Sonia O’Sullivan waves to the crowd after her silver-medal run in the 5,000 metres final at the Sydney Olympics on September 25th, 1990. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Inpho

Thinking back now, I sometimes do wonder if I had been more focused on winning the race

Sonia O’Sullivan and Annalise Murphy caught up on a cycle in Wicklow.

With my bike on the back seat I set off on the Wild Atlantic Way in search of new adventure

A dejected Sonia O’Sullivan after failing to qualify for the 5,000m final in the World Athletics Championships in Athens in 1997. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Inpho

Failing to qualify for the 5,000m final in Athens in 1997, I had to stop and take stock

 Yuliya Stepanova helped lift the lid on the extent of the doping problem within Russian sport. Photograph: Getty Images

Vitaly and Yuliya Stepanov lifted the lid on the systematic doping operation in Russia

Ciara Mageean became the first Irish woman in history to break the two-minute barrier for the 800m with her victorious run in Bern, Switzerland.

There’s a curious psychology involved when breaking long-standing sporting barriers

Frank O’Mara self-portrait on the eve of his 60th birthday

Former World champion using discipline of his athletic training in battle with Parkinson’s disease

Sonia O’Sullivan after her fourth place finish in the 3,000m at the 1993 World Championships. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

An old read has provided a step back in time during lockdown as Nike still lead the way

  We are still living in hope and dreaming. Dreaming that the Tokyo Olympics will still take place just over a year from now.  Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

Netflix is entertaining, but there is something about sport that gets under your skin

Norway’s Filip Ingebrigtsen will be competing  along with his brothers Henrik and Jakob during Oslo’s Impossible Games. Photograph:  Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

Thinking outside the box key in bringing competitive action back for athletes and fans

 New Zealand middle-distance runner Angie Petty training in isolation on a treadmill in her garage  in Christchurch. Photograph: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Athletes are in a holding pattern, but there are ways to get the adrenaline rush of racing

Roger Bannister about to cross the line  and run the first sub-four minute  at Iffley Road in  Oxford in May 1954. Photograph: Norman Potter/Central Press/Getty Images

With so many variables it’s difficult to find that same sub-four moment for women

 People exercise at Albert Park Lake in Melbourne recently. Photograph:  Michael Dodge/EPA

We can all slow down and be more observant of others out getting their daily exercise

Marcus O’Sullivan running indoors in 1989. Photograph:   Tim de Frisco/Allsport

Sonia O’Sullivan on a night at the Millrose Games that helped her chase her dreams

Genevieve Gregson and Sarah Billings set the pace with Sinead Diver just behind during The Tan record attempt in Melbourne. Photograph: Riley Wolff

Sinead Diver among group that attempted to break the record for the famous lap

Running can be a socially distant pursuit even in normal times. Photo: Christoph Schmidt/dpa/AFP via Getty Images

Going for a run can be a socially distant way to exercise even under normal circumstances

A woman wearing a face mask walks in front an Olympics poster in Tokyo. Japan and Olympic organisers are at pains to insist the summer Games are on, despite the coronavirus outbreak. Photograph: Philip Fong/AFP via Getty

Too soon to tell if Tokyo will go ahead, but athletes are now in an impossible situation

Empty toilet paper shelves in  a shopping centre in Sydney, Australia, as the public indulge in panic buying due to fears over the spread of coronavirus. Photograph: Paul Braven/EPA

Public could learn from elite athletes how to adapt, change and then continue as normal

Annalise Murphy, right,  won Olympic silver in Rio four years ago. She’s going for it again but she is up against stiff competition from Aisling Keller, Aoife Hopkins and Eve McMahon.

