Irish race walking hero Robert Heffernan boasts an international career that spans 18 years. The 2013 50km world champion delves into his memory bank to share his words of wisdom.
1. No half measures
“I would say when you have time off as an athlete, relax and enjoy it. Yet when it comes to work time, make sure you work hard!
“At the end of every season I always take six weeks off. I try to stay a little bit active, but I enjoy the break from the sport. It is important. There is no use doing anything in half measures because you don’t then get the benefit of either the rest or the hard work.”
"Let me put on my sunglasses here so I can see what I'm doing"
2. Don’t take on too much
“After I won the world title [in 2013] I was adamant I wanted to pass on all of my knowledge and experience to the next generation of Irish athletes. I set up an race walking academy in my home city of Cork and started coaching four athletes. I was passionate about the project, but I only had a certain amount of energy to give and it ultimately led me to being injured.
“Training 180km a week and taking on the responsibilities of the academy was too much. I'm fortunate that Athletics Ireland are committed to re-starting the project after the Rio Olympics, which is something I can focus on after my athletics career has ended.”
Heffernan with wife Marian after he won the 2013 world title
3. Hard work is a global phenomenon
“I always used to think as a boy growing up in the Irish city of Cork that the person living over the other side of the river was different. Yet I've been fortunate enough to travel the world through athletics, and what I've realised is whether the people are Australian or Mexican doesn't matter – people are very similar all over the world.
“I’ve seen many athletes and one thing remains true: if you are willing to work really hard then there are lot of opportunities. That is the same for people no matter where you are from.”