Confessions of an Amateur Athlete

Bláitín Sheil confesses the day-to-day problems and habits athletes learn to live with.


The Hunger

Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Forget it. There are many more than three meals in a day. The hunger is real, and it can be aggressive. Your library time is measured by your regular “pick-me-up” breaks. Sometimes you try to be a good athlete, holding out another hour until you can get to your bag of almonds. And there’d better blooming well be a dinner waiting for you at home. I once cried when there was no fish pie left for dinner. I have never let myself get that hungry again.

The Pain and Exhaustion

The morning after that session, race or game, you lie in bed, afraid to move. Will my knees support me when I try to stand up? Will my abdominal muscles scream and shout as I try to roll over? Can I make it those 5 steps to the window without wincing? And the exhaustion. Rewind to the night before, just hours since your extreme effort. You are surrounded by lovely people, the craic is ninety, but you can’t hold a conversation – let alone engage in banter. You try to ask how their day was but really all you can think about is your head hitting the pillow, putting the feet up, and possibly a nice hot bath to relax those aches. Brain = malfunction.

The Procrastination

They say the most successful academics practice a sport in their spare time. The first man to run a sub 4-minute mile was a doctor. Sport is meant to help you focus, so in theory, you should be well able to spend a whole afternoon studying hard after your bout of endorphins from that morning. Therefore, if I want to succeed in life off the track, naturally, I must never ever miss a training session. Not even if I have a paper due in 12 hours, or have a whole module in a foreign language to learn in the space of two days. Sport is the perfect excuse for a study break.

The Lies you tell Others

No coach, I swear I don’t drink. Not at all. I would never go out after training, that would be silly. No, not even whiskey, even though I am Irish. Of course I don’t eat biscuits, what would that achieve? And what do you mean red meat, I’m afraid I don’t know what that is?

The Lies you tell Yourself

Dancing at a club all night counts as a session right? If I get a stitch dancing to “Timber” then it definitely counts. So technically, if I go out clubbing on a Saturday, then I can skip the tempo run on a Sunday. Sure, if I did both I would be over-training, and that would be pointless.

The Rituals

The strange ritual of wobbling your bum on a tennis ball for a solid 30 minutes is an integral part of your life. The tennis ball knows you better than anyone else.

In The End

And what do you get in the end? After all this, you have to come top 3 to make the podium, and in a race with over 100 people in it, why bother even trying? For the team! Thanks to team events, you can happily go home with a National Gold. It doesn’t matter that you were the 4th person on the team, or that you were miles behind the rest because if you hadn’t shown up on the day, nobody on the team would have won anything at all. Moreover, when your coach tells you that you just did the best session of your life, you start to dream again.

Bláithín Sheil

Bláithín Sheil is a final year Law and French student. After a year abroad in Strasbourg, she feels more French than Irish. Loves to run. She is the Deputy Comment Editor of Trinity News.