Former silver medalist Murphy and three others competing for sole Irish Radial berth

 Leona Maguire: finished in a tie for fourth place and earned €48,000 at the   ISPS Handa Victoria Open at 13h Beach Golf Club  in Geelong, Australia. It was just her second start on the LPGA Tour. Photograph:  Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Both Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow flew the flag for Ireland with distinction

Athletes competing at the  Parkdale Gift running festival in Melbourne. It’s not always the fastest athlete that wins  but the athlete who masters their starting mark in relation to the rest of the field on a given day. Photograph: Jamesons Photography

Gift Running still a popular and vibrant branch of athletics in Australia

Downtown Melbourne: winds have spread thick smoke from fires in New South Wales across the state, causing hazardous air quality in the city.  Photograph: EPA/David Crosling

It's finally dawning on people, it'll take a long time to reverse damage that's been done

Firefighters manage a controlled burn to help contain a larger fire near Falls Creek, Australia.  Photograph: Rick Rycroft/AP

Hurried exodus of athletes from the village left an eerie feeling in popular mountain resort

Sonia O’Sullivan at the RTÉ Sport’s Awards this year where she won the Sport Hall of Fame award. Photograph:   Donall Farmer

The awards allow you to connect and learn from athletes across a wide range of sports

Fionnuala McCormack: national women’s champions will be part of a strong Ireland team in Lisbon on Sunday in the European Cross-Country Championships. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

This is an ideal opportunity to build on the past and deliver fresh success on Irish soil

Sonia O’Sullivan’s  Irish Olympic portrait in 2004. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Inpho

Turning 50, I have finally reconciled with myself that I truly love to run

  Hannah Fields, Heather Kampf, Shelby Houlihan and Mary Cain compete in the Women’s 1,500 metre run final at the 2015 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Mary Cain’s stories of Nike Oregon project reminded me of my life as a young athlete

This was Craig Williams’ 15th attempt at winning the Melbourne Cup, and he bravely fought to hold that inside line along the rail on Vow and Declare.  Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

After 24 years on my doorstep, I sampled my first taste of the Race that stops a Nation

 Ireland’s Johnny Sexton dejected after their defeat to the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter-finals. Before the match there was hope the team could once again reach unpredictable heights.  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Even in the good times when you achieve success, emptiness can creep in afterwards

 Eliud Kipchoge (in white)  became the first man to run a marathon in under two hours  and made it look easy in Vienna as he finally dipped under two hours finishing in 1:59:40 seconds. Photograph: Christian Bruna/EPA

Two Kenyans have carved out their own piece of history and shown what is possible

Netherlands’ 10,000m champion Sifan Hassan  crosses the finish line ahead of USA’s Nikki Hiltz  and Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo in the Women’s 1500m heats  at the  World Championships in  Doha. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty

Outstanding Hassan, like Farah, is a product of the coach’s Nike Oregon Project

A giant air conditioning system will cool the Khalifa International Stadium during  the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. Photograph: AP Photo/Martin Meissner

Athletes will be trying to peak going into early October, and will then shut down

Japan’s Honami Maeda crosses the  line to win the women’s race of the Marathon Grand Championship in Tokyo on September 15th. Photograph: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

Ability to believe in yourself and your preparation is key to delivering performance

World’s fastest 100m sprinter Christian Coleman may miss the upcoming World Championships in Doha and the Tokyo Olympics next year due to three missed tests. Photograph: Getty Images

Christian Coleman missing three tests in 12-month period seems careless

Katie Kirk:  was Irish 800 metres champion in 2014, only to find herself struggling with an eating disorder in the five years since. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Controlled weight management is necessary to achieve success in the field

Sun Yang: last year was visited by drug testers in his home but  he reportedly smashed his blood vials with a hammer, thereby refusing the test.  Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Shoe suddenly on the other foot for Australia due to 20-year-old’s positive drugs test

Sonia O’Sullivan in Budapest in 1998. ‘When I was competing I never got to appreciate much beyond the airport, the hotel and the stadium.’ Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Inpho

A trip to Italy for Lignano meeting reminded me how different flying around is for athletes

Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands  winning  the   Prefontaine Classic at Stanford, California. Photograph: EPA/John G Mabanglo

New Nike running shoes have a carbon-fibre plate that helps to propel the runner forward

There’s no better way of raising funds than by doing something healthy such as running. Photograph: Getty Images

