The shape I'm in - Kerry O’Flaherty

OLYMPIAN Kerry O’Flaherty is evidently in good shape, having competed in Rio in 2016 and this year winning the Irish National 1500m title and competing in her first European Indoor Championships in Serbia.

The 36-year-old runner says while she does have some vices, she tries to ensure her diet is always healthy. “As an endurance runner it’s important to start the day with the right amount of carbohydrates and keep topping this up throughout the day,” she says. “But I tend to crave a lot of sweet things, especially after a workout. So I try my best to have hydration sachets, a cereal bar and water with me.”

What shape are you in?

My spring training in Font Romeu (French Pyrenees) went really well and I returned home in the shape of my life, ready for the outdoor track session. But unfortunately, in my first race of the summer, my right calf tore which was a real setback. So I cross-trained hard and after eight weeks, got my race fitness back and I’m running my season’s bests at the moment — but I still feel like there’s more to come this summer in the 3000m steeplechase event.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I love a good bowl of porridge in the morning and usually add a spoon of peanut butter, some seeds and berries. It’s hard to prepare healthy meals all the time when you are training and time is limited, but this year I have great help from nutritionist Lorna Cooke.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Easy one this — it’s chocolate and red wine. I have a sweet tooth and love chocolate and desserts.

What would keep you awake at night?

I am often racing at night and find it hard to switch off afterwards, whether I have had a great race and am buzzing, or it hasn’t gone as well as I’d hoped and the race tactics keep playing round in my head. Apart from that, I am a good sleeper as I would run approximately 65-70 miles in a normal training week so I get very tired.

How do you relax?

I travel a lot so it’s always great to spend time with family and friends. Also, I have quite a few pets — one cat, two dogs, two goats and my latest additions — two alpacas — so I love spending time with them. My dogs have their own passports to travel with me and are great company when I spend long periods training on my own.

Getting my feet up in front of the TV in the evenings helps me switch off from running — although I sometimes end up watching athletics — and I hate to admit but I am a Coronation Street fan.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

I love a good laugh so it would have to be Peter Kay. He is my favourite comedian and I loved his latest series, Car Share.

What’s your favourite smell?

You can’t beat the smell of freshly ground coffee and also the smell of the pine needles in the forest.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I’m always very critical about my tummy, but I’m an endurance runner who needs carbs and good hydration. I love my food and I need a good amount of balanced carbs, fats and proteins to maintain my strength and endurance. I don’t have any food intolerances but my tummy does bloat somewhat when I eat and drink, but it has never affected performances and I need the fuel to run.

When is the last time you cried?

The day of my Olympic debut in 2016 was very emotional, knowing that I had finally made it but my Papa (grandfather) wasn’t there to share the dream becoming reality, as he passed away in 2012. After my race I got very emotional and had a good old cry; happy and sad at the same time. Happy to finally fulfil my dream, but sad he wasn’t there to share it with me as he was my number one fan.

What traits do you least like in others?

Selfishness — I believe in trying to help others and not always doing things just for our own gains.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

I can get very nervous on race days. I know that nerves can be used to good effect to drive adrenaline, but I can get nervous to the point that I struggle to eat, which isn’t good when you want to fuel up properly for the race.

Do you pray?

No, but in my head, I always have a little chat to my Papa to help me through the tough times.

What would cheer up your day?

A hug with my partner Richard, a cuddle with my whippets or an upbeat song on the radio — and if all else fails there’s always chocolate and a glass of red wine.

Kerry O’Flaherty has nominated her coach and partner of ten years, Richard Rodgers for the Irish Life Health Hidden Heroes campaign, which aims to shine a light on the background heroes that help our Irish athletes achieve greatness – Mums, Dads, coaches and everyone else that make up the supporting team for our athletes.


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