Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mountain runner Moire O Sullivan on the luxury of running around the world

Moire O Sullivan
Moire O’Sullivan runs all over the world… quite literally. Her job with international aid agencies brings her to some of the globe’s poorest countries. And when she’s not working, she dons her shorts and shoes and runs around these places, wherever she can find a path or trail. And then she writes all about it in her blog Running over mountains and around the world

You're living in Cambodia, from Ireland and have lived in a number of other countries. Where is your favourite mountain run?

I’ll tell you instead about my most memorable run. In 2008, I tried to run the Wicklow Round, trying to top the summits of 26 mountains in the Wicklow Mountains in less than 24 hours. It’s a challenge that covers over 100 kilometres, with over 10,000 metres climb (equivalent of sea level to over the top of Mount Everest). In 2008, I ran 24 mountains in 22 hours.

And then I collapsed at midnight, just before the finish, and really couldn’t go on. It took me another year of preparation before I managed to get around them all, this time coming home in just under 23 hours. Though the actual day I did the Wicklow Round was grand, training was the best bit. You can’t beat the long broad run up Luganacoille from the north, catching glimpses of mountain goats in Glendalough as you come off Camaderry, getting stuck in the bog on Silsean, or marveling at the heart shaped lake at the foot of Lugalla.

And in your spare time (!), you do some adventure racing?

Before I really got into mountain running, I had a fair go at adventure racing. Adventure racing is like a mountain triathlon, only that you mountain run, mountain bike and kayak instead of road run, road bike, and swim. And that’s as far as the comparisons go. Adventure racing can really involve any sport, including navigation, rope climbing and abseiling, lake swimming, horse riding, clay pidgin shooting, and even mathematical puzzles. A sprint race is 4-6 hours. The most extreme can last up to 8 days. The mountain runners often switch to adventure racing sports during the winter season, so I was dragged into the sport by them.

However my memories of adventure racing in Ireland are mainly of being cold, wet, tired, miserable, and lost in the dark and mud. 
Now I adventure race in Thailand and Vietnam when I get a chance, due to the lack of mountain running terrain. The adventure races are warm and sunny, with my main woes being heat stroke, dehydration, insect bites, and farmer’s tan. It’s an incredibly fast growing sport here, and great to see so many Asian teams battling it out.

Moire O Sullivan Cambodia
Having raced in so many different countries, what are the strangest things you've seen?

Kathmandu marathon was definitely one of the strangest races. Despite the city’s crazy traffic and large race numbers, the organizers do not close the roads. This meant I ran into one of Kathmandu’s infamous stand-still traffic jams. I was slaloming around cars, motorbikes, and tractors, eventually ending up on the uneven pavement on the side. Even the pavement wasn’t easy running with pedestrians walking between shops, cyclists parking their bikes there, and cows and dogs lying sprawled across my path.

And once I had passed the grid-lock traffic, I ran straight into a protest march of over a thousand people. Eventually I managed to pass them, but only to find that, in my efforts to circumnavigate the crowd, I was over a kilometre off the course and running in totally the wrong direction.

What Kathmandu lacked in organization, Hanoi made up for hundred fold. There I entered the 1 mile Hanoi Peace Run around the city’s Hoan Kiem lake. All the roads were blocked off in preparation for the race. There were boxy police cars from the days of Starsky and Hutch with flashing red lights and wailing sirens patrolling the block. The local ambassadors had turned up en masse, even the one from Ireland.

They were all kitted out in sporting uniform that they had all been given to wear on the day: baseball caps, 1970s polyester Adidas tracksuits and white gym plimsols. There were speeches, Olympic style marches, and children dancing salsa.

We wanted to race with the Vietnamese, but we weren’t allowed. Instead we had to race in the ‘Alien’ category with all the other foreigners. I managed to cross the line first and got interviewed for Vietnamese TV. I even got 22 US dollars for the win 

Running in developing countries is a different experience then, how does that fit with your career as a charity worker? 

I think the most profound thing I’ve learnt from running in developing countries is how fortunate I am to be able to run. Most don’t have the strength because they don’t have enough food to eat. Most don’t have enough time or energy as they have to work all day in the fields, fetch water, look after numerous kids.

Running is a luxury that so few of us can do. So when you’re complaining about going for your next run, remember those who don’t even have the choice. 

