Running Questions answered by the New York Times

Published in Members on 18th August 2018

The running questions below were submitted by New York Times subscribers.


What exercises can I do to strengthen my legs in order to prevent shin splints?

Shin splints are common for new runners. The best defense is to take it slow. 


Is there any way to stop post-run, post-shower hour-long sweat sessions?

Try using sweat-wicking clothing to help keep you dry and lessen sweating when you run.


How do I make running feel like fun rather than a chore?

What you focus on is really going to dictate what your running experience is. And running with people is a great way for it to feel more social. 


I'm a fair weather runner, just trying to get in some miles. There is so much negativity around the treadmill, but I love it. Too hot, too cold, too dark, too scary. No problem. I can get it done without worrying. Is it really that bad?

There’s nothing wrong with running on a treadmill, but if you’re training for an outdoor race make sure you get outside, too. 


It seems no matter what level of shape I’m in, I always get a right side stitch. Any tips on how to prevent it?

Strengthen your core and hydrate properly to help prevent side stitches. 


I'm overweight. Can I run? I feel embarrassed.

Yes, absolutely. Remember, it’s also OK to start as a walk/runner.


I keep hearing that weak glutes are the source of a lot of running injuries. What strengthening exercises will strengthen this muscle group most effectively with the fewest moves?

Doing squats at the gym with hand weights or under a squat rack is an ideal way to strengthen your upper legs. 


I have a nagging hamstring pull, and I'd appreciate any suggestions you may have for getting past it, particularly in terms of what I might incorporate into my pre, during and post-run activities, as well as any targeted strength work.

Deadlifts are a great exercise to make you a stronger runner. Other good exercises include hamstring sweeps, ‘toy soldiers’ and leg sweeps.


Help! Why am I getting slower?

When you feel like you're running slowly, or slower than you should be, it is sometimes a sign of overtraining. 


I hate how running makes my lungs feel, but I want to run to improve my overall health and lose fat. How do I get from searing hot lungs to enjoyable running?

Focus on gradually building your endurance and controlling your pace. You’ll enjoy running a lot more when your pace is slow enough to go for longer. 


Any advice for triathletes on how to keep your legs fresh, and have a good run, after the swim and bike legs of the race?

It’s all about practice.


How do you organize your thoughts to help get you through the longer runs?

Visualization, mantras, podcasts and music are all good ways to help you focus. And practicing focusing your thoughts while you’re not running can help ahead of a big race. 


My busy family and work schedule allows me to run only in the early morning before breakfast. This is not my ideal time of day for exercise and I often feel drained during my runs. Any tips on fueling up before these runs?

It’s important to get a good night’s sleep the night before a run, but a small snack should be enough to get you through. 


Do you think lightweight, barefoot feel shoes provide enough joint protection for someone training about 15km per week?

When trying any new gear, gradually increase your use to be sure it works for you. 


Recently, my knees have started to hurt when running (~7km/day). I got a good pair of stability running shoes which helps. Can you suggest what else to do? I'm 42 and I'd be so sad to have to stop running due to aging knees.

First, rule out that something more acute, such as a ligament tear or tendonitis, isn’t the cause of your knee pain. If not, releasing the tight hamstrings and IT bands using a lacrosse ball may ease discomfort.


What are specific actions I can take to avoid injury when training for my first marathon?

Be sure to build up your mileage slowly and prioritize the long run each week as you do. Also, take your rest days and listen to your body.


How can I protect my toenails? I keep injuring the nail beds, and they turn purple and sometimes I lose the nail partially.

Foot care is very relevant to runners, but once you're past a certain distance, losing nails is kind of unavoidable. 


After trying to ramp up my mileage, I started to get a dull pain in my Achilles which moved to my heel. Do I need to completely stop running for some period of time, or can I cut way back and rebuild?

Rest is often the best recovery tool, but seeing a physical therapist or acupuncturist is also a good idea. 


How do I choose the best sports bra that won't chafe?

Find a well-fitted bra and use anti-chafe balm on your skin before a run to add an extra layer of protection for your skin. 


What's a good way to break through a plateau when you feel like you aren't improving?

