The Irish women’s 800m record was shattered at the weekend wihen Louise Shanahan outsprinted Ciara Mageean at the Belfast Irish Milers meet at the Mary Peters Track in Belfast.

This is a major breakthrough for Louise who has progressed through the athletics ranks, she was 800m champion at the 2013 European Youth Olympics and represented Ireland from schools internationals right up to European U23 level.

The race is well worth watching and can be viewed here.

A path of progression

In 2020 she won the National Indoor 1,500m title, this was very special to her as her dad Ray won the mens title in 1988 and 1999. He was also a 1.48 800m runner and has been heavily involved in coaching his daughter. Phil O’Dell taking over when Louise moved to England.

Louise is now based in Cambridge where she studies Quantum Physics.

Louise’s home club is Leevale AC in Cork and her favourite event is the annual Cork City Sports. She has been a basket girl, raced in the school relays and paced the 800m. Hopefully 2022 will be the year she can finally race her favoured 800m there.

Photo: James Rhodes

An insight into training and life

Louise loves a lactic session eg 500m, 400m, 300m or a pyramid like 150m, 200m, 300m, 400m, 300m, 200m, 150m. For the new record holder the social side of running is really important and as an athlete she prefers to train in a group.

At home, between training sessions, she enjoys making curries and has an unusual favourite snack of peanut butter and jam sandwiches (hopefully not mixed with the curry). As a treat she enjoys white chocolate and raspberry. During lockdown crochet was the new hobby that helped on the rest days.

Louise admits that she did not see much improvement in her running between the ages of 16 and 22 but she never gave up, even after suffering a stress fracture.

Early in 2021 that she hoped to break the 2 min barrier in the 800m, get her first Senior Irish vest and quality for the 2024 Olympics. She ended up making the Tokyo Olympics the same year, sorting the vest ambition in the process and now she has gone sub-2. Watch this space.