Friday 24 October 2014

Medical career offers refreshing perspective for clinical English

Donny Mahoney

Published 20/08/2014 | 02:30

Mark English is returning to his medical studies degree at UCD this autumn after bronze medal-winning run in the 800m at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Mark English is returning to his medical studies degree at UCD this autumn after bronze medal-winning run in the 800m at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Put yourself in Mark English's shoes for a minute.

You've just won Ireland's only medal at the European Athletics Championships. In fact, you're the only Irish person to ever medal in a major championships in the 800m.

You've got a legitimate chance of making the final in your race at Rio 2016, and as last Friday in Zurich proved, anything can happen in a final in championship running.

So what do you do in those two intervening years? Head off to some training camp in the Rocky Mountains and concentrate intensely on the Olympics?

Well, we spoke with English on Monday night and he seemed delighted to be returning to his medical studies degree at UCD this autumn.

"I love having something to distract me from all the training during the winter," English said. "You can't just be an athlete with nothing going on in your life."

It was a refreshing perspective to hear from one of our up-and-coming elite athletes.

There is a great tradition of doctor/runners, from Roger Bannister to Paul Hession, pursuing a medical education alongside a running career - and they remind us of our most noble vision of athletes.

There is still something about the idea of a person whose athletic prowess is merely a sideline for their other role in society: saving lives and making people healthy.

Mastery of even one of those pursuits - elite athletics or an education on the intricacies of the human body - proved beyond me, so it's incredible to think that losing oneself in Gray's Anatomy (the book, not the TV programme) could provide some sort of release from the solitude of the track.

English went into the European championships after an amicable split with his coach.

His relaxed, laconic opening lap in the 800m final hinted at a man comfortable with his strategy and approach.

Just when the race seemed to be going away from him, English began to reel in his competition. Clinical was one word to describe it.

Irish Independent

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