Track & Field

Hurricane Tully transfers to Tulsa: Robert Tully Interview

Robert Tully is one of Ireland’s most exciting 800m prospects. A native of Meath, he only left Gormanstown College in 2014 before taking a year in Trinity to mull over his options. He is now off to the University of Tulsa to join the Golden Hurricanes for the 2015-2016 season. He competed at the World Juniors in Oregon in 2014 and has a personal best of 1.49.15.

Follow him on Twitter at @robert_tully. Please, he is desperate for followers.

How did you get into athletics?

My primary school used to enter the ‘Cumann na mBunscoil’ competition in Santry each year and there were trials for the sprint and relay team. I think it was in 4th Class that I made the team as a sub for the 4X100m so that was my first real taste of athletics. I joined Star of the Sea A.C later that year and started running cross country under the tutelage of the legendary Brendan Meade. My first real ‘success’ was the following summer when I won the Meath Championships 1500m in 5:20! It took a few seasons before I really started to see any improvements on my 8th/9th place finishes at Leinster Level. Racing against the likes of Shane Fitzsimons and Aaron Hanlon at the age of 11 was a tough baptism into the sport! Also, my dad had some success over the horizontal jumps in school and finished 5th at the World Schools games in the Triple Jump in 1980, although I didn’t know this until after I naturally gravitated towards athletics myself. He still holds a Leinster Schools record which is something that I didn’t manage to do!

Robert Tully leads Reuben Bett of Kenya in a coming of age epic in Belfast

Robert Tully leads Reuben Bett of Kenya in a coming of age epic in Belfast

The Fastest man not to win a Senior Schools Title. You smashed the 1.50 barrier behind Harry Purcell and now a year later you and he will be re-united on the American Circuit. What made you decide to go to America?

America has appealed to me since I began running. I discovered all the American running websites such as FloTrack and LetsRun as soon as I got into the sport, so for as long as I can remember NCAA’s were always a big event. Even the adventure of going to the States was a big thing for me. Going to World Junior’s last year in Eugene made my mind up for me. The whole college setup, the professionalism, and the investment that athletic departments get is difficult to compare to college in Ireland. I also think where I went to school in Gormanston is just about as close to a US college vibe that you can get, and I thrived in that environment, so it really was a no-brainer for me.

What do you think is the difference between College in Ireland and College in the States?

Based on my experience this year, I think that American College will suit me better. I just found that there wasn’t a lot of support for athletes at a high level within the college system. I think it would be ok if you had a team/sponsor backing you up, but I seemed to be caught in no-man’s land, just shy of any support, but still at a semi-elite level. Commuting also turned out to be more difficult than I had expected. I was up at 6am to go to the gym each morning and would end up walking around basically until I got home at 7:30 in the evening. In the US, you plan your own class schedule around training, so the whole team can train together. In Ireland, because class times are fixed and aren’t generally flexible, it’s left up to the individual to train when they can. I find it much better to at least have the option of training with a group of people. It takes the monotonous feeling out of training. I also think that because the extra money in sport in the US, everything is that little bit better organised. All the facilities are around the campus, so there’s no need to commute to get to the nearest track. All these small things give you a little bit more time, so that’s probably the biggest difference for me. Time.

How did the move to Tulsa come about?

I had signed up for TrackBound USA coming into 6th year so I got a lot of contacts with them. I found it pretty difficult to manage the emails and calls while in school so I made the decision at around Christmas to take a year of college in Ireland, get a feel for what college was like, test my interest in the course I was doing, and then re-evaluate the prospect of America for my next year. Obviously, qualifying for World Juniors was a huge bonus for me, and it was pretty unexpected. Coach Mitchell from Tulsa contacted me in August and asked about going over straight away or at Christmas, but I was set on completing a year in Ireland. It probably turned out being a good decision as I would have spent a lot of last year unable to train. I think this year’s recovery process has suited me a lot better. I thought that Tulsa sounded like a great place, it’s a small college, has some really good athletes, and everything seemed well organised for such a small college.

