Interview: Marathon babe Byrne talks Olympics
JOE speaks to one to one of Ireland’s Olympic marathon runners, Linda Byrne, on overcoming illness to qualify for the London Games. Oh, and being an Olympic pin-up.
By Mark O’Toole
Over the next few months, as part of our Olympic coverage, we’re going to be meeting some of Ireland’s squad to get the skinny on them. First up, we talk to 25-year old Linda Byrne who qualified for the London 2012 marathon in front of her home crowd at the National Lottery Dublin Marathon in her first ever marathon back in October.
JOE: To qualify for the Olympics is great, but to do it front of your home crowd must have made it extra special Linda?
LB: Yeah definitely.
On the day I really didn’t know how it was going to go because it was my first ever marathon!
But I went into the race confident because I ran a thirty kilometre race the month before.
The attitude around the course the whole way was unbelievable and then at the finish line to have all the Irish supporters congratulating me was just great.
JOE: How did you know you made the Olympic A standard on the day? Did you know yourself or were you too consumed with the race?
LB: I knew the A standard was 2.37 so I set out to run under that.
I wasn’t looking at every mile because that would do your head in! I was looking to my five-kilometre and 10-kilometre times.
I went off pretty conservative because I had never run a marathon distance before so (I knew) the last few miles would be tough.
I was pretty comfortable until 23 miles and then it was a bit tough for the last three miles, but I managed to keep the pace up.
JOE: What was going through your mind when you finished?
LB: I knew I was on course for the time even with a mile to go.
Even as I was coming around the corner and in the last 100 metres I didn’t want to celebrate. In a marathon you never know how your legs are going to react so I didn’t want to celebrate until I was over the line.
Then when I did cross the line I couldn’t believe it because it was my dream.
JOE: A couple of months on, other people are qualifying - have you got to know any of them? Who’s the best craic?
LB: (Laughs), I don’t really know who the best craic is!
We haven’t met up that often to be honest; I’d mostly meet the others at races really.
I’d know Ava (Hutchinson) and Maria (McCambridge) pretty well, they’ve both qualified for the marathon now as well and I have competed against them over the last few years as I have been competing since I was 15.
I got on with them well when we’ve travelled to international events together.
JOE: Three girls in the one event and there’s no bitchiness whatsoever?
LB: (Laughs) No I think we all get along really.
I find the girls really nice. I think it will be great to have them in the build-up. Hopefully we will get a chance to train together a bit and when we get over to London we’ll get to be together and doing the same event we’ll be able to help each other.
JOE: Your story is even more amazing considering you had to overcome a lengthy stomach illness and you said that you lost confidence a bit when you were in the Juniors. Tell us a bit about that…
LB: Well I was always on the carding scheme when I was a junior and was provided with funding and then after that I was cut off it. So that didn’t help with my confidence.
On top of that I managed to get sick as well, but I met up with a nutritionist in DCU, Crionna Tobin, and she managed to build my bloods back up again.
Then I started running road races in 2010 and really started enjoying them and that started to help me fund myself a bit along the way.
That gave me a lot of confidence and I really started to believe that I could achieve the time for a marathon.
JOE: A lot of people said that you were too young for a marathon at this stage. Have you set any goals now that you have qualified?
LB: Well I’m definitely going to try do my best and see where it leads, but I definitely think I can run a personal best on the day because Dublin was a tough course and the weather conditions on the day weren’t great... So I’m capable of running a good personal best and you never know where that my lead on the day.
JOE: Finally you’re in the public eye now - every four years we get to know the Irish athletes. You’re 25, young and good-looking – there are a lot of Irish males that you’re going to grab the attention of. How are you going to cope with the attention of being an Olympic Irish babe?
LB: (Laughs) I don’t’ know about that now to be honest! But it is great to have the support and the Irish support has been unbelievable.
Even my neighbours, it’s great to see how much it means to them and my family and friends. I’m just really looking forward to it now.