John Treacy Interview

An evening with John Treacy

The Citywest Hotel in Dublin was the venue on Wednesday 31st March for An Evening with John Treacy. Organised by Irish Runner Magazine the event was to commemorate John’s World Cross Country victory 25 years ago in Limerick.

Brendan Hackett of the Irish Milers Club welcomed the audience and distinguished guests. Amongst the guests included former athletes, Tom O’Roirdan, Danny McDaid, Ann Keenan-Buckley, Dick Hooper, Paul Maloney and Steve Binns.

The audience were treated to T.V. footage of John Treacy’s 1978 and 1979 World Cross Country victories, which finely illustrated how well John was able to cope with the demanding conditions.

The editor of Irish Runner Frank Greally conducted an on stage interview and then a question and answer session followed with the audience.

To round of the evening presentations were made to Lars O’Bryre, Frank Greally and Tom O’Roirdan and to John himself.

The following are excerpts from the Frank Greally and the audience questions.

How were you introduced to running?

There wasn’t too much to do in Villierstown and so I started running. My interest was helped by the fact that my brother Ray also ran and he did the coaching. He would read books and then pass them on to me. By the time I was in my last year in Secondary school I would run the nine miles from school to home every day. My progression continued when I joined the Waterford athletic club.

What was the training like at Providence?

The training was excellent. There was a great coach there and there was a great bunch of lads. Mick O’Shea, Gerry Deegan Steve Binns, Charlie Breagy, my brother Ray, Brendan Quinn were all there. There was great team spirit and it was fun. We trained hard but it was made a lot easier by the fact that we all mixed in. The training was based on quality and it really was the track sessions that made it. One week due to a severe blizzard Gerry Deegan and I had to train indoors and still we managed 90 miles, you need to be dedicated!

Was what the preparation like before The World Cross Country in 1978?

The preparation was excellent and I was very confident. I had competed well in the NCAA beaten only by Henry Rono, a fantastic talent. I had thought about a top 6 placing but Neil Cusack said to me you will do better than that. I managed to hang in for part of the race with Antipov and Lismont and then I gave it a go with one kilometre to go.

What about the preparations for limerick in 1979 then?

I had a poor winter but then I managed to get myself into shape with a 2 mile win in 8.32 with the last mile run in 4.12 there was also a 7.50 for 3,000m and 13.35 for 5,000m, these were all indoor. On the morning of the race I woke up and said to Ray I’m going to win”, especially when it started to run! I only ever had this feeling twice in my career. There was no pain at all in the race, it was pure magic! Had there been another lap that would have been no problem I could have continued all day! With two laps to go I said to myself this is in the bag and then I fell! I then thought I’d better get a move on. There was great team spirit, a great bunch of lads. There was huge competition to get on to the team and that is the type of environment that is needed. The crowd were remarkable too. Danny McDaid at the age of 38 finished 11th , an absolutely phenomenal run. (He headed athletes the calibre of Virgin, Maminski, McLeod, Rose and Ford).

What type of runner do you see yourself?

I would like to have seen myself as more of a track runner than anything else but in the end I ran 10 marathons. I loved track running, trying to race against the clock. I loved to run in Brussels, Zurich, there was great friendship. I enjoyed running at Crystal Palace, I always got great support there. There was a very famous race with Steve Ovett there. He had just returned home from the Moscow Olympics and he decided to do the 5,000m. With a few laps to go McChesney (Bill) pushed the pace and then it was Steve and I away. With two laps remaining I felt great and we continued together. With 200m left Steve just took off as he did. He was waving down the home straight and all the time slowing down gradually. Meanwhile, I was coming through like a train and Ovett was wave, wave, wave. I continued through and just sneaked under his arm, to pip him on the line. I think he said “Oh F_ _ _ _”!

What happened at the Moscow Olympics of 1980?