Every athlete plateaus: It’s part of training. When you experience it, take stock and either rest up or shake things up with a more intense session to jolt you back into the training cycle. 


What is the best way to build up both endurance and speed?

Whether you're training for a 5K, a marathon or even an ultra marathon, you should incorporate tempo runs. The uncomfortable pace will teach your body how to go faster for longer.


How do you develop good technique so that your heels don't land too hard? I often develop heel and knee pain and I believe this is one problem.

Try adjusting your pace. Our form can get sloppy when we’re running either too fast or too slow, which might be contributing to the pain. 


For long distance running, marathons and half-marathons, what training exercises apart from running do you recommend?

The glutes and core are probably the two biggest things for runners. 


I have started training sprints with my kids. In one month, we have become significantly faster, especially them. I would like to get tips about techniques and drills and general tips for sprinting beginners.

There are several interval training methods that one could do to work on your sprints. Try Tabata or a simple H.I.I.T. workout.


What are the best stretches I should do post-run?

The most important stretches are ones that hit the main power center for runners: the hips, the quadriceps and the glutes.


I'm in the habit of running five miles. Seldom more, seldom less. Is there value in varying my distances?

Variety will benefit you as a runner. Even if you run the same route, running in the opposite direction can be beneficial. 


How bad is it running on pavement as opposed to running on a grass surface?

While it might be a bit harder on the body, most people are just fine running on pavement.  


How important is form? I’m training for a half-marathon and wondering if I should hire a coach to ensure I’m running with the proper form.

Running more efficiently will come naturally as you increase your distance and endurance. A coach may be more helpful later on in your running journey. 


What is the best way to prevent or eliminate post run muscle soreness?

R.I.C.E. is a good acronym to remember to help with soreness. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Some simple yoga poses can also help.


How long can I safely run without re-fueling? I'm a casual runner, currently comfortable at completing 10K runs twice a week and considering longer distances. I'm not a fan of carrying gel packs or sugary drinks.

Most people can run up to 90 minutes without extra fuel. When considering fueling, think more about how long you’re out running, rather than how many miles you’ve covered.


What are good ways to keep blood sugar levels steady while running, particularly for people with diabetes?

It will take some trial and error to figure out what works for you. I recommend carrying some fuel, such as marathon goos and gels, and wearing a glucose monitoring device. 


What is your go-to pre-race meals? What are your favorites for fueling during long runs?

I really like a slice of toast with almond butter and a half a banana. 


What do you drink after a work out?

I drink a lot of water. 


Am I deluding myself that I can get faster? I'm 62, and run often, but seem stuck at my not-fast-enough-to-satisfy-myself pace. It seems so unfair that as I age, my maximum heart rate slips in the tables.

The tempo run is one of the most underutilized speed tools.  But paces do evolve and change over the years, too. 


I run 30 mins, 3x a week, and I'd like to add interval training. How should I begin?

Start off with making one of those sessions an interval-based session in a moderate 1:1 ratio, meaning you run all out for a period of time, then slow down to recover for an equal time.


I am running the Maine Marathon on 9/30 and then the NYC Marathon 5 weeks later. These will be marathons number 5 and 6 for me,and I expect to finish each in about 6 hours. I could use training advice for how much to run between the marathons.

To run races five weeks apart, you need to be prepared for both your endurance and recovery. 


What music or playlists do you listen to while you run? And are there headphones that you recommend?

What you listen to is personal — find what works for you. 


Is it bad to run every single day? I do about five or six miles per day.

The human body is certainly capable of it, but a rest day is important for the body as well. 


In terms of distance, is there a mark or mileage where the benefits of a run increase exponentially?

It depends on your objective. If your goal is a race, you will need to vary your mileage accordingly. 


How do you stay safe running early in the morning in the dark?

Wear reflective clothing and let someone know where you are headed. 


What are the best foods to eat to post run? I’m not a very fast runner and I get tired easily so maybe I also need to focus on what I eat before runs to fuel more energy.

Don’t eat too much just before a run. After a run, make sure you consume protein and a small amount of carbs.


How should I be breathing? Nose? Mouth? How much does it matter?

