11 Questions with Cross Country Champion Peter Mathews.

This article featured in the Irish Runner Magazine in 2010.

Q1:  What where your very early influences?

I suppose I was a late starter to athletics it would have been 1988-89 when I was working in the Superquinn in the bakery Dept all day long. I used to run from the ovens to the bread counter packing shelves then back to service counter to serve customers. Everything was done as fast as i could. One day i was told by the manager that i had to go out to the checkouts that involved sitting down all day. After a week i found i had a lot off pent up energy, I had to find a way of releasing this. I went for my first run that weekend in a pair of deck shoes, because I didn’t own any runners. I covered 2 miles and loved every bit of it. It was not long after this that the head coach of DSD club (Eddie McDonagh) spotted me out running and encouraged me to come down to train with the club and the rest is history.

Q2: What were your career highlights?

Winning 3 cross country championships, captaining the Irish team in the world cross country championships which were in Leopordstown that year, and wining a team bronze in the European cross country championships for Ireland. These were all great moments for me but winning my first senior national cross country title in Ballinlough in dreadful underfoot conditions was a special moment. But the hardest race of my entire career was the national cross country champs in ALSAA in 2002 where I narrowly beat Seamus Power in a tremendous battle which could have gone either way right to the end.

Q3: Have you had any bad Injuries?

For years I have struggled with recurring back problems. But in recent years i have incorporated core and strength work into my training regime and the improvement has been remarkable.  My back doesn’t really bother me anymore and I know what to do to keep my on the road.

Q4: Have you implemented any new methods to your training in the recent years?

Twenty years ago I knew nothing about weight/core training. I thought everyone that lifted weights was mad and I thought it would slow me down.  Now I think the total opposite. A good balanced program with some small amounts of strength work, core work and mobility work has served me well in recent years.

Q5: Business

My good friend and former colleague David Hare was setting up his own sports rehab and training facility in the city centre and expanding from his base in Ranelagh in South Dublin. Years ago I used to actually mentor David in proper technique and training. David and I always got on really well so when he approached me to come on board with his new venture I thought it would be a great opportunity and an exciting one also. We both work well together even though we are very different characters. We have an excellent little team here now with physios, trainers, and massage therapists, so there is always something interesting coming through the door.

Q6: What are the common injuries you see in Functional Training Ireland?

The most common injuries we see on a daily basis are knee, low back and shin pain “shin splints”. The main cause of this in runners is focusing on road running only and not considering cross training or including elements of strength training in their training programs. Simple things like squats, lunge patterns and balance exercises under instructions can help a runner immensely.

Q7: What do you think of running barefoot?

My gut reaction is that it’s a gimmick. There may be some merits in the message aka ankle mobility, proprioception etc (we actually get people to do some exercises barefoot in our gym). But to compare athletes who grew up wearing no shoes or runners from a young age to western athletes who did may in my opinion cause problems. Running is hard on the joints at the best of times so I’ll still be wearing my runners for some time to come.

Q8: Have you any advice for the recreational runner before a marathon?

I think you need to be running a year before you tackle the Marathon. It’s wise to get miles in the legs and build a good base and also tackle a few shorter races to familiarise yourself with the racing experience. If you’re running your first marathon this year the best advice I can give is pacing yourself. You should have a clear understanding on what time you need to run and don’t worry if your first 13miles is slightly above your set pace. You should feel like you could go faster for the first ten miles but fight that feeling. It’s easy to get caught up in the occasion.

Q10: Family life

It is difficult; it requires a lot of time management, support and cooperation from my wife Sinead and my children Luke, Amy and Jake. I plan most of my training around my work load. For example i run into and home from work and it helps that I work in a gym also. Thankfully my wife and family are proud and share in any success I have.

Q11: Have you any remaining ambitions in running?

My remaining ambitions are to keep competing at the highest level possible and possibly represent my country as Master.

I would like to be remembered as an athlete who always competing fairly with respect for my opponents and who always gave his all in an attempt to win for self for club and country.

Functional Training:

Functional Training Ireland’s emphasis is on training movement patterns and not individual muscle groups. Basically we apply a multidisciplinary approach to the client’s needs which we determine from assessment and observation of their movement patterns. If the client has any injuries we have chartered physiotherapists who are specialists in Sports Medicine who can assess and treat the injury and also liaise with the trainers to modify our client’s program if needs be. We also provide sports massage for recovery and general soft tissue release.

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