Part One of this interview is here.
Moire took the time to talk about all this while working in Afghanistan, much appreciated.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Irish mountain runner Moire O Sullivan

Gosinakund Pass Nepal
When Moire O’Sullivan says she runs all over the world, she's not joking. Her job with international aid agencies brings her to some of the globe’s poorest countries. And when she’s not working, she dons her shorts and shoes and runs around these places, wherever she can find a path or trail. And then she writes all about it in her blog Running over mountains and around the world 

Mountain running is a tough sport, how did you go in your first race? 

The mountain running habit all began in Dublin. My first ever mountain race was up Corrig Mountain, near Dublin with the Irish Mountain Running Association (IMRA). All I remember was trying to run uphill and nearly dying. And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, we tried to run up to the summit in the worst of Irish weather. The wind blew me off my feet. The mist nearly made me get lost on top. The bog and heather tripped me up again and again. I hated it and vowed never to return. Less than 24 hours later, I thought it was best thing I’d ever done, so went back the next week for more. 

Is there a difference between training for long-distance running and your own training?

I’d consider myself a long distance mountain runner. Though for training, I never put in crazy mileage or I would have ended up injured. I’d try and get in three 12 kilometre runs in during the weekdays, then a long run over 25 to 45 kilometres on the weekend followed by an orienteering race if there was one on. To stop injuries, I’d do core exercises three times a week and some yoga if I had time. As the races got nearer, I’d do speed training and hill reps, but they were too painful to talk about.

Basically for mountain running, you need to do most of your training on the flat to get fit with steady heart rates. Mountain running is the technical part you add on top of that fitness.

In Annapurna Nepal

You're working in Cambodia at the moment, but you were recently in Nepal. Tell us about your running experiences there.

Biggest mountains in the world… What can I say? I spent most weekends running around the Kathmandu Valley with other trail running enthusiasts. I had a few weeks left at the end of my stay, and then I did an amazing seven day mountain running trip with a 5 kg bag on up back up the Langtang Valley and then back to Kathmandu via the Helambu track.

I also arrived in the country just in time to run the Annapurna 71k in March 2010 from Pokhara to Birethanti and back. It’s now become the world famous Annapurna 100 race, with 100k World Champion Lizzy Hawker taking the spoils this year.

Best thing about running in Nepal: the incredible views of the Himalayas on a morning run. Worse thing: Leeches, which taught me never to run on overgrown mountains during the monsoon season in Nepal.
Mamturk Mountains Ireland

For anyone inspired by your adventures, how could she start off in Ireland?

Look up the IMRA website’s event section. If it’s summer, pick one of the mid-week Leinster League races. If its winter, take the Winter League Race. Neither of these leagues involves navigation or crazy distances.

Go along, run the race. (If you don’t have a car, book a slot on the carpool). If you like it, go to the pub afterwards and talk to people. They’ll have ideas of how to get involved. Alternatively, Crusaders AC  and Clonliffe Harriers AC cater for many mountain runners. Go along to their training sessions and they’ll point you in the right direction.

PART TWO of this interview with Moire O' Sullivan will run on Thursday of this week March 31st. So if you have any questions for Moire, leave a comment!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Who is your favourite female detective?

Have you seen this Danish thriller-series, Forbrydelsen/The Killing? We are just on series one here, thanks to BBC 4 and it is by far my favourite police series. Nominated for an Emmy as Best International Drama, it is simply great.
Mainly because the character of Sarah Lund, the lead detective is actually a real person. She wears practical but funky police-clothing, doesn't run around crime-scenes in high heels and glossy hair and has normal relationships with her colleagues and friends. Sigh of relief all round. 
Each episode is one day in the investigation of a murder which gets more political as each day passes. And yes, you forget about the sub-titles after a few minutes. This is a dubbed-to-English trailer.


The final two episodes are on tonight. I've been guessing the final suspect but a Danish friend says I'm wrong all the way. 
Who're your picks for top women detectives?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Irish MuayThai fighter Siobhan Foley

On Saturday March 19th I caught up with five Irish MuayThai fighters and asked them about their love for boxing. This is the first of the interviews from that show. 

Competing at 57 kgs, Irish MuayThai fighter Siobhan Foley has been training for five years but just starting her fight career. Like many women involved in martial arts, she had no intention of fighting at the beginning, it was all about the fitness.

"I never thought I’d do it," she says in the dressing area behind the fights. "My first fight was the best and the worst moment of my life.” Now with seven fights behind her, she is getting used to being in the ring. Siobhan started in the amateur circuit – they wear a helmet, shin-guards, a chest-guard and elbow-pads as well as using 16oz gloves.