As long as you’re getting oxygen into your lungs, it doesn’t matter where the air is coming in from.


Can you recommend any good books or other all-in-one resources for starting and maintaining a running and conditioning program that keeps you fit, strong, flexible and healthy?

“Hanson's Marathon Method” and “Daniel’s Running Formula” are iconic, tried-and-true training bibles. Think about the vibe that you want and find a book to match.


I'm an advanced marathoner who moved to the city for work. Will doing a lot of my running on the treadmill in the gym be bad for my form?

Better to do your run on a treadmill than not do it at all.


What is your favorite interval workout? And please don't say Yasso 800's.

Yasso 800s are probably the best, or you can try Tabata intervals. 


Should I walk to warm up before jogging, or just jog slowly, build a little speed, and stretch afterward?

Walking and jogging are great ways to warm up, but try adding in some high knees or butt kicks to better activate your muscles. 


What is a good way to tell if your running shoes are shot and it’s time to get a new pair?

A good rule of thumb is to replace a pair of shoes after you have run between 300 and 500 miles in them. And if you are starting a new training regimen, it might be a good idea to get a new pair of shoes.


I'm trying to start running. I'm 58 never done this before not in the greatest shape. Any tips on how I can ease into this and make it a habit?

Use the buddy system and tell people who support you about your goals to help keep you accountable. It also helps if you make your goals very specific. 


What are the best stretches for runners? And how do you avoid plantar fasciitis?

Do exercises to strengthen the muscles in the arch of your foot to prevent plantar fasciitis. 


What is the best way to start running?

Head out in minutes, not miles, and don't go out too fast.


What's the best way to stay hydrated during a run, especially in hot weather?

Drink water. 


I’m two months ahead of a half marathon. What would you advise people like me, with little time for training over a week?

If you have been doing minimal training up to this point, training for a half marathon in two months is aggressive, but doable. Focus on prioritizing long runs, gradually increasing the distance each week, and taper off before race day.


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More Juvenile Success (Day 3)

Published in Club News on 23rd July 2018

Day 3 Medals

The curtain fell on a long juvenile campaign this weekend with the third day of the National Juvenile Track and Field in Tullamore.  Athenry AC had just three competitors this weekend and all came away with massive smiles and even bigger PB's

Calum Healy:

Calum has had a fair run of misfortune over the past few years, and after pulling up very heavily as he crossed the line in the Connacht Championship  250m Hurdles race it looked yet again as if fate had dealt him a cruel blow, but Calum showed true strength of character and body to bounce back.  The amount of work this young man has put into training recently is unreal and his hunger for a medal was growing daily.  In the Connachts, Calum crossed the line in 37.20s and in the qualifying heats of the National final he clocked 36.44, taking almost a second off his PB.  Lining up next to eventual winner Harry Nevin on the start line, Calum rocketed down the finish straight to take the silver medal in a time of 35.30, taking another second off his PB.  What this meant to Calum was evident after the race and you can rest assured that the medal will have pride of place for time to come.  Calum has one final outing this year in the Community Games hurdles and we wish him luck.


Sarah Gilhooley

Sarah, like Calum has had a few mixed years, but this year has started to make some real progress and start to move back to the front of the races where she deservedly belongs.  Last week Sarah took Gold in the steeplechase which was testament to her hard work, and although there was no medal this weekend her performance in the 1500m was an equal testament to her dedication and perseverance in the sport.  For the first time Sarah dropped below the 5 min barrier for 1500m, clocking 4:59.53 and a 7 second PB. Sarah has plenty more to give and the prospect of two solid years at senior level in schools competition make Sarah a name to be watched.


Liam Shaw:

Four months ago, Liam had never thrown a discus, but his stature and over 7 foot 'wingspan' (his finger tip to finger tip measurement with arms outstretched) give him the physical attributes to do well in this discipline.  Going into the National finals, Liam was ranked third on provincial qualification mark.  In his first throw he set a mark of 39.12m, a PB by over 7m and a mark in excess of that which has won 16 out of the last 18 years discus competitions.  Liam extended that lead to 39.29m in the third round and then carried that lead into the 4th round, where the in-form Karlis Kaugars (Dunleer AC) put a disc out to 42.15m.  Liam responded to take a disc out past the 45m mark (third longest throw in over 20 years of U14 competition) only to see the red flag raised for a minor foot infringement on the front of the circle (rules is rules).  The final round saw no further progression from either Karlis or Liam and another National medal for Liam to bring his seasons total to 1x Gold, 2x Silver and 1x Bronze (a good haul by any measure).  With the Community Games 4x100m and Shot Put finals still to go, there is still more opportunity to increase this years tally.


