IT is approaching twenty months since Brendan Boyce last took part in an official 50km Race Walk, but he will finally get an opportunity to compete again this Sunday when he takes part in the European Race-Walking Team Championships in Podebrady, Czech Republic.
Everything was going to plan for Boyce as he finished sixth in the World Championships in Doha two years ago.
However, then Covid-19 hit, pushing the Tokyo Olympics back a year, and competitive races were stopped.
Luckily for Boyce, he had already qualified for Japan, and there isn’t the same level of anxiety that some athletes are facing now as they try to secure their spot on the plane.
He has taken part in some unofficial time trials at home in Cork, but they are not the same thing, and the Finn Valley AC man is looking forward to getting back into a proper race environment this weekend.
“This will be my first 50km since Doha which was back in September 2019.
“I was very eager to do a 50km before I head to Tokyo.
“Last year I might have left it, but I just felt I needed it this year.
“It’s a good chance to get used to travelling again and all that goes with that with Covid these days, and practise my championship racing.
“It will be good to get back into that race environment and get my drinks strategy organised and so on.
“I’m treating it as a dry run for Tokyo.”
Boyce will be joined on the Irish team this weekend by Kate Veale (Women’s 20km) and Cian McManamon (Men’s 20k).
They were due to fly out to Podebrady on Friday, and Boyce knows the town well and has competed there several times before.
Sunday’s race is at 9am Irish time, and there will be a live stream of the action.
It has been a busy start to the year for the Milford native, and while some of his training has been disrupted this season, he is still hoping to perform well.
“I did a three week block in South Africa in January.
“Sarah then had the twin babies on the 18th of February.
“I had a bit of an injury around that time as well so there were a few weeks when I couldn’t get out on the road which was frustrating.
“Training has gone well since then and I’m probably not far off where I was before I went to Doha.
“The last two times I raced I went there to go and chase medals.
“I’m not going to be putting as much pressure on myself this time. I’ll have to be a bit more conservative, but you never know how the race will pan out.”
Life has changed for Boyce and his wife Sarah following the arrival of their twins Thomas and Isabelle in Cork earlier this year.
That has led to little tweaks in Boyce’s training schedule but he still has to put in the hard yards if he is to bring his best to Tokyo in August.
“It does change a bit but I’m still trying to fit in as much training as I can.
“The one upside to being injured was that I got to spend a lot of time at home.
“I went away to a training camp in Spain for three weeks at the start of April. Usually I would go for four but I cut it short, and was just using the altitude tent at home.
“There are small differences but you have to keep on top of the training or else there’s no real point as you’re just going to struggle.
“Sarah has been very good with the babies. She has done about 95% of the work to be fair, so I will have to make that up at some stage.”
There was good news for Brendan last week with confirmation that Pfizer Biontach will vaccinate all athletes and their support teams ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Japan.
The allocation will be supplementary to any existing delivery agreements between Pfizer and the Irish Government.
That is important for Boyce and co who didn’t want to be seen to be skipping the queue.
He has trained for five years in preparation for Tokyo and it would have been a disaster if a positive Covid-19 case ruled him out of competing on August 6.
He could get his first jab before the end of May or in early June.
“It was good news to get, especially for me with the babies at home. You don’t want to pick up something on a training camp and have to isolate in some other house.
“The big thing with the vaccines is that they are coming separate from the country’s allocation so we don’t feel like we are pulling away from other groups.
“It’s great for athletes who are going to need to travel to try and qualify for the Olympics and for others who are going on training camps. It’s a huge boost really.
“I’m hoping to get through Sunday ok, and then I will take a short break like I usually do at the end of May.
“Then it will be a busy summer getting ready for Tokyo and I still believe I can go there and contend for a medal.”