Saturday’s fight was C-class professional which she much prefers. “I loved it, this style is much better.” Of course professional in Ireland doesn’t mean the same as in Thailand where fighters don’t have any other income. Here it’s just about wearing protection or not, and how long the rounds are.
Siobhan Foley (kicking) vs Sophie Gallagher, Scotland

Siobhan works a regular 9-to5 with Bord Gais and heads to training in the evening. Before this fight, she added in daily 7am runs to the routine. It’s normal in MuayThai to fight at a lower weight than you “walk around at” so for Siobhan this means dropping from 62kgs to 57kgs – running, running and running.

She says: “I feel lighter of course at 57. It’s better so I can fight better too.”

There are more women taking part these days but that’s still a relative number. Siobhan says it can be very hard to get a fight – fighters need to have a similar record and weigh the same – and even harder to get one just at the right time for yourself. She fought a heavier girl (about 7 kgs) once but says never again: “I could feel it the next morning, my legs were so sore because she was kicking that much harder.”

So her next fight isn’t sure yet, but with shows taking place every month around the country, she’s hopeful the wait won’t be too long.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What is this sports advert about?

Irish boxer and three times amateur world champion Katie Taylor has been busy making an advert with Lucozade Sport. It will air on the 12th of April during the Champions League quarter-finals. Great exposure for Taylor and women's boxing. 
Scene one from Taylor's ad
I'm not sure what the actual advert entails but have been told that it also involves two "well-known artists from the UK and US music scene". Curiouser and curiouser as Alice would say.

Scene two Taylor's ad
I used another shot yesterday here. Any thoughts on what they are actually doing here?!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Katie Taylor

Boxer Katie Taylor behind-the-scenes new ad with Lucozade
Wordless Wednesday is a group of bloggers who give words a rest once a week.

PS - more sneak photos tomorrow thanks to Lucozade for sharing!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

England win Six Nations Rugby

England win Grand Slam
A belated post this one; the English women's team won out the Grand Slam in the RBS Six Nations at the weekend. If you're a fan of the male game, you might be a bit confused by the post title as they were pipped at the post by Ireland (beam!) on Saturday.
Unfortunately the English women's team smashed the girls in green 31-0 on their way to victory. Maybe next year! 
As a funny side-note, the English boys were so confident of victory their sponsor Nike prepared a film and they also ran up hundreds of celebratory T-shirts. Never count your chickens before they come home in sport, especially at this elite level is all I can say to that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Irish female MuayThai fighters

Siobhan Foley, Denise O Connell, Nicole Ahern
I went along to an international MuayThai fightnight in Ireland on Saturday. It was great to see quite a few women's fights. The three fighters above are all from the home gym in Cork, while their opponenets were Scottish (2) and Irish.

Talking to them after the fights, it was inspiring to see how dedicated they all are to training, and fighting. It can be hard sometimes to convince women to try contact sports. So watching other women competing and seeing how much they love it is far more effective than just talking about it. From what I saw on Saturday there are more beginners around in the women's division now than I've ever seen in Ireland, so someone is doing something right.

Over the next few weeks, I'll run interviews with these women and a few other people I talked to at the show. I know I bang on about this all the time, but it's really great to see organisations like the Irish MuayThai Council really pushing for women to get involved, such a huge change from years back. ( Old, me? not at all!)

What do you think your sport could do to get more women competing?

Friday, March 18, 2011

African International Sports Convention

Caster Semenya pic
This annual sports convention opened yesterday in Marrakech, Morroco with women's boxing one of the central discussion topics. Sports adminstrators from around the world gather here to look at how sport can be developed in some of the world's poorest countries, and indeed how sport can help alleviate the daily grind of poverty.
Lofty ambitions; one of today's talks is on 'The Africa Union’s new direction for sport; What does it mean to sport development and governance in Africa?' but tomorrow's schedule is dedicated to the practicalites of life for new talent  - how to help people, guide them and help them access the best trainers. This along with Sri Lanka's bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games are likely to be the highlights.
It all sounds very impressive, but unfortunately there doesn't seem to any links back to the results of previous conference decisions. 
How effective do you think these conferences are? 


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St Patrick's Day!

pic psyckedlife

Time to get out the green and gold for that big celebration of Irishness.
And even though a few cities like Shanghai and Moscow are cancelling their celebrations, Irish towns will still be all-green for the day.
And tomorrow evening the Irish women's rugby team take on England right here in Dublin ....well, sort of in Dublin, just a little way outside. Here's hoping they do well! Oh, and the boys too later on.
Sending you all some luck of the Irish.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: deer in Phoenix park

Early morning run with deer, Dublin

Wordless Wednesday is a group of bloggers who give words a rest once a week. 


