The perfect race?
“Oh God no!” she says with a laugh. “It was a good lead-up and training and racing had been going well, but the second half got really windy and hot. It was just so hard but I managed to keep pace and get the time I was aiming for.”
Her two sons, Eddie and Dara, were there to cheer her on alongside husband Colin – the family celebrating a magical occasion together at the finish. Thankfully Diver’s employers allowed her to work from home in the days after. “I could barely walk on Monday and Tuesday,” she says. “It would have taken me a couple of hours to get in.”
After rising at 5:30am for several months to squeeze in her training, it proved just reward for Diver’s dedication, though this lifestyle is one she never could have imagined in her youth.
Growing up in Belmullet, Diver’s ultra-conservative, hyper-religious primary school didn’t allow girls to participate in sport, so back then she would play soccer with the boys after school. In secondary school, she took up basketball, which she continued in her college years at the University of Limerick.
It was there she got her first taste of running, a lecturer forcing the whole PE class to run laps of a nearby field to experience cross-country, Diver doing so while badly sleep-deprived after a night out.
“I was like, ‘this is awful, I never want to do this again,’” she recalls.
Her true start in running only happened in 2010. After the birth of her first son, Diver joined her sister to run the 3.8K loop in Melbourne known as The Tan, for which she clocked a surprisingly fast time. She was then encouraged to join a local running group where she came under the guidance of Tim Crosbie, who has coached her ever since.
Her training routine is simple, if arduous: on Mondays and Wednesdays she does two runs each day, Tuesdays will be a speed session, Thursdays a tempo run, Friday an easy run, Saturday a hill session and Sundays are reserved for the long run.
In recent months she has received guidance from Nic Bideau – the head of the Melbourne Track Club – and his wife Sonia O’Sullivan, whose achievements Diver grew up admiring, if not fully appreciating until recently.
But she has now run faster than O’Sullivan at the marathon – her 2:25.19 behind only Catherina McKiernan’s national record of 2:22.23 – and O’Sullivan was one of the first to congratulate Diver when she crossed the line that morning in Melbourne.
As the New Year dawns, Diver knows her personal best would be enough to net her a top-10 finish at major championship marathons, so the 2019 World Championships in October are looming on the horizon, although the venue in Doha, Qatar, is giving Diver pause for thought.
“It’s going to be stinking hot for the marathon, even though it’s taking place at midnight,” she says. “It’s still 34 to 38 degrees then so I don’t know about that, but with the new ranking points system it might be good to go.”
To qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, Diver will have to earn points at major events in 2019, which will be her key emphasis given she missed out on the 2016 Games due to injury. She will be 43 at the time of the next Olympics, though given her late entry to the sport that will mean little as her performance curve continues a steep ascent.
“It benefits me that I don’t have 20 years of running in my legs so I’m young in running terms,” she says. “In a way, it’s a pity I got into it so late but I’m doing well now so I’m happy. I’ll hopefully have lots of years left.”