Kerry Bamber stormed to the Northern Ireland and Ulster Senior 10,000m championship this month, the first person to win a title at this level for her club, Ballymena Runners.
The versatile athlete is relatively new to the sport, has amazing ability over a range of distances and surfaces, and has huge enthusiasm for the sport.
She spoke to Lee Maginnis, shortly after her victory:
When and how did you start running?
I started running at the age of 26 doing the occasional Park run and a couple of our local 5-mile road races. I was encouraged by many friends and family to join the local running club and eventually I joined Ballymena Runners in the summer of 2014. I remember my first training session with the club was at Ballymena Academy, and we were doing intervals on grass. My coach jokes that I caught the eye of two men that evening – one would become my husband and the other my coach!
Have you been involved in other sports?
I played hockey from a very young age and it was my main sport through school and university. I played for the school 1st XI who reached the finals of both the Belfast Telegraph Junior Schools’ Cup and Senior Schools’ Cup and then for Queens University 1st XI where across two seasons we were promoted up two leagues to the Premier League. My hockey coach at that time placed a lot of emphasis on strength and fitness and this was my first experience of following a running training plan. Pre-season summer training involved repetitions, intervals, out and back sessions – unlike most of my hockey teammates I loved it! I was also a competitive swimmer and many Saturday’s as a teenager involved two hockey matches – one for school and one for club – followed by a swimming gala in the evening! I played on school tennis and table tennis teams and in the latter we were All Ireland Schools Champions! I have always enjoyed competitive sport and never more so than now with my running!
Your club is Ballymena Runners, do you live in that area?
Yes, my family are from Ballymena and I still live in Ballymena. I get lots of support and encouragement from my friends at Ballymena Runners and I enjoy going to training sessions organised by the club, usually road intervals, track, and grass.
Are you coached?
Yes, I am coached by Robert McGaughey. He was a runner himself and a founding and lifetime member of Ballymena Runners. He has been nominated for services to sport at the North East Antrim Borough Council Sports Awards and has received numerous awards within our Club for his contribution. Robert and I have worked together since I started running. He loves the sport so much, is incredibly positive and rarely misses a race. We have fun and I am very fortunate to have him helping and advising me.
What do you really like about the sport?
I really like the variety that exists within the sport, for example, the different distances and different terrains. I enjoy the opportunity to travel across NI to different races and also being able to run in events when abroad. Running also allows me to compete both as an individual and as part of a team. With the Ballymena Runners Ladies team, I have received four NI & Ulster team medals in both 5K and 10K Championship road races and won relay team prizes at the Belfast Marathon and Larne Half Marathon. Two of my closest running friends, Paula Worthington and Geraldine Quigley, have played a big part in these team successes and we have enjoyed celebrating them at our club. Most importantly I have met many wonderful people through running and am very thankful for the friendships the sport has given me. It also excites me that, although I have come into the sport at a relatively late age, I can still hopefully look forward to many years of running ahead!
What do you consider to be your best distance?
I think 5K is probably my best distance because it is the distance at which I have the most racing experience. Earlier this year my husband and I were both striving to go below 18mins and we were excited to see who could do it first! Pleased to say it was me with a 17:51 at Victoria park run, although we both went under 18mins a few weeks later when head to head at Queen’s and he finished ahead of me by a few seconds! It helps to have a bit of rivalry in the house! I would like to do more 3K races as I really enjoy this distance too and Armagh International 3k would be one of the highlights of the racing calendar for me. I look forward to more 10K races in the autumn to try to improve my 10K PB.
What is your favourite race surface?
Road or track. Still waiting and hoping for a good Cross Country season!
I am a great eater! I can eat anything and everything although I do love traditional Sunday lunch with my family – especially because it’s usually after a long run in the early morning and feels well earned!
Can you list your PBs?
1500 – 4:47.59
Mile – 5:21.20
3,000 – 10:47.14
3K – 10:25
5,000 – 17:35.53
5K – 17:17
5 miles – 30:49
10K – 37:42
10,000 – 38:00.01
What do you consider to be your greatest running achievement to date?
Winning the NI & Ulster 10,000m track championships and the Lisburn 10K this year were undoubtedly big moments for me but I think my greatest achievement has been the NI & Ulster 5,000m track championships where I was a bronze medallist. The field was very strong and I was so pleased to be able to compete with these girls in this event. It was my first Championship track race and I was incredibly nervous in the build-up, but was really happy with how I ran the race. I was patient and timed my push for home well. It was also very special to win my local 5-mile road race, Fairhill 5. I received tremendous support on the course and is a race I will always remember.
Buncrana 5K – I have always enjoyed travelling to this race. We are usually able to get good numbers from the club to go, we have won the ladies team prize each year we have been there and I always enjoy doing my warm up and cool down with club mates looking out across Lough Swilly! It’s also where I ran my PB of 17:17. It’s a lovely time of year, in May, and the sun always shines in Buncrana!
What is your favourite type of session?
I really enjoy training and enjoy most sessions, whether I am running on my own or in company. One of my most important sessions is 1km repeats at the track with a small group of friends, some of whom are from Ballymena Runners and some from other clubs but perhaps my favourite session is long runs with my husband, Pawel, in Glenariff, Queen of the Glens.
How did you find 25 laps of the track?
I had been advised to wear ear plugs so that I couldn’t hear the officials informing me of how many laps there were to go! However, the night before I watched Hagos Gebrhiwet at the Lausanne Diamond League meet believe he had won the 5000m race after slowing down with one lap still to run. I thought that if it could happen to him with his experience in a 5000m race then it could definitely happen to me in my first experience of a 10000m! I didn’t need to worry as the officials were very good at keeping me right! It was a new experience and I was delighted to win a Championship race.
Any more race plans that you care to share?
In the autumn/winter I hope to target Cross Country and try a few more 10K road races before going back to 3K and 5K on road/track again in the spring next year. I would also like to try some shorter events on the track – 800m and 1,500m and maybe to give Aquathlon a go!
Hopes for the running career?
To stay healthy and keep improving for as long as I can in the hope that I might be good enough to be considered for a Northern Ireland vest.