“Be Brave. Be Strong. Be YOU”: Interview with Elite Runner Tina Muir

Happy Friday! As we approach the end of the week, a weekend of possibilities ahead of us, I’ll offer you some Friday fitness inspiration. I was lucky enough to interview with elite runner Tina Muir, and today’s post will include the feedback. Tina Muir is originally from the UK, but relocated to the USA in 2007 to pursue her education and running career. Tina’s PRs include 16:08 in the 5k, 33:24 in the 10k, a 1:13 half marathon, and 2:41 in the marathon (London). She recently won the Army 10 miler in DC with a finish time of 55:19. Tina is sponsored by Saucony, and is currently trying to make the Great Britain team for the world half championships. You can read more about Tina and her running career on her wonderful blog, www.tinamuir.com, and on Runner’s Connect where she is currently the community manager. Enjoy!

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Question: How did you first become involved in the sport of running, and how did your professional running career begin?

Answer: I started running around age 14, which believe it or not, was actually a lot later than most of the girls I ran against at the time. Running in England is very different than America, and so I joined a running club where I met my coach who took me all the way to 18. He helped me make significant improvements over those years, but made sure to not push me too far and was always holding me back as he did not want me to burn out too early. I think that was the reason I have been able to keep improving every year. 

My professional running career began in 2012 when I graduated from Ferris State University after 5 years of competing at the college level. I began my professional career by finishing 3rd in the Great Britain Olympic Trials 10k, which was a huge accomplishment, and made me excited to see what I could do.

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Question: Do you have a favorite marathon or race?

Answer: The London marathon without a doubt. I have always dreamed of running that race. In England the whole country watches it every year, and one year I went to London to watch it myself. I watched Paula Radcliffe run by me on the way to her 2:15 world record and I remember being so inspired, thinking that one day, I would run fast there. In 2015 I was able to do just that, and it was even better than I could have imagined.

Question: The majority of the USA is in the midst of cold winter weather months. This means that it’s been harder for many of us to run outside and stay motivated. If you ever feel unmotivated to get out the door, what tips or tricks do you use to push yourself? Do you brave the poor weather conditions or stick indoors/on the treadmill?

Answer: Oh yes! People often think elites just go outside every day, prance along having fun and thinking how easy it is. In reality it is the opposite. Most days we go outside, barely able to lift our legs as we are so tired from the buildup of mileage and workouts. 

I think the most important thing that comes to mind for me based on your question is that even though we run fast on workouts or in races, on easy days, we run significantly slower than you would think, around 3 minutes per mile slower than our marathon race pace. I make sure to run so easy that I can have a full conversation with someone while running, or breathe in and out my nose the entire time.

As for the motivation, I definitely have a lot of days where I am just struggling to even get out the door, but I try to think about my goal race, and remind myself that I will remember this day during that race, I will think back to that moment and remember that I made myself get out there, even though I did not want to, and I did not go through all those struggles for no reason. I think keeping your goal in mind, and focusing on just giving it 10 minutes before you decide is the best thing to do. If you still don’t want to be out there after 10 minutes of running, then at least you tried (although I find I never turn back once I get out there!)

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Question: What cross training do you incorporate into your running routine, if any? Do you focus more on cross training in the off season (if there is an off season for you!), or do you tend to cross train throughout the entire training cycle?

Answer: I am a HUGE fan of cross training, but only in the last year or so. Before I was in that mindset where I was “too cool” for cross training, I thought that was for injured people only. Of course I had used it when injured, but I had associated cross training with injury. It was only when I first got to try the ElliptiGO that I started to open my eyes. I LOVE my ElliptiGO and doesn’t even feel like cross training, but it kind of rubbed off onto other forms of cross training. I now swim at least 1 hour per week, and ElliptiGO 1 hour per week, all the way through my training segments that is.

But more important than those, is strength training. I honestly believe this was one of the big reasons I was able to improve so much this past year. After I visited the UVA speed clinic who analyzed my form, they told me I needed to do heavy lifting. As disgusted as I was at the time, thinking I would get big and bulky, I met a strength coach anyway, and started to work with him. Pretty soon it became very clear that this was just what I needed, and I was very weak in a lot of important areas. One year later, I cannot imagine life without my strength coach, Drew Watts, and the two hours I spend with him are two of the most important hours of my week, oh….and I didn’t bulk up at all :) Just toned down!

