Keith McClure (KMcC) speaks to Paul Pollock (PP), Interview courtesy of Annadale Striders:
KMcC: First of all Paul, from all at Annadale Striders, hearty congratulations on gaining selection for the World Championships, it must have been great to come back to an email like that.
PP: It was 11p.m and I had been working all day. I was quite excited when I got it. Ah fantastic.
KMcC: From a personal point of view, I raced you a number of years ago but you come across to me as an ‘Alf Tupper’ sort of guy. You have never been afraid to put your reputation on the line. For example in 2009 you ran 35:02 in the Bangor 10km, in 2010 you ran 33 minutes odd in the Seeley 10k and finished 17th in the Irish Universities Cross Country. I was also there at Antrim watching you finish 2nd in the N.I Championships over 5000m. You are also a great clubman.
PP: Yeah, well we all have bad days and I have had a couple of them over the years and I just love racing. Racing is what it is all about I suppose. Yes it is quite nice to get involved for the team.
KMcC: Another observation is that, you know the way there are those that are 14,15,16 years old and absolute superstars, but it has certainly been a journey for yourself. For example in 2004 you went to the Commonwealth Youth Games and I remember Noel paced you for that.
PP: Yes that was a long time ago now. I had one or two good years at the very start and I got injured and other distractions for a couple of years. Now I have decided I want to give it another go.
KMcC: That is great! The Commonwealth Youth Games in Australia (2004) was fantastic and then in 2005 you got one over on Noel and Eddie King in the N.I. 1500m .
PP: Eh just about, it was a tight finish!
KMcC: Then a few lean years and then in 2008 your training all came to fruition. First place in the Bangor 10km and you had a great race in defeating Gareth Turnbull. Then another win in the Laganside 10km in a great time followed by competing in the European Cross Country Under 23 Championships.
PP: Yes, I was in great shape as I had a good 6 months but I got injured again and it just knocked me out. The last year I was over in England and I was going great up until Christmas time and I got injured and that was me out for six months so that was really annoying.
KMcC: Different injuries each time?
PP: Different injuries every time though I have been injury free for about one year and I have been getting physio every 2/3 weeks from Paul McKee and he seems to be doing the job. After being injury free now for nearly a year, that is probably why I have run a few good races.
KMcC: You have obviously always had the talent but it’s all about getting the consistency together and putting the miles in.
PP: Exactly that is the thing. Hopefully I will stay okay and injury free for the next year or two and we will see what I can do.
KMcC: Obviously a few people have been very instrumental to you along the way. Bobby Rea, and didn’t Dermot Donnelly coach you for a while as well?
PP: He did yes, but it really didn’t work out between me and Dermot as it was a time in my life with injuries and I never got the consistency in training done.
KMcC: But Bobby would be one of the big influences in a way?
PP: He will be looking down there, saying my boy is doing well. I know he was very instrumental in dealing with the entire group of Abbey guys.
KMcC: How did Andrew Hobdell come about at the time?
PP: It was very lucky actually. I had planned to take a year out and go to America to attend a College but a few of the guys said no! Noel said, I know this guy called Andrew Hobdell and I had never heard of him before. He is in London, he has a group and they are quite good. Noel gave me his number and I phoned him up one day and he said to do a run with us and we will see how you get on.
KMcC: He recognized you had ba**S!
PP: Exactly! I was very lucky that he took a chance on me and at that stage I hadn’t raced in anything decent at all but then thankfully he said to come over and we will see what you can do. We have never really looked back since then ,and we have formed a good coach/athlete relationship and I would trust him a lot now. I think that is one of the key things you need in a coach.
KMcC: Absolutely. Is Andy Baddeley and Mark Draper in that group?
PP: Yes that is the group, so next year in August I will go over again and hopefully get to spend a year or two and see what we can do. Hopefully a build up to the Olympics would be the plan. We will see.
KMcC: Looking towards Moscow now will you be able to take time off work, how will that go?
PP: I don’t think I can, but I sent an email yesterday to see if I can but I don’t think so. I finish work on the 7th August and the race is on the 17th so it’s cutting it quite fine. I think I will just have to train as best as I can.
KMcC: As they say, it’s almost like a stepping stone because if you do look towards Rio you will have more time and will have more time on your hands towards that.
PP: Exactly, I’m just glad I have the opportunity now to experience what it is like and hopefully have a good run. If not a great run, hopefully a solid run.
KMcC: But certainly you are getting experience all the way. You have run in the World Cross Country as a Junior in the European Cross Country as an U23, you had a great race 26th wasn’t it?
PP: Yes 26th – two years ago. This was a good race but I was disappointed as at the time, we were all hoping for top 10. But we all, for what ever reason had bad races. Hopefully that will be my target for this winter, I always like to think I could make top 10.
KMcC: Yes, yes. What about the Dublin Marathon? To the layperson they may say ‘Oh my gosh Paul Pollock runs 2:16’ but to Paul Pollock how did 2:16 appear to you? Was that on the radar?