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Accounts of Japan's earthquake (link)

As it looks more and more likely that some level of radiation is seeping from the reactors at the nuclear plant in Fukushim, Japan I thought the post below from Women Talk Sports gives a good insight into the fear people are feeling. It's sometimes hard when something this huge happens to remember that it happens to individual people not just "the population of ..."

MMA fighters give firsthand accounts on Japan's earthquake. 

Women's Soccer League kicks off in UK

When I interviewed Irish soccer player Emma Byrne just before Christmas she was excited about the new women's league planned for the UK in 2011. Byrne is the Arsenal keeper so will be looking to hold onto that team's winning reputation. The first game in the FA WSL is set now for April 14th with the final in September. 

England soccer team pic Joe Plimmer

Teams are:
Arsenal Ladies FC
Birmingham City Ladies FC
Bristol Academy Women’s FC
Chelsea Ladies FC
Doncaster Rovers Belles Ladies FC
Everton Ladies FC
Lincoln Ladies FC
Liverpool Ladies FC

The games are being broadcast on ESPN in the UK which will hopefully give the players a higher profile outside the immediate circle of fans. With standards improving every year, there's no reason why people wouldn't want to follow both the male and female teams of their favourite club.... or is there? 

Do you think this competition has a chance of increasing the sport's profile?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Talking about talking about running

I haven't posted here about sports books for ages, mainly because I've been swamped with other things and just didn't have time for fun reading. (Big aww from everyone please!) But at the weekend I found "What I talk about when I talk about running" by Japanese author Haruki Murakami hidden at the back of a shelf. I love this book, it's uplifting, inspiring and all-round the best mediation on why we run I've ever read. So instead of wittering on with the adjectives:

As long as I can run a certain distance, that’s all I care about. Sometimes I run fast when I feel like it, but if I increase the pace, I shorten the time I run, the point being to let the exhilaration I feel at the end of each run carry over to the next day. This is the same kind of tack I find necessary when writing a novel.

I love the way he links in writing and running all the way through the book - I couldn't express it as well of course but it's how I feel too.

For me running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I put in the effort day after day; to raise my own level. I’m no great runner by any means … but that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday.

Right, obviously journalism or novel-writing in Murakami's case is competitive against other people in one sense but for me the person with the record to beat is sitting right here at this computer!

Once I interviewed the Olympic runner Toshihiko Seko, just after he retired from running…I asked him, “Does a runner at your level ever feel like you’d rather not run today, like you don’t want to run and would rather just sleep in?” He stared at me, and then in a voice that made it abundantly clear how stupid he thought the question was, replied, “Of course! All the time.”

And that is what I'm going to remember when I'm beating myself up (mentally that is) for not being 100% fit yet. How do you link in sport with the rest of your life?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Can sport overcome political problems?

Palestinian soccer team pic Reuters
Reading about the men's soccer game between Palestine and Thailand this week, reminded me of all the coverage the women's team got a few months back when the first ever female soccer league was launched there in February. 
It's been less than two years since the Palestinian women played their first home international game - against Jordan in October 2009. In so many ways sport is so superficial, but when it comes to recognition for national teams - and so recognition for nation-states, then FIFA plays a bigger role than most. The stadium itself was mainly built thanks to money donated by FIFA. 
Watching the Palestinian women's league
Bizarrely the women owe the existence of their team to former head of the Preventive Security team in the West Bank. Once one of the most feared men in the area, Jibril Rajoub has been on a mission to promote women and women in sport since he took charge of the football federation in 2008. He is also a firm believer in the power of sport to overcome political barriers. I've read a few interviews with Rajoub and Shimon Peres, the Israeli president where both of them say football can rise above racism and political problems. 

Maybe one day ...What do you think, how powerful is our love of sport?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Snow-time in Switzerland

Just when we thought winter was over in Ireland, temperatures dropped again this week. And the snow continues to fall elsewhere too, bit of a blessing if you snowboard and take a deep breath if you don't. Have you seen Chalet Girl yet? Not sure if I will fit it in as I'm pretty sure the story-line is maybe, umm, a little predictable! 

If you do go to see it, leave a comment here and let us know if it's realistic! 