Question: You are an incredible runner who has done really well recently, notably your big win at the Army Ten​-miler and amazing finish times​ at the London marathon and Philadelphia half marathon. ​However, when faced with a rare but disappointing race finish or workout, how do you pick up and motivate yourself to try again? Is there a specific running mantra that has helped you pull through disappointment?

Answer: Awww thank you, that is really kind :) Yeah, I had a great year of running. It was a breakthrough year for me. It is funny, you ask about a rare disappointing race, but for me, those good runs are the combination of many, many bad runs and workouts. I have worked so hard over the last few years, facing many of those moments where I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, moments I even questioned if I even wanted to run anymore, but it was the perseverance that got me there. Anyone can read about those downs on my blog, I shared them with the world as I was going through them. It was tough, and I spent hours in tears wondering if all this work on my form was going to be worth it, and it was. The best part is that i feel like I have more to come, but again, it’s all down to the time and effort put into those little things; strength training, cross training, focusing on my form even when I was exhausted, and of course, pushing myself when I was struggling.

I just want everyone to know that we all have bad days, we all have moments that we want to quit when our mind is screaming at us to stop….well, actually I have those in every single race, but it’s those moments where you are really having a bad day, if you keep your eyes ahead, and trust it will pay off, THOSE are the days that allow those big days to happen. So I guess my mantra would be “keep moving forward”, but I also love my quote I have been trying to get a movement for “Be Brave. Be Strong. Be YOU” to help us see that we are all strong in our own unique way, we just have to trust ourselves.

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Question: At mile 20 of a marathon, what is typically going through your head? What motivates you to push through the last miles?

Answer: Okay, I am going to fast forward to mile 23, as I think this will be more what you are looking for. At mile 20 I am usually (other than my first disaster of a marathon) somewhat comfortable as I have paced myself so that I feel good at that point and then can really go for it. 

Okay, so at mile 23, the thought is something like: “f#$% this hurts. Oh my god. I can’t do this. I am gonna stop. Yeah, I will just say that my foot was hurting too bad to run anymore….NO TINA, don’t you DARE. Just maintain, no need to run faster, just keep going, you are fine…..okay, it must have been 5 minutes by now?! Where is the 24 mile mark? Come on legs, oh my god, this hurts so much. I can’t do this…YES YOU CAN, BELIEVE…..but I don’t believe….YES YOU DO”

Something like that? Now I sound like a crazy person, but hopefully it shows that even elites doubt themselves every step, but like I said before, it’s just about keeping forward one step at a time :) What motivates me is just thinking of the finish and how good it will feel when I cross it. But mostly it’s just a battle for each step!

Question: What is your favorite running clothing brand? Why? 

Answer: Saucony of course! Well partly because they are my sponsor, but I would chose them if I had the pick of any. They truly do think with the runner in mind, and so many of the little additions they have on there are just genius. I absolutely love their products, and their clothes are so colorful, which I love.

Question: What are your favorite pre-race and post-race meals? What do you use for fuel during a workout or race? Do you have a favorite post-race treat?​

Answer: Pre-race- if I am racing the marathon, it will be a big bowl of oatmeal with honey and a little milk with a banana. If I am racing anything less, it is a bagel with a banana.

Post-race meal, It is usually a giant burger and fries, or chocolate chip pancakes….depending on the time of day :)

As for fuel, I have used UCAN, and I did like that, but I think I actually just prefer powerbar gels as I can carry them on me and know they will be there for me (sometimes elite bottles get knocked down). They also go down easily!

Post-race treat, anything with sugar, a giant cupcake or brownie. 

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Question: What is your weekly mileage in peak marathon training season? What is your mileage in your off-season, if any? Do you think that the quantity of miles is directly related to race times, or quality of miles, or both? 

Answer: The most miles I have ever run was 91, but I tend to hover around 80 miles per week. I take 7-14 days completely off all activities after a race, and then start building up again, so I would not say I have an off season, but I start up again around 45 miles a week and build (with down weeks) back up to around 80.

I do not believe mileage correlates to times….well, it does to an extent, but I think you have to find what works for you. Many of my friends run over 120 miles a week, and most run over 100, but Steve [my husband and coach] and I have decided that it is better for me to sit around 90, and make sure I stay healthy. I think there is going to be a big improvement from say 40 miles a week to 70 miles a week, but I would not say for a recreational runner it is worth risking injury by running 70 miles a week, especially if building it up quickly. I have increased my mileage per week by 5 miles per year.