What are you most looking forward to with regards to the University of Tulsa?

Chandler didn't enjoy Tulsa but Tully is looking forward to it.

Chandler didn’t enjoy Tulsa but Tully is looking forward to it.

I think one of the things I’m most looking forward to is having a team setup. Most of my training has been on my own the last couple of seasons. I prefer training in groups, especially doing track workouts. It helps take the sting out of the session when you have a few guys able to share the workload. A lot of my training will be working between the sprinters and the middle-distance team so I’m looking forward to having some focus on the faster side of things, but still able to stick with what I’m used to. They have a good range of athletes, from a 9.99 100m runner to a 13:30/28:30 distance runner and there’s also a group of 3/4 athletes around 1:48 over 800m so it’ll be nice to be able to train with a good range of athletes. I’m looking forward to being able to concentrate on training for the year. I sprained a disk in my back at the end of May which wasn’t running/training related so I decided to do some work while I couldn’t run. I managed to get through about half my modules for the year in the 2 week period so I won’t have to worry too much about keeping on top of work!

What were your goals coming into this outdoor season?

I had set some ambitious targets coming into this season. I wanted to run low 1:47 over 800m and qualify for European U23s championships in Estonia. Training was going well, and I was happy with my opener in the Greystones IMC, but my hamstring got a little tight over next week so I decided to focus on getting in better. Coming into the last 60m in Greystones I tried to push and I managed to pick off 3/4 places feeling pretty easy, so I was still confident of making a team at that stage. My goals have changed a lot during the season, but I’ve had a few weeks off good training since the middle of June so I’m confident in getting a couple of fast races in come mid-late July and hopefully run well at Nationals in early August!

You have struggled with Injury this season, what have the issues?

My Achilles played up at the end of the 2014 track season. I ran a PB in the Mary Peter’s International of 1:49.15 and felt great. The next day I felt a slight pinching feeling in my right Achilles, I got it checked out, and it turned out I had Achilles Tenosynovitis. I was told I could train through to World Juniors if I took it easy and that it wouldn’t take too long to recover from, but when I came back from the championships it had developed into Tendinopathy. It took me 5 months to get back running properly. I changed my stride to take the pressure off my Achilles but there was a sort of domino-effect that caused my calves to tighten up a bit. That continued to March. Since then I haven’t had many issues, just a tight hamstring from increasing my training load, and a sprained disk in my back (from sneezing!). So I was just a bit unlucky coming into the track season. Since mid-June I’ve been able to train consistently and I’m just working on a base to get me prepared for heading to Tulsa in August. I’m still hoping to get a couple of good races at the end of this season though! I’ve had about 4 years worth of injuries over the last year so hopefully that means I’ll get to 2020 without any hiccups!

Who is your best friend in Athletics?

Chris O' Hare is one of Tulsa's most recent Graduates

Chris O’ Hare is one of Tulsa’s most recent Graduates

I’ve got a lot of good friends in athletics. I’ve known Andrew Coscoran since I was about 3 years old so it’s funny that we’ve both become pretty successful at junior level. Most of the guys I race against are really good friends, Danny Lawler, Kevin Kelly, Harry Purcell are three that show up to almost every race I’m in so I’m good friends with them. I get on well with Karl Griffin and Ruairi Finnegan too. I spent a week in Monte Gordo with Ruairi, Danny Mooney and Tommy Casey in April and had a blast, got some great training in and Finnegan showed us a couple of recipes with Pork Chops and Oranges. The whole team last year at World Juniors got on really well too. So I don’t think I have any one person in particular that I’d consider a best friend!

Who is your greatest rival?

