Bubbly, articulate, confident and Limerick born-and-raised, Amy O’Donoghue specialises in 800m, 1500m + relay and is currently a full-time Irish athlete.
Her love of running is clear from the moment we start chatting and she speaks about her sport (and sports in general) the way that we often speak about coffee - with laser-focus and unabashed joy. An accomplished athlete already and still with plenty of years in her career, it would be easy to talk stats but our conversation with Amy happily headed down a path of mental health chatter and the importance of community.
In the last couple of years, and during post-injury recuperation, Amy began placing greater weight on the mental aspect of competing and the type of self-talk she allows into her head after a race. For every one negative thought that found its way into Amy’s internal monologue, she began replacing it with at least three positive ones and she’s found it’s made all the difference. “A sports psychologist I work with once said to me, ‘the easiest hard work is physical’ and that just stood out to me so much. As runners, we run every day - the physical comes more naturally. But you have to make it your purpose to work on the mental.”
“A sports psychologist I work with once said to me ‘The easiest hard work is physical.’ and that just stood out to me so much. As runners we run every day - the physical comes more naturally. But you have to make it your purpose to work on the mental.”
And now it’s a big part of her overall routine. She visualises her races beforehand, imagining all the different scenarios that might play out, good or bad, resulting in a mental preparedness that has helped her to find a bit of calm amid the intensity of race time. And while she’s clearly worked hard to get to where she is in her career, this kind of positive visualisation has given her space for vocalised gratitude, saying, “On the days where I feel less motivated, instead of thinking ‘ugh I have to go training’, I say to myself ‘no, I GET to go training’. There are others who would kill to be in my position. Sometimes we just have to take a minute and remember how lucky we are to even be able to go out and go running in the first place. That really puts everything into perspective for me.”
“On the days where I feel less motivated, instead of thinking ‘ugh, I have to go training’, I say to myself ‘no, I GET to go training’... That really puts everything into perspective for me.”
And that motivation is so key. But it’s not just a drive to win - though competitive DNA clearly runs through Amy’s veins - it’s more about loving what she does and having a tribe around her to keep her ticking over. She cites her parents as her heroes and says she’d be lost without her core crew of friends whom she describes as kind, caring, unique and always there for life’s ups as well as its downs.
Her love of running and the support she’s experienced has been a core driver in pursuing athletics professionally and to Amy, it’s part and parcel of making sure participation rates stay high as kids head towards adulthood. “You need to be playing sport that you really love, with coaches + friends that aren’t putting the pressure on. That way you’re far more likely to keep the motivation [to play] going at [age] 19, 29, 39…”
“You need to be playing sport that you really love…. That way you’re far more likely to keep the motivation [to play] going at [ages] 19, 29, 39…”
As campaigns like 20x20 gain momentum, the focus on participation comes further and further to the fore. Having athletes like Amy O’Donoghue who without question love what they do, is such powerful motivation for those of us needing a little extra push to get involved.