Tests and Triathlons: Con Doherty's atypical student experience

The Irish triathlete puts in 25 hours of training a week on top of his studies in UL

Con Doherty

Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

The balance between work and study is imperative for students, regardless of their course.

A period of self-discovery, many of those attending college with revel in their social life and find time for both the study and work aspects of their week.

Student athletes have the additional pressure of training, competing and retaining levels of fitness for their sport. Where most differ is the level at which they compete.

Con Doherty is still in the grips of his studies at the University of Limerick, but still manages to give a lot of his focus to Triathlon Ireland.

Having garnered an interest in swimming, cycling and running, the 21-year-old says he's used to life at the top level.

"Oh I have no idea," he tells Newstalk.com when asked how many times he's donned a green singlet to represent his country. 

"Too many times to count."

Doherty studies product design in the University of Limerick (UL), but still manages to squeeze in more than 25 hours of training per week.

"We do what’s called brick sessions," he explains. "You might not do the three sports together, but you could if you found a good location to do it. A lot of the time you need closed roads. 

"Sometimes we’ll do the sessions where you’ll spend a duration in the water, get out and spend some time on the bike. Or there’s a bike to run brick session, where you’ll get off and do a run. That’s repeated a few times.

"That’s the most common training you’d do. At this stage in the season where all the racing is beginning to come on, we’d increase the number of sessions."

In both a sporting and academic sense, the demands are high. Awake from 6am, he swims every morning and will either do a session on the bike or running on the road.

In between this, he'll do project based work in college and after training in the evening, he will simply eat and go to bed.

"It feels sometimes like a monk’s way of life - the routine."

Doherty isn't your typical student, but the Mayo native says he doesn't feel like he's missed out on anything because of his commitment to his sport.

"I think it’s very important that you make time to enjoy that.

"If I feel that during the month it’s getting a bit too much or I need to clear my head, I’ll go out with the lads or whatever it might be. It’s nice to have a routine and some stability, but variety is the spice of life."

Con Doherty on his way to victory in the Triathlon National Championships in 2015. Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

With Tokyo 2020 on the horizon, Doherty must now begin his journey to secure enough points to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Qualification is a points-based system and athletes earn more for finishing higher in different events.

"It’s a lot of travel and a lot of racing. A great way to see the world. The next three years really is devoted to building my points, travel the world and racing as much as I can."

His focus, he says, is helped by the fact that he lives with other athletes - swimmers, triathletes and long distance runners. His lodgings are surrounded by top class talent - he even lives behind the location of Munster Rugby's UL training base.

"When you live with and talk to other athletes, you spend very little time talking about the sport. The sport is there of course, but outside of that you’ve still got the rest of your life.

"It’s a good house in that there’s no craziness going on, that you might find typically."

The road to compete at the Olympic Games in three year's time begins now, but Doherty has already been moulded by the years of discipline which has taken him to this point.

Tokyo 2020: The road to one of sport's biggest showpieces begins this year. Image: Mike Egerton/PA Archive/PA Images

On 7th May, Con Doherty will hit the road simultaneously with tens of thousands of runners worldwide to help find a cure for spinal cord injury, thanks to the Wings for Life World Run App. The app allows anyone, anywhere in the world, to join the global movement, sharing the experience right down to a Virtual Catcher Car and your name on the Global Result List. Registration is now open for everyone at wingsforlifeworldrun.com.