Walking the line

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 2nd September, 2009 9:00am

Considering his success as both an athlete and coach, Michael Lane is surprisingly modest, despite being fresh from his triumph as Irish race walking team coach, and managing athlete Olive Loughnane who won a silver medal at the recent World Athletics championships in Berlin.

Michael's success is due to his dedication to his personal training which he learned as a teenager at Mullingar Harriers Athletic. A native of Mullingar, Michael now lives in Ballymore with his wife, Mary and their two children.

While the team and Olive joined with Irish supporters for a celebratory knees-up in Berlin following the silver medal triumph, two days later Michael was back on the roads training his team for the next competition, and by last week Michael was back doing his laps at Harriers and keeping up his personal fitness regime, despite having retired as a competitive athlete in 1993.

"I don't get as much training as I used to because of Oisin who is seven and Aishling who is just two and a half and obviously they take up a lot of my time.

"I still do train at Mullingar Harriers but it wouldn't be anything like the work that I would have done when I was competing. The athletes are having a rest at the minute, it's that part of the season but in about four weeks we will be back to full training."

A full training schedule for a race walker can be anything up to three sessions a day and more at the weekends. Michael is responsible for training athletes from juveniles to senior world and European competitors and is possibly best known for being the personal trainer of 2003 world championship silver medallist, Gillian O'Sullivan.

When Michael isn't performing his duties as a national coach he is at his "day job" at Athlone Community College where he has taught for 25 years and says that his disciplined approach to life and sport comes from the early training he was given at Mullingar Harriers.

"When you set a target you work hard towards achieving it and that discipline is learned. I learned it here at Harriers in my early teens. Having goals to work towards can help with all aspects of life. Men like Bobby Begley and Peter Costello, who was also a great competitor, instilled discipline and have helped to train so many young people.

"You can see the children training at the Harriers, they are full-on dedicated and the coaching that they get pushes them to be the best that they can and that is why I have been so successful.

"Athletes like Olive and Gillian take medals at world class levels because they are good athletes but also because they are extremely focused and extremely disciplined.

"When Olive took silver, well the feeling of seeing that happen is really indescribable. I knew that she could do it and that it could happen but when it did, it was really something.

"The race took place in and out through the Brandenburg gate and the crowds were going mad, the atmosphere was fantastic. That night we all went out. Olive's family were there and there was a whole crowd of Irish supporters and we had a good night on the tiles in Berlin. But in saying that two days later we were back on the roads training again. That's the sort of discipline it takes to compete at that level."

Michael's biggest achievement as a competitive athlete was when he raced at the 1990 European championships in Croatia's second city, Split.

"Remembering events like that I do sometimes miss competing. It's hard to tell someone who hasn't experienced it what it's like. It's the atmosphere of something like that and the crowds cheering and I suppose it's knowing that you are competing with the best, the top athletes.

"But what I don't miss are the 20km race. That is hard, it really stretches you to the limits."

After the short rest period Michael will be back to coaching the Irish team in preparation for next year's European championships for the senior Irish athletes and the World championships for juniors in Canada. There is also a World Team Cup which will take place in Canada next year.

Will Olive be going for gold at the European championships? "Yes," nods Michael with a smile.

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