Question: What is your favorite speed workout? What’s your least favorite workout?

Answer: Hmmm when we say speed, are we talking a marathoners perspective on speed or a 5k 10k perspective? ;) I love 24x400m, which sounds scary, but it’s easy to get into a rhythm and just go. If we are talking real speed, I like workouts where you have a short recovery, so you do not have time to think about how hard it is.

Least favorite workout; 4×800 or something of the like. Usually long recoveries, and all out. Yuck!

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Question: What is your number one method for injury prevention?

Answer: Run easy on your easy days. Run so slow that you finish thinking you could do it all over again.

Question: What are three words that describe how you feel when you’re out running?

Answer: Thoughtful. Reflective. Paranoid ;)

Question: What is one word you would say to someone who has just started running about why running is worth it?

Answer: You will feel ALIVE!

Question: What’s one thing we should know about you apart from running?

Answer: I like sugar ;)

If you have any more questions for Tina, be sure to check out her blog as noted above. Or listen to her on Runner’s Connect “Run to the Top” podcast- one of my favorite podcasts to listen to while I’m out running!

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Readers, what are three words that describe how YOU feel when you’re out running?

What’s in store for the weekend? For me, I have a 17 miler on the schedule (down from 20 as I am still in post-race recovery mode), then seeing some friends, and checking out some bridesmaid dresses with my beautiful cousin who is getting married this fall!

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42 thoughts on ““Be Brave. Be Strong. Be YOU”: Interview with Elite Runner Tina Muir

  1. Thank you for this post. My daughter is struggling with her melon and thinks her dad is nuts for cycling through everything I do. I am going to share this with her! Thank you!

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  2. Great interview. I love her stream-of-consciousness Mile 23 thoughts. Those are right on the mark. Also, slightly off-topic, but her alma mater of Ferris State features possibly the greatest college dining hall in the world. It’s so good that when our family goes up to Northern Michigan for our annual summer vacation, we’ve made a lunch stop there on the way a tradition. I mean, what other college dining hall has a 4.5 star rating on Trip Advisor! http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g41993-d2228684-Reviews-The_Rock-Big_Rapids_Mecosta_County_Michigan.html

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  3. Three words that describe how I feel when I’m out running would be; happy, excited, and sweaty haha. This weekend I have a five miler and a trip to the dog park planned. Nothing too crazy, but those should both be fun. :)

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  4. So cool you got to interview Tina!! I have my eye on the Army 10 miler in the fall, I’ve heard great things about it, and I love doing local races. Three words that describe me when I’m running are: determined, strong, and calm. This weekend I have an 8 miler planned but think it will have to be indoors since the roads still aren’t clear, boo!

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  5. The mental struggles! Harder to prepare your mind than the body. Maybe? Physical training to be elite looks plenty hard, too. So much respect to this athlete. Great interview.

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  6. Awesome interview and a great post to read this morning! I really enjoyed the “mile 23” thoughts, that gave me a good laugh. Reading about overcoming being sore and unmotivated was something I could definitely relate to….even though I’m nowhere in the ballpark of being a sponsored runner. lol

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  7. Great interview! Thanks for sharing. As for three words, I think it depends on the run. For easy runs, Relaxed, Joyful and Distracted. For workouts, Determined, Sweaty and Mathematical (I like to do a lot of tough fraction to decimal conversions to distract myself :) )

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  8. I loved this post. Tina is truly an inspiration and such a humble athlete. I was honored to meet up with her a couple of years ago in Philadelphia and it was awesome.

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  9. Loved this interview! I love Tina’s blog and this was really cool, especially to hear her mile 23 thoughts. I had to laugh about the just saying her foot was hurt, because I’ve definitely had the same type of thought!

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  10. I love Tina so much! I’ve read her blog for a long time and listened to Runner’s Connect since the beginning. Three words I have in my mind while running are “tough”, “grateful” and “courage”. Have a great 17er this weekend!

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  11. Great article…I’ve listened to Runners Connect a couple of times and really cool to read more insight from Tina and see the perspective from an elite runner.

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  12. A very insightful interview. Thank you!

    I keep hearing great things about adding strength training and it’s something I mean to look into. Better get cracking.

    This weekend? Hopefully a few more miles today and tomorrow (6 this am but a few more won’t hurt) and hanging out with the kiddo’s.

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