The Irish are a nation of storytellers. Our stories are embedded in us, and in our landscape. Tales and Trails podcast is a brand new and immersive audio experience that invites you to walk the Irish countryside with the nation’s most interesting people.
On this episode, we walked the Mangan Loop in the beautiful Tinahely, County Wicklow, the easiest of three looped walks of varying lengths and difficulties in the area. (Find the full trail guide here)
Our guest is runner and national treasure Sonia O’Sullivan. Sonia has a special place in Irish hearts. Many will remember gathering around the TV almost 20 years ago to watch Sonia stride towards Olympic silver.
Sonya talks about growing up in Cobh, her hardworking attitude and running from an early age.
“Growing up in Cobh, we used to get out and explore a lot. We were near the sea, so that’s all we knew growing up.
“I remember my friends and I used to go for bike rides with a packed picnic. I was in the Girl Guides for a while, so we knew how to make a campfire and cookout. So that was a real adventure.
“I was pretty good academically. I used to lock myself away in my room and study hard. It was all brought on by myself.
“I did a little bit of running in primary school. Not much, just community games and a little bit in the athletics club. But a lot of the focus then would have been on sprints and long jumps, things that I wasn’t very good at. I wouldn’t make any relay team.
“When I was maybe 12 or 13, when I was just heading into secondary school, I ran cross country for the first time.
“I won the Counties and the Munsters. And at that time, it was the furthest you could go. I wanted to go for the All-Irelands, but I had to wait a year because U14 only did up to Munster level.
“My friends and I used to go to the athletics club in Cobh together as just a social thing. There was a field in the school and there was a track around it. It was about 600m, and that was where people just came to run. It was in the 80s and to have a track in the town was amazing, even if it was a road track.
“I never felt like I missed out on anything because of my training growing up. I went to a few discos, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed running.
“That feeling you get when you win a race or when you get to go away somewhere, even up to Dublin or over to Wales, it used to just be so much fun.
“It was then when I realised that if you earned a reward, it’s much more satisfying than just a simple night out.”
“I would never look forward to going anywhere unless I put in a bit of effort first.”
For Sonia’s full story, recorded live as we walked the spectacular the Mangan Loop in Wicklow, listen to the full episode below:
For spectacular sights, invigorating sensations and unforgettable experiences, make your next short break a walking break in Ireland's Ancient East. Walking makes your break.
For more information or to plan your walking break in Ireland’s Ancient East, visit the Tales and Trails hub here.