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12th Oct 2021

Marian Heffernan: “There’s always been so much talent coming through Ireland”

Sarah McKenna Barry

Her caught up with Irish Olympian Marian Heffernan to chat health, fitness, and what it takes to raise budding athletes.

This summer, Marian Heffernan watched the Olympics on the TV for the first time in 13 years. The Irish athlete is used to being a lot closer to the action, but admitted that this year, it was nice to watch the games from a different perspective.

In 2012, Marian represented Ireland in the women’s 4 x 400 meters relay, and came on board as an athletics coach for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

This year, however, she was happy to tune in from home and watch her husband Rob Heffernan as he commentated on Team Ireland’s events.

“It’s been literally a lifetime of Olympics,” Marian tells Her. “It was nice to see it from this side!”

That’s not to say that the past few years haven’t been extremely busy for Marian, who has since channeled her passion for athletics into her career as a physiotherapist.

“I was an athlete and now I’m working with them,” she says. “It’s kind of about going back and being able to give back to sports. My work would be dealing with running mechanics and teaching people to run with better form.”

She adds: “It’s kind of something that I’ve lived for so long, so I’m really enjoying it at the moment.”

As well as kick-starting her career, the last few years have been busy for the Heffernan family generally. Her two eldest – Meghan and Cathal – have already represented Ireland in underage football, and they also joined their parents on the celebrity edition of Ireland’s Fittest Family in 2019.

With two Olympians as parents, there is no shortage of guidance for the Heffernan children, but Marian admits it’s important that they strike a balance, and make decisions for themselves. After all, her children are pursuing football rather than athletics, so they won’t necessarily have all the answers.

“You kind of have to leave them to find their own way, because they’re going through it and we’re not,” she explains.

“We’re probably a little bit switched off from the competitive side of things but we still know the lifestyle, we still know the application so it is just balancing those two really and trying to support them the best we can.”

Indeed, Marian’s passion for health and fitness is widespread in her home. In fact, her children joined her in her partnership with Bord Bia to mark #WorldEggDay 2021.

Beyond that, Marian notes the importance in promoting health and fitness to Ireland’s budding athletes. Looking ahead, she feels the future is certainly very bright.

“There is – and there always has been – so much talent coming through in Ireland. The raw material is there, the athletes are there. Athletes are investing more into themselves, and they’re getting into the health and fitness side of things. They’re using their voice. There is so much growth, and there is so much opportunity, so I think the next 10 years will be brilliant for athletics in Ireland.”