Athenry AC are really proud to see our athletes on the podium in National competitions, for the few athletes we have enter these competitions, the return is very high.  However medals are not the only thing we value in the Juvenile section, we would like to acknowledge and applaud the commitment of every single one of our juveniles during this year and we very much look forward to seeing you after the summer when we head into a very busy schools combined event and cross country season, may the exploits of our merry band of high achievers give you inspiration in your own athletics pursuits


Iain Shaw, Athenry AC (Juvenile section)

Caltra 5k

Event Date

Success at National Juvenile Championships (Day 1 and 2)

Published in Club News on 16th July 2018


Athenry AC took a small team to Day 1 and 2 of the National Juvenile Championships and came away with a couple of medals.  On the track, Calum Healy (U15), Liam Shaw (U14) and Aoibhe Deely (U17) went over the short hurdles with both Calum and Aoibhe progressing to the final.  Aoibhe put in a superb qualifying performance winning her heat and obviously putting some doubts into her opponents.  Calum qualified as a fastest loser in what was a very high calibre heat.  Both of these young hurdlers finished a very respectable 5th in their finals and shows definite progression in their hurdling careers.  Cian McNelis was our sole track representative on Day 1 that wasn't jumping over any sort of barrier and in a straight final for the U13 600m he came home 5th in a very tight race.  As Cians race was progressing, our sole field representative, Liam Shaw was out plying his trade in the shot put circle.  Unfortunately Liam was not able to reproduce his indoor placing from earlier this year, and threw a 40cm PB of 14.15m to come away with the silver.  This throw puts Liam into a very elite group of only 8 athletes who have thrown over 14 metres at this age group

Performance of the day for the club however came late on when Sarah Gilhooley, who has only recently made the move to Steeplechase put in a stellar performance to take the gold medal in the girls U18 event, beating her nearest rival by nearly 7 seconds.  Sarah certainly has been putting in the hard miles and has had to make regular trips to Athlone IT to use the steeplechase facilities there, and it certainly shows in the progression she has made.  Sarah now has an agonising wait to see if the National selection committee will select her for the Celtic Games to represent Ireland in the event.

Rounding off this weekends exploits was Aine O'Farrell who took on the U19 3000m event.  In what was a scrappy looking race, with the entire field spread out after just a few laps, Aine finished in 4th place behind some quality athletes such as Bandons Laura Nicholson who has represented Ireland both on track and in Cross Country.  Preparation for Aine coming into the race was not ideal being on holiday in France the day before and having to have a very long drive, a ferry crossing and then another drive across the country just to get to the track !! Aine now moves onto the national senior 5000m championships in 2 weeks time.

Marathon Du Mont-Blanc 2018

Published in Reports on 12th July 2018

Aoife Callan crossing finish line of marathon du mont blanc 2018

by Aoife Callan

“The Mountains are another world: they are less a part of the planet and more a separate kingdom, unusual and mysterious, where the only weapons for adventure are willpower and love”

Gaston Rébuffat “Snow and Rock “1959

Nothing can prepare you for the spectacle that is Marathon du Mont Blanc. The marathon is just one of the events that take place during the 3-day trail running festival, held in one of the Meccas of the sport; Chamonix. The festival includes a youth marathon, a 10k, 23k ,42k, 90k, a 17km night run and of course the notorious KM Vertical (3.8km). Over 10,000 runners representing 80 nationalities arrive in Chamonix for the weekend, creating an incredible atmosphere. Seeing is believing.

