Sunday 20 August 2017

Robinson emerging from 'vicious circle' with world record bid

In Athlone tomorrow, Robinson (pictured) will run the third leg on an Irish team that includes Eoin Everard, John Travers and Sean Tobin, which will attempt to break the four-by-one-mile mile indoor world record of 16:12.81. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
In Athlone tomorrow, Robinson (pictured) will run the third leg on an Irish team that includes Eoin Everard, John Travers and Sean Tobin, which will attempt to break the four-by-one-mile mile indoor world record of 16:12.81. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

Paul Robinson would like to pretend otherwise, but history has taught him a harsh truth.

"Elite sport is not healthy," he says. "But that's the nature of the beast. It's survival of the fittest."

He would know, for three years ago everyone was referring to him as an athlete of enviable class. The following year, they reached for a different word: crocked.

The 25-year-old would love to peddle the myth that sport at the top level is fair, but he knows that cliché that coaches cough up - about getting out of it what you put into it - is basically a steaming pile of excrement.

Rewind for a moment to the Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich, August 2014, where Robinson walked off the track after finishing fourth in the European 1500m final, denied a medal by 0.17 of a second. For all his talent, all his work, he was left with nothing. That's where his problems started.

"I was so determined to resurrect something from the season," he says. "All I could think of was the national record so I went nuts in training."

You'll know the gist of what happens next, but these are the details: a minor toe pain he'd been nursing all year morphed into something serious - chronic arthritis.

The chain reaction it set off caused problems in his groin, sciatica in his back, and for about six months a loss of power and sensation in his quadriceps.

In 2015 he bailed on his summer season, trying to rebuild his body from the ground up ahead of 2016. However, while on a winter training camp in Australia that year - where his coach Nic Bideau is based - Robinson's achilles tendon flared up and sidelined him for three months.

"That was the end of the Olympics," he says. "When you've been out so long you rush to get back. Your mind doesn't forget where you were, but your body does. It's a vicious circle."

Eventually, it was one he broke. After exercising extreme caution on his return, he clocked a 3:58 mile last summer, which equates to a 3:41 1500m. The time was nothing to shout about, but its importance couldn't be understated; it showed him he wasn't finished.

The toe problem hasn't gone away, but he's learned how to keep it in its box. He now does two workouts a week instead of three, making sure the majority of the 80 miles he runs each week are done on soft surfaces.

And now, at last, he can get back to the fun part: racing.

In Athlone tomorrow, Robinson (pictured) will run the third leg on an Irish team that includes Eoin Everard, John Travers and Sean Tobin, which will attempt to break the four-by-one-mile mile indoor world record of 16:12.81.

The event starts at 4.0, with the feature race at 4.45. With admission free, Robinson hopes plenty will come out to support, especially as he believes they have a strong chance of beating the current mark.

Even if they don't, however, there'll be scant trace of disappointment, not after what he's been through just to get back here.

"It's like I'm starting from scratch again," he says. "But as long as you're going forward, it doesn't matter how slow you go."

Irish Independent

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