In the meantime, enjoy this film from Mpora with some real-life snow-girls shot earlier this year at Saas-Fee, Switzerland. (Important -  no comment on the lifestyle of these women implied)

More Snowboarding Videos

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day

It's women's day here every day but in honour of the occasion here's some of the photographs you liked the best:

Stephanie Gilmore, Australia - ripcurl pic

Hurling pic Lorraine O Sullivan
Anne-Flore Marx Swiss pic matt george

Nikki Kelly NZ pic
Caley Lewis Australia pic riddlers' gym
Mary Kom India pic IABA
Are you doing anything special this week for Women's Day, March 8th 2011?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Interview on women in MuayThai for Action81

International Women's Day kicked off early over at sports-blog Action81. They talked to me about MuayThai in Thailand and Ireland, as well as the rising numbers of women taking part in the sport.

You can read the full interview here at: Former MuayThai champion Niamh Griffin talks to Action81

Being a good loser

Derval O Rourke on right Getty Images
The European Indoor athletic championships took place this weekend in Paris. Irish runner Derval O Rourke was just pipped, coming in 4th in the 60m final. Running a personal best for the season, she couldn't catch the winners who all ran personal bests on the day. 

I've posted before on O' Rourke here, mainly because I admire her attitude. We have a tendency in this country - maybe in yours too? -  to always look for an excuse when we lose. O' Rourke does mention her injuries but always takes it on the chin. She posted up her blog: "I represented myself well and am holding my head high. I know with some non interrupted training in that I am capable of going very very fast indoors. hopefully that day will come."

There are always reasons for a loss in sports - injury, illness, interupted training, family life - but it seems better to me to just accept it and move on. Maybe it's the media drive to interview athletes at their most vulnerable in the seconds after a loss but surely we don't expect to win every time? Sometimes we are just not good enough and need to take that on board so we can improve for the next time.

Personally I hated losing, in boxing it's a public beating really, and always just wanted to crawl away and lick my wounds. Not matter what excuses you come up with, the result stands.

What do you think when you hear athletes or managers giving complex excuses for losing?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sports Blog Karma for running and skiing

It's that time of month again. No, not that one - time to give a shout-out to some of the sports-blogs I've been reading over the last few weeks.

Fast at Forty
Written by an American runner, the blog chronicles her training adventures and very successful running career. The last post I saw had her gearing up with a plan for the Olympic marathon trials.

The Ski Diva
A woman after my own heart, this blogger started an forum for women skiers when she noticed how few there were. Showing how things have changed, her blog is now one of the most popular ski forums on the Net. Oh, and she's written as few books as well.

Sports Media and Society
A big name for a blog, but it lives up to its promise. Written by lecturers and students at Penn State University, it's easy to spend a while* reading though posts on coverage of women's sport and women in the media. They do also cover that other gender too.

Have you come across any new blogs lately? 


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring cleaning

Time for a fresh, new look to the blog. I did try some other themes but went back to this basic one in the end. Let me know what you think, hope it's still easy to navigate and find information.

Do you use the "Linked Within" feature? I'm not so sure I want to keep it on but if it's useful, let me know...

Boxer Katie Taylor will lead Dublins St Patrick's Parade

There's a post title I  never thought I'd see. Amateur boxer Katie Taylor will lead out this year's St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin. And I should mention she also plays soccer for Ireland.

The three-times World Champion - see here -  will lead one of the biggest green-fests down the streets of Dublin.It's very exciting for her, and great recognition of what she has achieved.

This interview was taken a year ago, gives you a good idea of the dedication and effort she puts in.

Winning Women: Boxing for Gold - Katie Taylor from Athena Media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: snowball fight

Goodbye winter!
Wordless Wednesday is a group of  bloggers who give words a break once a week.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jen Hilton on all-male American football team

Coventry Jets
There is an on-going debate between fans of American football and rugby as to which sport is better. We'll leave that to someone else to decide but one thing everyone agrees on is that both sets of athletes are tough, tough and well, tough.

So when I read that English woman Jen Hilton is preparing to tog out with an all-male team, against all-male teams I was gob-smacked. 

Not disapproving - far from it - but genuinely stunned that she is that strong. And we hope, fast.

The Mirror newspaper carried a story yesterday saying: "Jen will be the first - and only - woman to play with and against men in the national league and, as one of the Jets' running backs, she'll be guaranteed contact with burly blokes on the field." 

Wearing special gear including chest pads, she will line out for her first competitive match in April with the Coventry Jets. The town already hosts two flag football teams so maybe an all-women American football team is next?
Coventry Jets

Coventry Jets on Twitter