The little town of Chamonix has hosted the event every June since 1979, when Georges Costaz (who has himself taken part in one of the races every year since the beginning) established the festival. The events attracted some of the world’s most remarkable mountain runners; like Kilian Journet, who ran the 42k on Sunday 1st July and after returning from injury, still managed to win the race in sub-4 hours. Also running were Thibaut Baronian (who I also lined up with in the Gaelforce mountain run in March) and Sage Canaday – whose YouTube Channel I am huge fan of- to name but a few. The race had a hugely competitive field in both male & female categories, and to say I was on the start line with some of these guys is an incredible feeling.

It’s very rare to have the perfect race build up, and even more rare to have the perfect race-especially when it comes to the unknown, a course that involves 2,780m of height gain and 1,750m of decent as well as being relatively new to mountain running.  I was forewarned that nothing in Ireland will prepare you for the climbs in the Alps. Now it’s safe to say I never shy away from a challenge, but on arriving in Chamonix and just looking around at the incredible mountains surrounding me, I did feel a bit overwhelmed and a little apprehensive. Thanks to an Ultra in the Mournes at the beginning of the month, I was also going into this race with a grade 2 ankle sprain, which required an X-ray just 3 weeks previous. I hoped I wasn’t asking too much of myself this time.

As a result, I was lucky to even be on the start line. So, I went into the race wanting to embrace the experience, just to finish rather than race it, and to take in the incredible atmosphere and spectacular views with a smile; after all, I may never get the opportunity again.  Entering the race involved pre-registering in October 2017, and a lottery system was used to decide the lucky (or unlucky, depending on the way you want to look at it) participants in early November. Of course, I was one of the lucky ones!

The race started in the centre of Chamonix at 7am. The eager competitors started arriving from 6am onwards, so I got into my start position at 6.30am, learning from previous race reports that the first 6-10 km is the widest and flattest. Therefore, a good start to avoid bunching was part of my race plan. The elite athletes joined us about 10 minutes before the start for our race briefing. This involved a run-down of our mandatory kit (which all competitors had to carry to avoid a time penalty) as well as a warning about inspections, which we were told could be carried out at any of the aid stations. What I found funny was that this inspection was actually carried out at the end of the race, when I was asked to present my emergency blanket on the one day you would never have needed it- with the temperature hitting 32° in some of the valleys!

The countdown started on the clock and as 7am hit, we all headed off together to the sound of AC/DC’s Hells Bells. The buzz from the supporters was indescribable, and in that moment, I was running through the narrow streets of Chamonix, not knowing if I wanted to cry or burst out laughing.

The course winds its way up the valley over some relatively small hills for the first 10k. I started out a little too fast for my legs liking and seeing as I had very little running done in the previous 3 weeks, my legs and injured ankle felt very stiff. To be honest I felt like they went into shock, but I tried to relax as much as I could and slow things down. I learned from experience it takes me a good 8-10k to relax into a comfortable stride, so I hoped the same would happen today, or else it was going to be a very long day out.

Thankfully I did manage to relax; however, from 10k onwards the course starts to head into narrow forest paths and begins to get congested, so the pace slowed down dramatically. I reached my first pit stop as I arrived at the village of Vallocrine 18k in, which was fully stocked with an assortment of meats, local cheeses, cake, fruit (dried and fresh), jellies and water (sparkling and still), manned by very friendly and helpful volunteers. I was feeling pretty good at this stage and didn’t hang around too long at the station, so I refilled my water bottles, added my Tailwind to my water (which replaced gels as my energy source) and headed off again.  After Vallocrine is where the real climbing began. Coming out of the town I was met with supporters lining the first hill on either side, ringing Swiss cowbells and shouting “Allez, Allez, Allez Oh- Fee!!” (this is how my fans decided to pronounce my name, which was on my race number!). A lot also mistook the Irish flag to be the Italian one, so I was getting a lot of “Allez, Allez Allez Italia!!” as well! However, I was quick to correct them with “Je suis Irlandais! “(I knew my Leaving Cert French would come in handy at some stage!). After that, the crowd started to thin out and we were left to tackle the 941m climb to Aiguille des Posettes. We were greeted halfway by an aid station, and a one-man band banging out some Elvis tunes on the back of a trailer. I was still feeling pretty ok at that stage so just refilled my water. I made sure I was fully stocked, feeling the heat of the late morning starting to intensify.  

