While many athletes heading to the World Athletics Championships in Budapest this week will try and switch off, distract themselves and get plenty of rest, Louise Shanahan will have something to keep her constantly occupied.
The Cork athlete is just a few months out from having to submit a gruelling thesis in Quantum Bio-Physics, all as she balances her running career and aims for the best possible performance in the Hungarian capital.
Shanahan is certainly the type who always likes having something to do and despite admitting that she would like to focus her attention full-time on running in the build-up to the Paris Olympics next summer, reveals that she may try to do some part-time postdoctoral work at the University of Cambridge where she is based.
Despite the difficult balancing act, combining study mode with running mode, Shanahan held the national senior 800m record for over a year until May when Ciara Mageean snatched it off her in Manchester.
While the 26-year-old enjoyed holding the record she takes positives from no longer having the added baggage.
“I quite like being the underdog so for me it’s kind of a pressure off my back,” she tells Irish Runner.
“It is an honour to stand on the start line and have someone say, ‘Louise Shanahan, national record holder’ but I also think it’s a pressure and it’s one that I’m happy to avoid where possible.
“Of course I want that record back, the time Ciara has run is pretty much exactly what is required as an automatic standard for the Olympics. I’m aiming for that automatic qualification for Paris and hopefully in getting that I’ll take the record back if Ciara hasn’t run faster already.”
During that stint as national record holder Shanahan competed at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon last July before making the European final in Munich.
Shanahan feels she has improved since then and has taken some new learnings forward.
“I think I’ve become a lot more robust,” she says.
“I’d had two or three consistent years of training going into Tokyo and Munich last year. I feel like the last year has been anything but consistent. I’ve learned a lot about how I can still pull out performances even off non ideal circumstances.
“I think I’ve developed a lot but I’m excited to see those performances actually pay off on the track.”
Louise Shanahan on World Championship ambitions
Having missed out on advancing to a semi-final last year by very narrow margins, she will be hoping to progress out of the first round when she takes to the track on the morning of Wednesday August 23rd.
“I really want to walk away from this World Championships happy.
“I think last year I missed the semi-final by one place, which we can’t do again.
“I know that I can race well in championships, I did it last year in the Europeans. I’d really like to make a semi-final, to run a nice time would be great but that’d be a bonus.”
Shanahan will have plenty of support as she flies around the two laps.
“My family are going to head over. I also have a huge contingency from Cambridge coming over.
“They decided when they saw the price of the Olympics, that they wouldn’t go to Paris, but they’d come to Budapest instead.
“I had to break the news to them that I was going to continue running after the World Championships, which they weren’t that impressed with,” she laughs.
“It ruins the ability to celebrate properly afterwards.”
While Shanahan may not get to overly soak in the success of making a world semi-final were she to go to somewhere she has never been before it appears it would be very much box ticked for an athlete who continues to progress on the big stage.