People come together to raise much-needed funds and awareness around an issue

 Barbara Bonansea scores Italy’s winner against Australia in the World Cup Group C clash  at Stade du Hainaut on  in Valenciennes, France. Photograph:  Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Win or bust clash against Brazil in the World Cup the major topic in Australian sport

 Katie Taylor trades blows with Delfine Persoon last weekend. Photograph: Tom Hogan/Inpho

The debate may still rage about Saturday’s verdict, but at least it has got people talking

 Alysia Montaño    at the US Track & Field Championships  in Sacramento, California in 2017.  Montaño complained about the treatment of female athletes by certain shoe companies whenever the athlete decides to take time out to have a baby. Photograph: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Taking time out to have a baby is athlete’s decision – not the responsibility of shoe firm

Like most things when an idea enters my head it’s hard to let it go, and I was wondering if I could maybe join the yoga class when got then I got the message:  “See you just after 12, unless maybe you want to come to yoga?” Photograph: Getty Images

There comes a time to reconnect with the more gentle forms of activity like yoga

 Caster Semenya of South Africa on her way to winning the women’s 800m race during the Weltklasse IAAF Diamond League international athletics meeting in Zurich last August. Photograph: Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA

You have to ask why not just draw a line through all female events while the iron is hot

It was the perfect cycling break, as hard as you wanted to make it. And everyone was there to work hard and enjoy the effort in the beautiful scenic surroundings

The greatest fun is on the bike, the distance, the elevation, the pace and all the challenges

Sonia O’Sullivan taking part in The Daily Mile with children from Milford National School in Castletroy, Co Limerick.

Simple 15 minute run of huge benefit to the health, fitness and wellbeing of our children

 Sonia O’Sullivan crosses the finish line to win the senior women’s 8,000m race in the World Cross-Country Championships in Marrakech, Morocco in 1998. Photograph: Jalil Bounhar/AP

Saturday’s event in Aarhus will once again be a real test of the true character of an athlete

Helalia Johannes: the  former Dublin Marathon winner  from Namibia was first across the line in Nagoya in a time of 2:22:25. Photograph:  Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Popular Nagoya women’s marathon one of the biggest of its kind in the world

Thomas Barr: ranked as the top male Irish athlete in the new rankings system. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

But the IAAF’s new system will hopefully clarify exactly where every athlete stands

Phil Healy in action at the National Senior Indoor Championships. So far this season Healy, Ciara Mageean and Mark English have shown consistency, building positive momentum each time they race. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Irish team includes a number of athletes who will have a chance to get amongst the medals

 A fan stands near a fan to keep cool ahead of a match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Recent torrid weeks in Melbourne ensure correct planning and preparation is vital

 Sinead Diver: Mayo-born woman came late to athletics but has prospered and is now bound for the Olympics, competing for Australia. Photograph:  Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Running is a very narrow path to commit to in early life and it carries inherent risks

 Andy Murray reacts during a press conference following his first round loss to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut at the Australian Open. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

Great champion knows his body is no longer capable of delivering what it once did

Sean Tobin: the Irish athlete is taking part this year in the annual Falls Creek altitude training camp, set in the mountains about a five-hour drive northeast of Melbourne.  Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

The new year is a good time to review all habits in the search for a crucial extra edge

 Women’s world boxing champion Kellie Harrington:  So many different paths have been taken by each of the monthly award winners. Photograph:  Tom Honan.

From Kellie Harrington to the hockey team a taste of success and reward can be the driving force

Sophie O’Sullivan, right,  and Stephanie Cotter in action during the junior women’s 1500m at the Cork City Sports. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

European Cross Country Championships often produce the most unpredictable races

Young competitors taking part in the U-16 race at the  Irish Life Health National Senior Cross Country Championships at the  National Sports Campus, Dublin.  Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Every Irish athlete at this year's Cross Country in Tilburg should have a set goal in mind

Josh van der Flier stays hydrated during Ireland’s exhausting victory over the All Blacks at Aviva Stadium last Saturday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

New Swedish drink Maurten popular with athletes but you can also make your own drink

   Cora Staunton in action for Carnacon last month. Her new book is inspiring. Photograph:  Tommy Dickson/Inpho

