Sean Hehir: The Interview

Speaking with Ireland’s Olympic hopeful marathon runner Sean Hehir recently, he was kind and generous enough to give a very personal and in depth look into the hard work, dedication and sacrifice it takes to challenge the elite in the athletics world.

Where it all began

Acknowledging he came from a very sporty background and the challenges that come along with carrying a pretty familiar family name, he was kind enough to explain: “I grew up in a sporting family where my father played hurling for Clare and my mother was an international runner. I was small and skinny for my age. I have the same name as my father so there was an element of pressure with that.

“My father was a very strong and physical player, while I wasn’t as good or as skilful as him. Running was something I enjoyed doing and I was getting progressively better and better. I wasn’t winning national titles or medals, but I was interested and it was something I enjoyed doing.

“Ultimately it came to decision time and I wasn’t making the hurling teams, and I was just about making the running teams.When it came to making a decision at crunch time, it was an easy one to make.”

Training

The talented 31 year old gave quite a fascinating description of his day to day routine, “Typically I’d get up at half-six. I’d go for a very easy five- or six-mile run before school. I’d come back, have breakfast and then go and spend the day teaching from half-eight until usually about four o’clock.

“Then in the afternoons I’d usually go for a run in the Phoenix Park with a good friend of mine who is also a teacher, Eoin Callaghan, and we’d do anything between 10 and 14 miles.”

It didn’t stop there though, on top of his already hectic schedule he also added: “”I do twice weekly speed sessions and then a long run on Sundays — ranging from 20–27 miles and at a good pace. On top of that there would be twice weekly strength and conditioning, I try to get a sports massage once a week, ice baths, stretching, biometrics and bounding twice a week.”

Discussing how it must be quite stressful juggling all this training and teaching fourth class at Oblate Fathers’ School, Scoil Mhuire gan Smal, in Inchicore, Sean explained that it was very much the opposite: “It’s a full schedule, but I love it. I don’t watch TV so that might give me a little extra time. But it’s something I enjoy doing.I don’t look upon it as being a sacrifice or a burden.”

The Dream

The dream of all athletes is to represent their country at an elite level of sport and Sean is no different. “To get the opportunity to represent Ireland, it wouldn’t get bigger than that. That’s the dream and I want to give myself every chance to get there.” He does currently hold the Olympic qualification standard of 2:17.48 from the Berlin Marathon in September but is not resting on his laurels one bit. “Basically I have the qualification time but I have to go faster. Between now and then it really is trying to ensure I get to the starting line in either Paris or London and give myself the best opportunity to deliver a top-class performance.”

With the dream within touching distance, participating at the games may resonate that little bit more with Sean than other athletes as it takes him back to a special time when all the family would come together. “The Olympics were very much part and parcel of what we watched as a family.

“Whether it was the Olympics or World or European Championships, any time they were on it was basically one of the few times everyone would sit down on the couch and watch.”

Fresh from winning the GloHealth Inter County Cross Country Championships at the Palace Grounds in Tuam, clocking an impressive time of 34:32 in the mens 10,000m, he feels this was the ideal preparation for what some call the business end of the season with the games just around the corner.