Interview: Dublin Marathon debutant and national champion Courtney McGuire

Interview: Dublin Marathon debutant and national champion Courtney McGuire Interview: Dublin Marathon debutant and national champion Courtney McGuire
Neasa Kennedy

At just 23-years-old and on her marathon debut, Courtney McGuire achieved greatness in this years Dublin Marathon. McGuire crossed the line with a time of 2:32:50, that put her straight in at seventh on the Irish women’s
all-time list. McGuire finished third overall behind Ethiopians Nigist Muluneh (2:28.31) and Hawi Alemu Negeri (2:29.33) and was finished first nationally.

"I'm still not over it" she laughs "No, Jesus, I far exceeded my own expectations on the day so, yeah, it all fell into place so just had a great day and I don't think I'll ever get over it"

Astonishingly, McGuire only decided to commit to the marathon about a month before the event.

"I think it was end of August or the 1st week of September we decided to do it and the training from that point on was intense, you know I knew I was fit going in to it but I didn't think that I would do that well"

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Once she decided she was going for it, the demanding preparation and training for her debut began.

"Oh it was crazy" she laughs "I feel like my milage wasn't too big, see I'm kind of prone to injuries. So I was running 4 days a week and then 2 days were fully on the elliptical, so on the cross trainer, and then the other 4 days there was like a long run which would be kind of typically 20miles-ish and I had one 26 mile run and then 2 kind of sessions a week and one kind of easy medium/long run"

With little time to prepare and running in her first ever marathon, it is normal to assume nerves would be at an all time high - but not for McGuire.

"I was actually fine, I think it's the most relaxed I ever was in a race. We didn't put like a time in mind it was kind of just go out and enjoy your first one and whatever will be will be."

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Growing up, the Clonmel AC athlete was always active and into sport. "I kind of dabbled in GAA, and I was always into dancing, so I did a bit of hiphop when I was younger"

"I found out fairly quickly that I was useless as football, like I couldn't kick a ball, so yeah they used to put me in midfield to tire people out" she laughs

"I knew then I was able to run, so I started doing a little bit in secondary school around TY [Transition Year], and the coach was like go up and just try out the Athletic Club and see if you like it, and just didn't turn back then"

Her running career began in secondary school, and lead to her joining her local athletic club, Clonmel AC.

"I joined Clonmel AC, so Anthony Moynihan would have been my coach as a juvenille and I stayed with them for a few years up until college and then when I was in UL I ran a little bit with UL but it was more so balancing the going out and the running so I wasn't taking it too serious at that point"

McGuire credits her local athletic club for her success, and expresses that the support and community spirit of the club has been incredibly influential for her.

"In the past 2 years we kind of have a group formed in Clonmel - The Clonmel Distance Group we call it now so we have an Instagram and stuff - but we meet up every weekend and if people are around during the week we meet up twice a week as well and we just train together and push each other on - all different abilities - and we have a good group going at the moment"

Although running is an individual performance, McGuire is adamant that the training and preparation is a collective effort.

"You need a group." she says "On the day yeah it's very much up to you, what you can do is individual in the race, but the training, having a group behind you and supporting you and just knowing that you know, if it's raining outside and you have a horrible session to do, and you know it's going to be tough, it makes a difference to have 2 people to go meet and do it together, and be like "we'll get through it, we won't die, we'll be fine!".

Looking ahead, the 23-year-old has set some goals for the new year.

"We're looking at doing a fast half marathon in February, so just try bring my PB's down in the 5k, 10k and half marathon and I'll be looking at another marathon then next year"

Running the 26.2 mile (42.2km) course at the Dublin Marathon is undeniably physically taxing, but it is also mentally challenging. On how she prepared for the mental aspect and what works for her, McGuire said: "Before Dublin I was listening to a lot of podcasts"

"I think I got a bit too obsessed with trying to see what I'm going to think about when I'm running, how am I going to take my mind off it"

"On the day itself I think the simplest ones were the ones that worked for me like - counting to 4 - just keep counting to 4, keep counting to 4, don't think about anything else - or just get to the next water station and just telling yourself you are able to do this you have the training done, don't overthink it"

Another crucial element to successfully complete a marathon is of course, fuelling your body, which McGuire said she has been trying to nail down the past few months.

"There's a local sports dietician in town, Evan Lynch, he's well known in sport Ireland field, I kind of drop him a text if I have any questions and he'd be straight back to me, he's great like, even with iron supplements, he knew exactly when I sent my bloods to him, what I should get and what to take, so that made a big difference"

McGuire spoke about the importance of not just eating the right foods, but eating enough.

"With the training I'm doing you have to up the calories, and not be afraid to do it as well"

"Making sure I had fuelled before training and getting the protein in afterwards, like straight away, constantly eating throughout and not being embarrassed about how much you are eating, like you could be with your friends and they could be like you're literally eating more than my dad like!"

McGuire did her undergraduate degree in Psychology and has been accepted into a Masters in UL in Sport Excercise and Performance Psychology which she says is "right up my alley". Away from sport, McGuire also enjoys doing art to relax and ease her mind.

"I do a little bit of art. It takes my mind off things instead of training and helps me, I have a tendancy to like need something to do the whole time so it's nice to just get me to sit down at the desk and just work away on that and you can pass a few hours at it, so yeah a little bit of portrait drawing"

Growing up, McGuire is not hesitant when asked about her role models.

"Fionnuala McCormack is someone that I really look up to, just watching her from when I was younger, you know she's not big into the media, she's not on Instagram or social media or anything like that. But yeah, you know she is getting the work done because on race day she will dominate the field". She also added that the visibility of female role models has certainly improved "there's definitely been big changes in the last few years and I hope it continues".

The 23-year-old expressed that sport has given her so much and advises young girls to "throw yourself into a club and just see if you like it and I know it can be daunting at first and for the first few weeks and you will feel like you're about to collapse if you start running at first, but it does get a lot easier and you'll get used to it and the benefits that come with it the friendships and the memories is just, it's all worth it in the end, you'll love it"

"It means the world to me and I'd love for all girls to have that, even if it's not running, if it's football or whatever, if you're better at football than me then, Jesus ya, go for it" she laughs.

With her remarkable debut result and determined mindset, McGuire is certainly a really exciting international prospect to watch out for.

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