There has never been a better time for girls and women to be inspired to take up sport

   Sonia O’Sullivan and Anna Geary warm up before the Croke Park Charity Challenge between Cork and Mayo   in support of Self Help Africa and Alan Kerins. Photograph: Damien Eagers

Once on the pitch, you immediately realise you are just one of 15 on a huge field of play

Sinéad Diver was victorious in the Melbourne marathon, running the second-fastest time by an Irish woman. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty

41-year-old knocks over six minutes off her personal best as she breaks course record

Sea water  seems to help a  horse’s legs  and any cuts they may have, again all very familiar to me. Sea water has always helped to heal  cuts  in less time

Some think superhorse Winx walks on water but she is just soothing her legs in the sea

Competitors in the 2017 Melbourne marathon on October 15th. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

What seems like something out of the ordinary can quickly become normal

Sinead Diver crossing the finishing line to win the Sunshine Coast half-marathon in Australia on August 19th, 2018. Photograph:   Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Mayo woman Sinead Diver chasing a 2:30 Melbourne marathon while living Down Under

The health and safety of an athlete must be paramount and competition officials, and the athlete’s  fellow competitors, should be cognisant of that fact. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Athletes, officials and spectators need to be made more aware of the IAAF protocols

The Ireland women’s hockey team celebrate with their silver medals following last weekend’s World Cup Final at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London. Photograph: Kate McShane/Getty Images

It’s much more satisfying to be rewarded for results than awarded for potential

Luke Mathews  and Jordy Williamsz of Australia. Both men are following a hectic schedule as they try to plot a route to the top in the sport they love. Photograph: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

It’s a long, hard road to the top in athletics and only the most durable survive

 Ireland’s silver medal winners from the World U-20 Championships in Finland,  (l-r)  Rhasidat Adeleken, Sommer Lecky, Gina Akpe-Moses, Patience Jumbo-Gula, Ciara Neville  and Molly Scott. Photograph: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Our junior athletes have experienced success on the big stage and know more is attatinable

 Sophie O’Sullivan  celebrating her silver medal with  mother Sonia O’Sullivan after the medal ceremony for the 800m in Gyor, Hungary. Photograph:  Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images

Behind every successful athlete is a dedicated team that works quietly in the background

The Elliptigo is a lot of fun, one more activity to include in my week

The inclines are harder than running but coming downhill is a nice cruising rest

Every time Sarah Healy has stepped on the track this year she has impressed, her progression perfectly steady. Photograph: Inpho

Novice 1,500m runner is now putting a bit of pressure on Ciara Mageean

Johnny Sexton: fully focused on Ireland turning the tables on Australia in Melbourne this weekend. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Judging by Sexton’s demeanour, team not here for the koalas or the kangaroos

 Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony celebrating a win over Australia at the Aviva Stadium in November 2016. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Australia play France in the World Cup at the same time as the rugby

Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to help pass the time on board, and that starts by getting up and walking around

Light stretching, window seats and bringing your own food make for a better experience

Sonia O’Sullivan on a run in Cork. The growth and popularity of running is hard to miss wherever you go 

It’s time to raise the bar and expect more from our athletes

Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya celebrates after crossing the finish line to win the elite women’s race in the London Marathon. Photograph:   Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

London Marathon featured great performances - but it was not a truly great race

Australia’s Michael Shelley  passes a prone Callum Hawkins of Scotland as he collapses after being in the lead of the Men’s Marathon Final  at the XXI Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/EPA

Disturbing image from the Commonwealth Games Marathon remains in the mind

 South Africa’s Caster Semenya coasts to victory in the 1,500m  final at  the Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast, Australia. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Ruling on hyperandrogeism may change things for athletes like Caster Semenya

Athletes in action during the IAAF Men’s World Half Marathon Championships  in Valencia. Photograph: Miguel Angel Polo/EPA

Presentation by new Athletics Integrity Unit part of a memorable weekend in Valencia

 Sonia O’Sullivan: “These days a parkrun is a novel attraction when visiting an unfamiliar city. You’re never too far away from the Saturday morning 5km endorphin fix.” Photograph:  Julian Finney/Getty Images

