Mark Smyth - Breaking National Records

Sprinter and DCU Master’s student Mark Smyth is the reigning Irish 200m champion and holds the national record for the indoor 200m. This June, he’s representing Ireland at the 2023 European Games in Krakow. In this piece, he discusses how DCU Sports and Wellbeing has enabled him to balance high-performance sport with his studies in creative media.
What drew you to DCU as a student athlete?

For me, DCU offered both the only course I wanted to do and a strong reputation in athletics. I’ve always been interested in video and media, so Multimedia at DCU was the ideal course for me. On the athletics side, it all comes back to the incredible facilities here and DCU’s ethos towards sport. DCU has won the varsity competitions 14 or 15 years in a row. It’s the best place to be for athletics.

This year, I started my Master’s in Emerging Media. After college, I want to keep working in video and I’d like to get into broadcasting. I know this course will give me opportunities to follow that path.

What have been your sporting highlights over the past year – and what’s coming next?

Last summer, I won the 200m national outdoor title, and just this February I won the 200m indoor title at the National Senior Indoor Championships. A few weeks later, at the Leinster Indoor Championships, I broke the national 200m indoor record. Breaking the record felt great. It feels a bit surreal to see your name at number one, ahead of everyone else who has run in Ireland. I think I experienced it differently than I had expected. It was crazy, and everyone was going wild, but it also wasn’t as much of a surprise to me, because this is what I had been training for.

There are a lot of events coming up this summer that I’m working towards, but the big one is the World Athletics Championship in Budapest this August. This is as big as the Olympics, so it’s a tough one to qualify for, but I think it’s possible. We’re on track.

How does DCU Sports and Wellbeing help you combine high performance sport and university?

DCU has always been very kind in helping me balance college and training. Paul Byrne, our Head of Athletics, has been a great guide in how to manage my time. It can be stressful to manage odd class hours with my coaching and study time and even just finding time to get food. The team here will always ground you and point you in the right direction.

Last summer, DCU took over the running of Morton Stadium, Ireland’s national athletics stadium. That means we now have access to the track and high-performance gym out there whenever we want. Our training can take up a lot of space, so it’s great not to be doing it in a public gym, where there’s less space for athletics. We have a nutritionist we can go to at DCU as well, and access to great physio from the Athletics Training and Therapy Clinic.

“Thanks to my sports scholarship, I’m able to split my Master’s studies over two years. That makes a huge difference in helping me balance my college workload with training. The scholarship also gives me access to financial support and academic aids, so I can travel abroad to train and compete in international competitions. I’ll be going to Turkey next week for a week of warm weather training, and my scholarship has made that possible.”

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