Cross Country

From Skerries to Cobh: Relocation a game-changer for promising Pierce

by Jack Corbett

For our next interview of what is set to become a weekly fixture Jack Corbett caught up with Skerries native Rhona Pierce who recently relocated to the home of arguably our greatest ever athlete, Sonia O’Sullivan. In doing so Pierce has joined the Leevale stronghold based in Cork city and, under the tutelage of her new coach, Ray Shanahan, is looking to make a serious impact in the upcoming GloHealth Irish Schools Cross Country championships having delivered a dominant display in winning the Munster title on her home turf in C.I.T. This builds from her stellar performance in the European Junior Cross country in Samokov where she finished a commendable 43rd and second Irish athlete home. Since moving to Cobh, Pierce has come into contact with Sonia on a number of occasions, with O’Sullivan more than happy to offload encouragement and some nuggets of wisdom to such a promising prospect. With the backing of O’Sullivan and the support of such a great club in Leevale AC, 2015 is sure to be a great year for this top talent. Competitors take note, Pierce is on point.

Pierce winning the Munster schools. Image courtesy of Fr Liam Kelleher

Pierce winning the Munster schools. Image courtesy of Fr Liam Kelleher

How did you first get into athletics?

I first got into athletics when I was six or seven. I used to be brought to watch my older brother Eoin race around muddy fields, up mountains or around the track. I hated standing around watching and when I found out I could run too I jumped at the chance. I started in Skerries AC on Friday nights and have been running ever since.

What were your highlights of 2014?

The highlights of 2014 for me were winning Schools Cross Country with the team from Skerries, winning the U/18 team with Leevale in Dundalk and making the Irish team for the European Cross Country in Bulgaria.

What are your goals for 2015; specifically in relation to the upcoming Irish schools cross country and beyond that the track season?

My goal for 2015 is to keep improving, I hope to run well at the All Ireland Schools Cross Country, it should be a great race and hopefully I will be feeling good on the day. Beyond that my goals are to improve my PBs over 800m and 1500m, work on my speed on the track and hopefully run my first 3000m. I would love to make the European Cross Country team again too.

What’s the best piece of coaching advice you’ve received since you started running?

I have received lots of great advice about running and racing. I have learned from the help and advice of family, friends and coaches. The most important thing is to “Never Give Up” and that you will always make mistakes, it’s how you pick yourself back up again that counts.

What are your three favourite things about being an athlete?

My three favourite things about being an athlete are;
Competition, racing as soon as the gun goes there’s no better place to be, all the great people I have met and friends I have made through the sport and running will always be something I love to do.

What would you consider to be your best achievement since you started running?

The biggest achievement for me since I started running was running for Ireland for the first time.

Describe a typical training week at the moment?

A typical training week for me at the moment is;
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday: Depending on stage of season Hills Session or Track Session; usually longer reps e.g. 6x600m
Wednesday: Some strength and conditioning and easy 40 minute recovery run
Thursday: Track Session: usually shorter reps e.g. 6x300m
Friday: Circuits
Saturday: Farm Session: warm up and drills with usually intervals or Fartlek type session
Sunday: Long Run usually between 60-70 minutes

Do you have an all-time favourite training venue?

My all time favourite training venue would have to be Ardgillan Demesne just outside Skerries, it is the by far one of the toughest but also the best places to run. There is no where to hide from the hilly terrain. Since moving to Cork, Farran woods is nice, Fota too and there is no shortage of hills running around Cobh, you can’t avoid them! But Ardgillan will always be a favourite for me! In Dublin you don’t realise how spoilt for choice you are for parks to run on the grass.

Last summer you moved from your home in Skerries, Co. Dublin to Cobh, Co. Cork. How has this move changed your coaching and training situation given that you are now a member of Leevale AC in Cork city?

The move from Dublin to Cork has been good for me. I was very lucky to move from one great club and team of girls to another. Everyone in Leevale has been really friendly and welcoming and that has made the transition really easy for me. Cobh is a bit further away from the city than I would like but I go to school in the city anyway so it works out well for training.

Since moving to Cobh you have come into contact with Sonia o Sullivan on a number of occasions. How have you applied her experience and words of encouragement to help you improve your own running? What has been the best piece of advice you have received from her to date?

It was great to meet someone I admire so much when I moved last summer. I remember being shown videos of her by my brother when I was younger. I was delighted to get the chance to talk to her. Sonia was really easy to talk too and gave me some great ideas for running routes around Cobh that she uses. Meeting Sonia who is such a hero of the sport was inspirational for me and her encouragement meant a lot to me.

Personal Bests:

1500m – 4:42

Image courtesy of PhotoRun
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Feidhlim Kelly

Feidhlim Kelly

Con Houlihan once told me that tomorrow is now. In taking on this venture I’ve started to try and put his words into action.

I worked for Con from 2007 till his passing in 2012 taking down his copy and a whole lot more. I have a Con Houlihan section which will go in to more depth on that.

I’m a long-time contributor to the Irish Runner magazine and am also working for the Irish Examiner.

1 Comment

  1. Brian Phelan
    February 24, 2015 at 2:54 pm — Reply

    Maith an chailín, Rhona. Wishing you every success in 2015.

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