sport, you don’t need a lot of things: your trainers, a change of clothes and that’s about it.”

Just before making this phone call in Manchester, her adopted city since 2018, the Olympic middle-distance runner from Portaferry had just dusted off her spikes for a one-month internship at altitude in Saint-Moritz in Switzerland.

She is looking forward to the ‘fresh mountain air’ and enjoying all the health and performance benefits of the low oxygen concentration in the air before running the 800m Belfast Irish Milers Meet on the Mary Peters Track on May 14.

“So all eyes are on summer, she says. “There are three major championships: the world champions, the Commonwealth Games and the European champions.

“I’m going to pick two of the three – I haven’t decided which ones yet, but the Commonwealth Games in August are definitely going to be a big priority and will be one of them, and hopefully I can go again. with good results.

Celebrating his 30th birthday last month, Mageean wants just what all elite athletes want: an injury-free season.

So far, she’s had enough injuries on the doorstep of major championships to last a lifetime.

At the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics last August, she faded a lot in her streak and did not qualify for the 1,500m semi-finals. It was later revealed that she suffered a torn calf a few days later.

This year, his indoor season was put to the test before it even started. Another calf injury. Say goodbye to the World Indoors held in Belgrade last month.

“As an athlete, you walk a tightrope between being in peak physical condition and overdoing it and falling.

“I was in great shape and couldn’t wait to start the indoor season. I ran a PB in a 3k indoor race in Manchester and happened to tear my calf in the middle of the race.

“Obviously I thought that I could have participated in these championships and qualified for the final.

“But it’s sport. It comes with the territory…I’ve had my fair share of injuries and I hope I’ve left them all behind because I’ve had enough bad luck.

Injuries: the bane of every athlete’s existence.

So how does Ciara Mageean, the seemingly carefree runner from the Ards Peninsula, deal with missing out on career-defining championships?

Like how every competitor faces – with enormous emotional difficulty.

“It’s something I’m constantly working on, trying to stay resilient… To be honest, a lot of it is a conversation. It’s accepting that it’s okay to be disappointed at this moment.

“I kind of see it as a cycle of grieving – mourning the loss of something. Now that obviously feels dramatic. It’s obviously not the same as losing someone.

“But in that moment, I mourn the loss of an opportunity to go racing, something that I spend a lot of time preparing for and you kind of have to allow yourself to get through those emotions.

“You don’t blame yourself. But you should recognize the emotion you are feeling. If you recognize that you have been standing there too long, then maybe it’s time to ask for help. I’m lucky to have a great sports psychologist and I talk to her. When it comes to a physical injury, I just get super frustrated.

“When you come to the physio, you get a scan, you get a diagnosis, you get an intervention, if needed, and you get rehabilitated. But when you get to the end of that and you’re at the return to play part and you have to start rebuilding yourself from scratch, that’s often the time when I’m like, “I find this difficult”.

“I’m really frustrated and tired; these are the times when I chat a little more with someone.

Some athletes swear by meditation. For Mageean, however, meditation is a no-start. Her mind, she says, is too active.

Gardening is what works for her. During the same week she suffered the calf injury that ruined her indoor season, she got allowance.

It’s a mile from his home in Manchester – a place where his mobile phone is no longer an extension of his hand.

She grows potatoes, onions, peas, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower.

“I put my first earlys [potatoes] around Saint Patrick’s Day. They go green and come out orange in July, so it’s easy to remember where I’m from! she laughs.

Lidl Northern Ireland Sport for Good Ambassador Mageean is currently promoting the food chain link to Sunday’s Belfast City Marathon.

Lidl will provide more than two tonnes of fruit to the 3,000 marathon runners during and after the race.

“Whenever people approach you about partnerships, you have to weigh: does it coincide with my beliefs and interests in life and I couldn’t think of anything better.

“I love that this campaign is for the Belfast City Marathon. I love that the marathon takes over all four corners of Belfast. I love Belfast, it’s such a beautiful city.

“It’s about trying to get people to get out and be active and that also coincides with the healthy eating aspect of things, so this campaign is important to me.

“The fact that Lidl prepares and distributes over two tonnes of fresh fruit for the marathon is fantastic to see.”

In terms of a media interview, Ciara Mageean is an open book. She happily discusses the possibility of climbing up to 5,000m in the future and what life will be like after hanging up her spikes, but not before competing in the Paris Olympics in two years, which would be her third Games.

“I put all my focus in life into my athletics. My boyfriend moved to Manchester to be with me because he knew I wasn’t going back to Ireland. It’s a very selfish life that I live, but I’m looking forward to that next stage of life where I don’t necessarily have to be so selfish.

“Being selfish does not come easily to me; I like to do things for others. Saying that, there’s a lot that I’m going to miss, I’m definitely going to miss the structure that I have in my life.”

She adds: “I remember winning my first senior medal for Ireland at the European Championships in Amsterdam and David Gillick was part of our support team. He wished me luck before the race and the next day I was talking to him and he said, “I saw you the morning of your race and you looked like you wanted the earth to open up because you pushed your breakfast around the plate.’

“I said, ‘David, if someone had said to me, ‘I’m just going to snap my fingers here, you’re going to fall asleep and you’ll get the result of your race’, I probably would have taken it.’ It was my emotion.

“But David said to me, ‘Ciara, don’t want it because for the rest of your life you’re going to be trying to find something that will give you that adrenaline rush that racing gives you. Nothing will ever replace that. will never see this moment again so make the most of it.

“Of course there will be times in the future that will be beautiful, like when you have your first child… I am certainly aware that my time in sport is limited and I want to make the most of what I have. .”

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