Looking back I attempted the 10,000m too early in my career, shouldn’t have done it. I trained in Ireland and was in fantastic shape. When I got out to Moscow it was incredibly hot, 90 degrees, wheras it had been relatively cold in Ireland, and I wasn’t educated properly in hydration and heat effects. I was in the first heat, full of enthusiasm and I pushed the pace, it turned out that it was so much quicker than the other heat. With one lap to go I hit the curb, I was gone. I then managed to get myself sorted out and did the 5,000m heats, qualified, finished 7th in the final. It was a brilliant run.

Prior to the 1984 Olympics you made a big decision.

Well I was working and training hard in Ireland and to compete at a high level they don’t mix. After my disappointment at the 1983 World Championships I had to make a move. I knew that I had a gift and something had to be done if it was to be maximised. The house was sold and my wife Fionnuala and daughter Caoimhe returned to Rhode Island to prepare for the Olympics. I initially had in mind only the 10,000m but Dr. Herrera my physiologist continually told me that all the tests suggested that I was better suited towards the marathon. I ran a 13.16 for 5,000m in Oslo and knew that I was in great shape. I ran the 10,000m and was very disappointed as I trailed in at the back of the pack in 10th place The marathon was in five days time and the day after the 10,000m final Dr. Herrera and I drove over the course and I saw no problems with it. After the disappointment of the 10,000m I made up my mind that it was better to do it. I used to get very annoyed with myself and I jogged twice a day between the 10,000m final and the marathon. Once my mind was made up I was very determined, my mentality was a medal or nothing.

Winning Olympic silver on your marathon debut in what was the best ever fields assembled.

I had prepared very well for it and I had learned the lessons from Moscow. In Rhode Island it was 100 degrees at 5p.m so the heat was not going to be a problem. I did a lot of 25/26 milers and twice did a 29-mile! The good thing about those runs was that you were literally eating bananas going out the front door and then you would eat all day when you returned! I would have different partners at different stages, 10 mile with Richard O’Flynn and then join another group and so on. The first half of the race was very comfortable to about 15 mile. Then Carlos Lopez made a move, it felt as though I was sprinting beside him and so I made the decision to let him go. Charlie Spedding and I managed to get away from the rest of the pack and I knew that if we stuck together and didn’t do anything stupid I would get a medal. However, we got a severe shock one mile out when we both noticed a shadow appear right behind us. Charlie and I looked round in shock but were relieved to see that it was only the boom of the T.V. camera! I decided to make a move before we entered the coliseum as I wanted to savour the moment. However Charlie managed to close the gap and in the end I had to run the last lap in 67 seconds to move away again. I feel that I got as much out of myself as I could. I was tested a few days later for microscopic tears and apparently after a hard session you would have between 300 and 400, I had 3,500, I had run myself to a standstill! On finishing three to four minutes later I totally ceased up and one week later I went for a mile run and it took me half an hour! I was laughing at my situation, however you can laugh when you have an Olympic medal around your neck!

You won in 1989 and 1979 and then finished 18th at Longchamps what were your expectations beforehand?

I had expected to do well again but I had a bad winter and the race wasn’t really a priority (with the Olympics approaching). I realised early on that it wasn’t going to happen.

What about other memories?

I ran very well finishing 5th in the 1985 World Cross Country in amongst the Ethiopians and the Kenyans. My best year was in 1988 when I peaked but the time the Seoul Olympics came my timing was all wrong. Then in the 1989 Boston marathon at the 23 mile I was full of running and in 3rd place just behind the leaders and |I thought the race was won and then my hamstring went. The success, the big ones really came early, but I had a great career in athletics.

What training do you do now?

Now I run for around half an hour before work about four days per week. I play golf on Saturday and Sunday and I really enjoy it.

Last year a race in England welcomed the old timers, Nick Rose, Hugh Jones, Steve Jones, Steve Cram, are you ever tempted to compete?

No I’ll leave them to it, I’m really enjoying my running. The other day I came in with a film of sweat on my face from a morning run and it felt great, but that’s about it though.

Report courtesy of Keith McClure