Hailing from Newcastle, Co. Down, Kerry has represented Ireland on the track, over the mountains and through muddy fields (aka Cross Country). She has also competed exceptionally well on the roads. After injury ruled out a serious attempt at the qualifying standard set for London 2012, talented Kerry has bounced back stronger than ever, with her sights now firmly set on representing her country at the upcoming European Cross Country Championships in Budapest (December 2012).
Full Name: Kerry Harty
Current Category: Senior Women
Associated Club: Newcastle AC (Northern Ireland) and Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow (GB)
Personal Bests: 800m – 2:09.22 (Grangemouth, England 2009), 1500m – 4:14.17 (Solihull, England 2009), 1 mile – 4:45 (Sunderland Elite Mile, England 2011), 3000m – 9:09.50 (Banska Bystrica, Slovakia 2009), 5000m – 15:58.67 (Manchester, England 2011), 3000m S/C – 9:56.73 (Mt SAC, Walnut, LA, USA 2012), 5 miles – 29:00 (Altamuskin, N. Ireland 2011), 10k – 34:19 (Seeley 10k, N. Ireland 2008), 10 miles – 59:57 (Armagh 10, N. Ireland 2008).
What is your favourite Northern Ireland Event? I love road racing and get a real buzz from it, so my favourite event has to be a road race and the one that stands out is the ‘Armagh International Road Races’. The atmosphere is fantastic and the support around the Mall is the best you could ever find at any event. Dermot Kerr and Armagh AC do a great job getting athletes from as far away as the US to compete and the race really is all about the athletes, we are really well looked after. I have won this event twice in the past and I would go as far to say that not many races around the world could top this event for me, it’s a big favourite of mine.
When did you start running? I started running when I entered a road race at the age of 13, in my local town of Newcastle (N. Ireland). It was an annual summer event and a good race. I ended up finishing ahead of the boys who were my age and was spotted by Marty McVeigh of the local club, he signed me up. I moved on to cross-country at school and also competed in the mountains as a junior. I also progressed onto the track through the Ulster Schools competitions.
I took around a five-year break from competitive athletics whilst studying at University but came back into the sport at the age of 23, competing in the World Mountain Running Championships in Italy in 2004 and New Zealand 2005. After that I went back to my first love of the track and road racing.
Why do you run? Firstly, I guess I found I had a talent for running and of course I really enjoy it too. I get to train and race in wonderful parts of the world and it keeps me fit and healthy.
The training can be tough and it’s hard to get motivated in the cold and wet winter months but the sense of achievement you get from winning races and setting personal bests makes it all worthwhile. There are times that you question why you put yourself through it all, especially when injuries arise, and I have had enough of those on which to write a whole novel, but it’s all worth it for even that one moment of glory on the track.
What is your next race and what would you like to achieve from it? At present I am out for my winter training block at high altitude (2,000metres) in the French Pyrenees at Font Romeu. I will be based here for nearly two months and will then travel down to Spain to compete in the IAAF Permit Cross-Country Race at Burgos (a couple of hours north of Madrid), in which I raced for the first time last year. It was ranked as the number one cross-country race in the world last year because of the depth of field from all over the world. I hope to have a strong race there after the altitude training block, to set myself up for the Irish trials for the European Cross-Country Championships in Budapest in December. It would be great to make the Irish team again having raced in the Championships in three of the past four years. The winter plan also includes a strong indoor season of over 3000m to set me up for the summer track season steeplechase races.
What is your favourite training session? At the moment my favourite training session would have to be one of my Tempo or Fartlek runs where the aim is to run just below threshold pace for a total of 20 to 30 minutes, typically split up into sets. The objective of this work is to improve my running economy – that is the best pace I can sustain without ‘going into the red zone’ and the body starting to produce rapidly increasing levels of lactic acid. This is the background that is really needed for a faster steeplechase next season.
What are your favourite pre-race and post-race meals? It all depends on what time of day the race is on. I always need at least four hours between eating my pre-race meal and competing or I would get terrible stitches and feel quite sick. Pre-race meals are usually breakfast time and I would have a bowl of cereal such as Special K, a bagel or some toast and then try to squeeze in a yoghurt and energy drink too. I struggle to eat sometimes and don’t feel hungry especially if a race is on in the evening and I need to eat both breakfast and lunch – breakfast goes down easily but lunch tends to be a struggle! Post-race meals are never a bother, I can eat for Ireland then and quite enjoy a good fillet steak but my favourite would probably have to be a roast lamb dinner.
What is your running ambition? I would like to make the steeplechase at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Missing out on a serious attempt on making London due to an achilles injury after running a PB at last season’s opener in the US was devastating. I also lost my Papa (grandfather) to cancer whilst I was out in the States chasing the Olympic ‘A’ Standard, so 2012 has not been great so far and I want to make him proud. Before that there are lots of other opportunities like the World Championships in Moscow next year and also the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014.
What other sports do you like? I used to be big into my football (soccer) and have my UEFA B Coaching Licence and previously worked as the IFA’s first female Development Officer. I also played a little bit in the Northern Ireland Women’s League. If I was to do it all over again and had a choice I would be a Biathlete, I just love cross-country skiing and enjoy following World & Olympic Champion France’s Martin Fourcade’s progress (who comes from the Font Romeu region) during the winter season.
International Honours? World Mountain Running Championships Italy 2004 & New Zealand 2005; European Mountain Running Championships in Poland 2004 & Austria 2005. Three times Irish European Cross-Country team; Brussels 2008, Portugal 2010 & Slovenia 2011. Two times Irish European Team Track & Field Championship; Slovakia 2009 & Budapest 2010.
What would you consider as your biggest achievement to date? On the international stage, probably finishing 2nd running for Ireland at the European Team Championships in Slovakia in 2009, where I set my 3000m PB of 9:09 – a time that indicates that I have the potential to achieve World & Olympic ‘A’ Standards at the Steeplechase.
Over the years you have competed on the track, on the roads and in the mountains! Do you have preference? It has to be the track – world class venues with world class athletes. Although, I also love the buzz on the roads – the Women’s 3k around the Mall in Armagh on a cold and dark February evening with the intimate atmosphere and a world class field is also hard to beat
Will you ever run a road marathon? I don’t think there is any chance of that! Tests on the treadmill over the years confirmed what I already believed myself. Lactic threshold is around 4mmol/l/kg and great long distance runners can run marathons with the blood lactic levels being sustained in a 3.5 to 5 range. In middle distance on the track towards the end of a 1500m race the lactic levels rise exponentially (the feeling of ‘treading water’).
On tests I have reached 20mmol/l/kg before exhaustion indicating that the potential is more at middle distance (natural long distance runners would struggle to tolerate 10). The 3000m seems to be a sweet spot for me, with the steeplechase combining the middle distance power and the endurance of a 5000m runner – so that’s where my focus is going to be.