PP: For Dublin it was a case of going out and seeing what I could do and I knew I could run around 2:15. I was in shape for 2.15 but the way the race panned out it never really happened. I was very happy with 2:16 and for my first marathon it was a solid effort. It wasn’t mega fast and then in London I was in shape for at least 2:12 but ideally sub 2:10, but it didn’t happen on the day. I was a bit disappointed but another good experience and 2:17 is not that bad a time.
KMcC: You mentioned there the incredible time of 2:10, but first you have to eclipse the long-standing N.I record of 2:13:06. Of course you have to respect the distance but also you need to look at your own talents. Do you feel that it is within the radar to run 2:13 if it all goes to plan?
PP: Oh definitely, I don’t know how fast I can run but I hope that it is a whole lot faster than 2:13… that is the plan. Hopefully next year if I get picked for the Commonwealths I will have time for a good lead in. Now I have 11 weeks until the Worlds and realistically so soon after London I don’t think I will be in 100% shape but I’ll do as good as I can.
KMcC: Well when Paul Pollock says he will give it a good go, you can be sure of that there is not hanging about, there is no hiding! When you mentioned the crazy time of 2:10 only one athlete from Ireland has ever gone sub 2:10 and that was John Treacy and he had great 10,000m speed. How does doing any 10,000m races feature in your plans?
PP: Yes I still have to sit down with my coach though. I plan to do the European Cross Country and then after that I probably won’t do a marathon in the spring time but I will look towards a 10,000m in USA like Mt. Sac or Stanford. I will try and get my 10km time down to look respectable because at the minute it’s at 30:30 or so. Every Thursday I do a 30 minute tempo pace effort so I know there is definitely a lot more there.
KMcC: How do you manage to mix working long hours and be able to put in quality sessions?
PP: It’s quite tough and there is basically no social life outside of running. It just comes down to getting it done when you can, whether it is 11pm or 6.am, it just has to be done.
KMcC: Do you have company, obviously for your sessions you have company?
PP: Yes I would run with former Abbey guys Andrew Agnew and Simon Murray for the easy runs and with Joe McAllister for the sessions. Joe has been great over the winter and we have managed to meet up quite a bit.
KMcC: It’s important to have that reliability of having regular company just to take away the boredom and to help you through the work.
PP: It makes such a difference and next year in London I’ll be back in the group and they will pull me on that bit more.
KMcC: For London this year if you were to do it again would Paul Pollock just do the same again and just hope for the best?
PP: It was perfect pacing for the first 17/18 miles and then Scott Overall dropped out. I tried to pick it up to sustain the pace and by picking it up I stepped over the line and then just died and then the last six miles were pretty much about getting to the line as opposed to chasing times.
KMcC: At least you died respectively! For many people when they die in the marathon it can be a real case of belly up but you held on righty which gives you confidence too at the same time.
PP: Well I was doing 6 minute miles at one stage which is never a good sign in a marathon. But I know what you mean it could have been a lot worse.
KMcC: Are you getting any sponsorship?
PP: Nothing, not at all. Athletics Northern Ireland has been quite good and the Marathon Mission have been quite good in terms of support. No one else, ideally a New Balance deal would be perfect!
KMcC: Aren’t Andy Baddeley and Mark Draper with N.B?
PP: Yes, yes, so hopefully after the Worlds when I return over there I may chat to some people.
PP: But at the minute there is nothing coming in, not that I have heard.
KMcC: Did you have any role models when you were a younger athlete?
PP: No not really. Sport has always been a thing in my house and I was encouraged to try lots of different sports when younger. I always watched the Olympics and sport on the TV. Mum and Dad were very encouraging and said that it was important to have a sport and I had lessons in tennis, badminton, pretty much every sport going but in running no real role models.
KMcC: Not even Noel with his 3.44 and his 8.13 3km?
PP: Obviously that was something to aspire to and he keeps on saying he has the fastest 1500m p.b. in the family.
KMcC: And the fastest 800m as well, Noel was nippy 1.52 he ran for 800m
PP: Oh he is definitely faster than me there, but we will see… I might try and do an 800m.
KMcC: Oh my goodness that would be good to see. One final question and this may not have been put to you before. What about the gloves Paul? I have noticed many times over the years that you often wear gloves.
PP: I have poor circulation in my hands and if it is cold I always feel really cold in my hands. I can’t really run very comfortably, I don’t know if it is a mental thing. In London, although it was very bright, it was cold at the start but then it became warmer.
KMcC: That’s the thing with the sponsorship had you been sponsored you could have thrown the gloves away instead of thinking I need to keep these gloves!
PP: I know!
KMcC: I really appreciate you giving up your precious time to speak with me. I am actually going to Moscow with Paul Lawther, John McLaughlin, Ray Curran and a few others. No doubt we will see you out there and we will try and hook up with you out there.
PP: Ah happy days. I will be recruiting you guys for energy gels and water bottle duties.
KMcC: Ah no worries, take care of yourself and thank you for your time again, much appreciated.
PP: Cheers Keith, all the best.
Interview by Keith McClure for Annadale Striders website.