I’d say it would have to be either Danny Lawler or Harry Purcell. Myself and Harry have had a few good battles over the last couple of seasons, but I’ve been racing Danny for as long as I can remember. I managed to get my first sub-2 clocking against Danny 4 years ago and since then it’s been pretty even. We both have different running styles so even though my PB is a couple of seconds faster, it’s guesswork trying to figure out who’ll win in championships! Hopefully I’ll come up against Harry in a few 800s and maybe even relay’s in the next couple of seasons over in America!

Can you give us a typical training week?

This season there’s been a lot of variety in my training. This would have been a typical week leading up to last season.

Monday: 7 miles easy run / Rest if particularly tired
Tuesday: 3x2mile tempo off 60s recovery
Wednesday: 10 miles easy run
Thursday: 6x1K off 60s recovery
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 15x20s fast hills
Sunday: 11 mile long run

There’s a lot more stretching, conditioning, drills and strides incorporated this year.

What role does the gym play in your training programme?

The gym has played a big role in my training this year. When I wasn’t running due to my Achilles injury I was in the gym 6 days a week rehabbing the Achilles, increasing my flexibility by stretching, cross training on the bike, and doing strength and conditioning work. It wouldn’t have been an aspect of my training that I would have spent much time on last year so this year was always going to be about getting a good base of gym work to be able to work off come next season.

What are your long-term goals?

For next season, I’d like to be able to qualify for NCAA’s and if possible, get the qualifying standard for Europeans. After that, it’s my ambition to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but I’m only looking to next season at the minute. There hasn’t been many seasons where I’ve missed out on my short-term goals so if I can continue to reach them I’ll hopefully find myself close to that level in a few years time. It would be nice to be able to return to Eugene in 2021 for World Championships with some major championship experience and redeem myself after last year’s run at World Juniors!

What is your best piece of kit?

I have a lot of gear that I like but I’d say my Adidas Speed Suit has to be up there, it hasn’t made an appearance yet but no doubt it will be seen some time in the near future! Apart from that, I like anything colourful. I like to be seen on the track! haha

What is your best achievement outside of athletics?

Robert Tully competing in the World Juniors Oregon 2014

Robert Tully competing in the World Juniors Oregon 2014

I think walking some of the Camino de Santiago in Spain is my greatest achievement outside of athletics. I walked 100 miles of the journey at Easter in 2013 and half way through got food poisoning. I managed to get up the next morning and walk about 20 miles. It took about 8 hours! It was about 15-20 miles per day so my body wasn’t in the best shape after that. I was in about 1:49 shape before I went out, and came back and could barely run 1:51 that season so it probably wasn’t the best idea, but I’m still happy I did it. It showed me that I could still push through when I was feeling pretty bad so I think that came in handy when I got injured last season.

What are your three favourite things about being an athlete?

I like the fact that you can eat almost as much as you want. My diet is a lot better this year than it used to be, but I still find myself going through a lot of food. I like that you can eat as much as you want and not put on any weight!
I really like being able to travel places. Athletics is one of the most global sports in the world so each year there is an opportunity to explore somewhere different and make a different team. I like travelling so that’s one of the best parts of being an athlete!
I love the amount of skills that being a good athlete requires. Running a PB is only one part of being a good athlete. This season, I would consider myself a much better athlete than I was last year, but not a faster runner. I know that if I get a good winter in this year I’ll be able to run much faster so it’s nice having so many different things to focus on. Even when you’re injured, there’s gains to be made!

Tully smashes Personal Best and takes on Kenyan Reuben Bett

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Ronan Duggan

Ronan Duggan

Ronan Duggan is an athlete, coach, athletics fan and, most importantly, was once named Bandon AFC's under-12 Player of the Year. He was once a promising athlete but is now a promising coach, teacher and part-time athletics writer/broadcaster. While an 800m runner himself, Ronan has coached everything from pole vault to 10km with varying levels of bluffing. He has regularly been threatening to do something for years but is yet to deliver. He is regarded as our expert on the American running scene, though has yet, to prove his knowledge in this realm.

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