We chatted to Olympic finalist Thomas Barr about his race prep and medal hopes for 2018

After a disappointing 2017, Waterford’s Thomas Barr is feeling relaxed and looking forward to a more fruitful 2018. The 400M hurdler, who agonisingly finished 4th in the Olympic final in Rio, is fresh off a recent come-from-behind victory at the AIT International indoor event in Athlone and has his sights firmly set on the upcoming outdoor season. We caught up with the UL graduate and asked him if it was a relief to get a win under his belt.

“100%. I don’t like to focus too much on the indoor season anyway, but it was nice just to get a race in. We’re in the middle of winter training which is tough going at the moment so it’s nice to break it up with a couple of races. It’s just a nice gauge to see where I’m at for the year. I’m in good stead, I’m in good shape, and I look forward to getting another couple of weeks under my belt before the outdoor season begins,” he said.

With a Masters degree in Sports Performance, Barr knows the importance of mental preparation more than most. And like many athletes, in a variety of sports, he uses music to help him focus and block out distractions before a race. It’s become a vital part of his warm-up routine.

“Yeah, usually I’ll just stick on my headphones and let a couple of playlists play through. Or sometimes I’ll find a song that I really like and just listen to it over and over. It’s just something to get me going. I love something with a heavy beat or something that’s a little bit fast. Anything that gets my body going. Even just having headphones on and listening to something, it’s good for taking you out of the environment of everybody warming up and getting geared up for the race. It takes away that pressure and puts you in your own little world.”

(Photos by Marc O’Sullivan)

One event that will combine Barr’s love of athletics and music is the Affidea Rock n’Roll Dublin Half Marathon which takes place on August 12th next.  A unique feature of the race is that here will be live music acts dotted throughout the course to keep the runners motivated.

“It’s going to be a really good event. I wouldn’t call it fun for me because I’m a sprinter, and one lap is enough, but they’re going to have music at every mile to keep people going,” said Barr who typically completes his races in around 48 seconds.

“It sounds like there’s going to a real festival atmosphere. There’s going to be something for everybody. The 3K Family Fun Run, the 5K, the 10K and the half marathon. So, you can do it whether you’re going out there competitively or just for a bit of fun and to get active.”

Until then Barr is fully focused on his own upcoming season. He is now a full-time professional athlete, training under Hayley and Drew Harrison at UL, and has a refreshing confidence in his own ability. Having had to watch last year’s World Championships from a London hotel room where he was quarantined for gastroenteritis, he’s in no doubt as to what his preparations are leading towards this year.

“The big competition this year is the European Championships in Berlin. I’ll have a couple of Diamond Leagues and big competitions leading into that. So, that’s the big one in August. At the moment it’s just a matter of getting the hard training done, staying injury free and just being in the best shape I can. Once I get to the Europeans in good shape I should be challenging for a medal. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be challenging for a medal. There’s really good strength and depth in 400M hurdles in Europe at the moment, but I see myself challenging for a medal this year,” he said.

The Affidea Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon returns to Dublin on Sunday the 12th of August.  With four distances to choose from, music acts at each mile and a finish line concert it has become an annual summertime running tradition. To register for the event, go to www.runrocknroll.com/dublin/register/

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