‘It’s only taken me close to 13 years but each run has a different story, a different memory’

Sonia O’Sullivan crosses the finish line of the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek

Completing the 235km Peaks Challenge Falls Creek left me shattered but incredibly satisfied

I used to run alone for many years . . . Now there are more women than men out running the roads around Cobh, which has one of the largest growing clubs in Cork with close to 200 adult members. Photograph: Getty Images/iStock

Girl running in 1984 mini-marathon would never have envisaged growth that was to come

Ireland’s Keith Earls  against Wales   at  the Aviva Stadium in  Dublin. You would  expect there might just be some small report of the match in the Australian papers.  Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Even in a rugby country like Australia the Six Nations barely registers as a blip on the radar

By the time the race started it was close to 40 degrees and even hotter later in the afternoon. Photograph:  Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Peek behind the scenes shows the level of preparation required for top level sport

 Carla Suarez Navarro leaves the court at 1.40am after losing against Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open. Photograph: Mark Cristino/EPA

I’m not a morning person and all this late night Australian Open tennis doesn’t help

The Running Reaper symbolises the negative voice that stops you in your tracks, or slows you down.

Sometimes you have to take a few steps backwards to appreciate all you have

“Wherever I go it’s equally important to have a good coffee spot as well as a good training venue. They go hand in hand.”

Running, like golf, is a sport you can play forever no matter what level you are at

“I can deal with anything in the confines of the Falls Creek mountain village for our two-week stay.”

Annual ritual for 20 years as we leave the tree and decorations and head for the hills

Paul Robinson running the fastest mile on the Antarctic continent. Photograph: Antarctic Ice Marathon

From running in the Antartic to the Volvo Ocean Race, elite athletes like to go further

Stephen Roche: scaled the heights of the sport with his victory in the Tour de France.  Photograph: Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty

Just like in athletics, there was a time when Irish cyclists figured at the top of their sport

'The world of nutrition is constantly changing, especially with the arrival of the so-called 'superfoods' that we sometimes struggle to pronounce.' Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Food is primary fuel for training, recovery, and for making sure you stay as healthy as possible

John Treacy finishing  second  in the  marathon  at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Photograph: Tony Duffy/Getty Images

In Irish athletics alone throughout the 1980s we were laden down with constant success

 WBA  world lightweight champion Katie Taylor during her  homecoming press conference at the Irish Film Institute in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Katie has transformed herself from Rio to being greater than she has been before

Sonia O’Sullivan on her way to finishing second in the 1500m at the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Latest revelation of Chinese athletes doping confirms I was the best in the world in 1993

 Competitors start in the Half-Marathon during the 2017 Melbourne Marathon in Australia. Photograph:  Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Organisers of the Melbourne Marathon could have learned from famous east Cork race

Richmond Tigers celebrate with the the AFL Premiership Cup after winning the 2017 AFL Grand Final against the Adelaide Crows at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Photograph: Scott Barbour/AFL Media/Getty

Success of Irish rowers now reminds me of our athletes’ inspirational feats in the 80s

Mayo’s  Sarah Rowe  is challenged by Dublin’s  Lauren Magee and Martha Byrne. The speed, the skill, the passion of the game thrilled the 46,286 fans in Croke Park.  Photograph:  Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Dublin and Mayo produced a great occasion at Croke Park in front of a huge crowd

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifting the Sam Maguire. For all their apparent advantages, Dublin were just that bit craftier, using all their experience to hang on by their fingertips. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

There has always been the issue in sport of funding and the buying of success

The walk towards Bull Island in Clontarf. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The marker for me has always been running, because it affects so many decisions in my life

McGregor versus Mayweather  was a white elephant that somehow grabbed the attention of the public, even of those who claimed to have no interest.  Photograph:  Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Big difference between pure sport and the exploitation of sport and fans for money 

A dejected Ciara Mageean after she finished 13th in her heat at the World Championships in London. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

It makes no sense to accept something less than perfect when representing your country

More articles