15th October 2019 Bernie White, supervisor in the Coombe – one of Ireland’s Master Athletes
Bernie White is the super-efficient supervisor of the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital’s Administration Office. She’s also one of Ireland’s master athletes with more medals and awards than her mantelpiece can accommodate.
“I was brought up eating and drinking athletics. My whole family have been involved in sports ever since I can remember and from an early age I was encouraged to take up athletics. As a child I was taking part in track and cross country events and always featured in the top six in the Dublin Juvenile Championships,” said Bernie.
“Definitely I’m driven and always have been. What you see is what you get whether it’s in sport or work. I’m a very straight talker and a very pragmatic person. I just get on with things.”
Getting on with things is Bernie’s trademark. In her more than 20 years working in the Coombe, Bernie has faced her fair share of trials and tribulations. A work accident left her with a permanent back injury and stopped her running for five years, breast cancer came and was beaten, and plenty of injuries along the way have left their marks from competing in Irish and European Championships.
Bernie is one of nine children in a very close knit family and she was born in Dublin in 1965. Her athletic career has been inspired and helped by her close friendship with her coach Emily Dowling, one of Ireland’s best known athletes. Emily was the person who did much to help Bernie develop self-belief and self-confidence. As she waited at the starting line for every competition, Bernie would chant to herself, ‘If you believe you can do something, it will come easily.’
And it did. Travelling to countries including Denmark, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Finland and England, Bernie has notched up scores of medals and made many friends. She believes her finest achievement is her performance in the 800 metres in the European Outdoor Championships in Denmark in 2004 where she ran her personal best of 2 minutes, 18 seconds and point 72 of a second. Heartbreakingly, she came fourth, having been robbed of third place – and a medal - by a GB runner who shaved in ahead by just 200th of a second!!
But revenge is sweet and just two years later, Bernie was able to reverse the positions and put the same runner into fourth place while she picked up the bronze medal in another 800 metres competition in Poland in a time of 2.20.04.
In her early years as a Master Athlete, Bernie’s weekends and much of her annual leave was spent taking part in national competitions across the country. The 800 metres is her favourite distance but she has regularly competed in 400m, 1500m and 3000m. Medals are, of course, a good outcome of any competition and back in 2007, she arrived home from Nenagh one day with a number of silvers for the 800m and 3000m and a gold for the 1500m.
In more recent years, injury and surgery has led to a different shift in focus. Bernie is currently a coach with the Dublin Striders Club and she now enjoys coaching girls and boys from Under 10 and Under 19 up to junior level in track and field and cross country. The organising skills she displays in her job in the Coombe were particularly useful in 2011 when Bernie effortlessly put together a week long sports activity camp for youngsters aged 8-12 which was booked out almost immediately by grateful parents!
Bernie’s big competition days may be a distant memory but the training never finishes. She’s out and about doing speed sessions a couple of evenings a week, when she’s not coaching her beloved juveniles. Even in winter, there’s no let up and Bernie can be found pounding the streets close to home on dark, wet evenings.
To Bernie, this is all about running for pleasure and to keep herself fit. And yes, to get back into top form and possibly give those competitions another go if her injuries allow her. Her colleagues in the Coombe are incredibly proud of Bernie’s achievements and are keeping their fingers crossed that the day arrives when new medals will adorn her neck.