Trinity’s Sorcha McAllister stays on track

The athlete discusses finding a balance in college and life as a sport scholar

Running has not always been Sorcha McAllister’s favourite pastime. Blessed with the misfortune of being born into a sporting family, she seems to have had no choice other than to enter the athletics fray herself. Now, however, due to a combination of time, commitment and an obvious level of natural skill, McAllister finds herself at the forefront of not only Trinity’s athletic scene, but also Ireland’s. A sports scholar with the world at her feet, McAllister’s journey is a refreshing testament to the good that can come from sticking with something, even if, in her own words, you are “really bad at it!”

When quizzed about her beginnings in the sport, McAllister draws specific reference to the part her surroundings played in finding her feet. “I got into athletics quite young, at about age 10. My neighbours all went down to the track on a Tuesday and Thursday, so I started to join them,” recounts McAllister. “I suppose I was lucky in the sense that my mam had some background in athletics. She ran in her teens and twenties, so as I got more into it she was a great help!” Ultimately however, despite this communal support system, it was not all plain sailing. “I should stress that I was really bad at running when I was a child. We are talking one-hundreds in national cross country and rarely making the national track championships.” It is somewhat amusing for somebody to describe themselves as being “bad at running” despite sometimes making a National track championship, but nonetheless it is clear that McAllister does not view herself as some kind of running savant. This attitude is imbued with a humility which has undoubtedly played a role in her success to date.

“Although training does take up quite a lot of time, the group of runners in DUHAC are amazing.”

After a few years in the sport, McAllister’s fortunes began to change. “At about age 16 I began to improve, and really started to love the sport.” It seems to be a classic case of trying something your parents did and not immediately taking to it. The difference with McAllister however, is that she stuck with it. Nowadays, what was once a dreaded chore, is an integral part of her being. “Now, I train six days a week, and sometimes twice a day if I have gym.” While to many this level of commitment would appear laborious, McAllister seems to be in her element. She notes in particular the enjoyment she derives from being a member of the Dublin University Harriers and Athletics Club (DUHAC). “Although training does take up quite a lot of time, the group of runners in DUHAC are amazing. Some of my best friends are in DUHAC which makes training a lot easier.” What is most interesting about this particular aspect of McAllister’s reflection on her athletics career, is that what appears to be an individual sport on the surface, is backed by such a valuable support system. Although you are running by yourself, you are doing so as part of a team.

Indeed, McAllister’s involvement in DUHAC has brought some of her greatest achievements in running. “A major highlight from varsity athletics is probably the team bronze we got in 2018 at the XC Varsity Championships in Santry.” This triumph was historically quite important. “We hosted these championships and it was the first team medal for the ladies in four years, which made it all really worth it.” This provided a springboard for the Harriers, and in particular McAllister, to go from strength to strength. “We built on this success last year and got a silver team medal in both Varsity Road Relays and XC Championships, which I was captain for.” Undoubtedly, McAllister’s proficiency and leadership played a key role in these particular victories.

“Sometimes balancing sports and college is difficult. Training does take quite a lot of time, but it just means I have to be quite organised.”

Despite all this, McAllister acknowledges that it is not all winning medals, and that finding enough hours in a day to fit everything in can be quite a challenge. However, she does not let this deter her from doing what she loves. “Sometimes balancing sports and college is difficult. Training does take quite a lot of time, but it just means I have to be quite organised.” Making the impossible seem easy, she nonchalantly notes that she just “plans her day to try and keep on top of everything!” For somebody who struggles to construct an adequate study plan, without any kind of legitimate sports commitment, I found this comment particularly impressive.

All in all, the world is McAllister’s oyster. The final year human genetics student plans to focus on her running rather than her degree for next year at least. “Euro cross is on in Ireland in December 2020 and I would really like to make the Irish U23 team. It would be a brilliant chance to represent Ireland on home soil. After that, I have no real goals at the moment but I suppose it depends on what area of work I go in to. It might be harder to juggle running and a career!” Regardless of what the future holds, McAllister has already achieved more than most and will surely only improve as time goes on.

Jonathon Boylan

Jonathon Boylan is a Deputy Sports editor of Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister Law student.