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!
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!