Following that, the descent began. It featured approximately 800m of extremely technical terrain, sharp rocks, tree roots, and narrow winding paths. This is when I started to fear for my ankle, the nervousness making my body tense up. Each step was vibrating up through my body, and my fear wasn’t helped when we were stopped by a marshal. We were held up as a helicopter was airlifting a runner off the mountain, which made me even more apprehensive-and worse, it created more congestion on the route down, with runners all around overtaking me at high speed. This made it hard to concentrate on simply not falling head over heels or worse, going over on my ankle again.

I was never so glad to get to the bottom. I could feel now that my knees, ankle and hips had taken a serious beating.  I hit the aid station at 30km and took a little while longer here, refilling my bottles and make sure I had enough fuel.  I was really beginning to feel the heat and so seemed everyone else. Looking around me I saw a lot of fellow runners filling their hats with water and throwing them over their heads to cool themselves down! I was delighted to have my cap to do the same thing.  I gathered myself again and headed off to the cheering and clapping of the supporters, and I have to say the crowds really made you feel like some sort of superstar. So, I tried to at least look like a superstar as I passed by!

I reached just over 31km in under 5 hours, which I was relatively pleased with. A quick glance at my watch showed an elevation gain of just over 1600m, showing I still had 1200 m to climb in the final 11k! This deflated me a little as I did secretly hope for a sub 7-hour finish, maybe even closer to 6 and a half hours in my own mind.  I knew this was just not going to happen now, as the heat was really beginning to take effect.

The last 12.5km of the course (which ended up being 43.85km by the time I stopped my watch) was mostly uphill over rocky terrain. From reading a previous race report I had learned that the course was in fact longer than the 42km so I was prepared for the little bit extra, but it still tested everything I had- both mentally and physically. The heat was relentlessly beating down, and even the most bronzed competitors were taking refuge in any shaded areas they could find. I assumed they were used to this heat but obviously not. It was hard for me not to stop too, but I decided to grind it out as I knew how difficult it would be to start going again if I did.  Any bit of stream or river we came to was like an oasis; thronged with people filling hats, bottles, anything to cool us down.

After the long climb to the last aid station at La Flegere, we were greeted with volunteers pouring water over our heads. At this stage I rang my brother Oliver, who was waiting for me at the finish along with my parents, Clara, my sister and her boyfriend. I let him know I was at around the 37km mark and that I was ok, but that I would be a lot longer than expected. I had to try my best to hold my composure on the phone to him, but the sound of a familiar voice made me lose it a bit. His stern words of encouragement made me settle again, while also making me realise how close I was now to finishing. Now more than ever I needed to hold it together.

I set off again with a buzz from some cola I had at the aid station, but this wasn’t to last long. The last few kilometres were on the incredibly narrow hiking trail leading up to La Plan Praz. At times I could hear the music getting closer, and I could feel the sense of relief. I looked across hoping I would see a finish, but instead I only saw a queue of people climbing the trails. My heart sank again- where was the finish?! My watch* hit 42 kilometres with no end in sight. I had to stay alert, as part of the last few kilometres contained dangerously steep drops as you ran around the winding narrow trails- not an easy task when you’re almost delirious from heat and fatigue.  

I reached the patches of snow at the top and thought surely the finish had to be close now, with supporters gathering either side. I started running again, and sure enough around the next corner the Salomon gantry was just ahead, with the sound of enticing drums and upbeat music thumping out.  Energy sprang back into my body and somehow, I managed to look like I had a strong finish to get in under the 8 hours – 7.57.43 being my official time, ranking 956th out of 2,300 and 90th in my age category- Female Senior.

Crossing the finish line, I was delighted to see my support crew, and judging by my mum’s embrace I think she was very happy to see me too 😊

Would I do it again? – Absolutely. However, it was the toughest race I have ever done; it took me 3 hours just to complete the final 13km, which was basically more hiking than anything else. Unfortunately, Ireland will just not prepare you for the climbs in the Alps, so if I were to get an entry again I would have to re-adjust my training, in particular more training on technical descents.

That being said, it was still the most fantastic experience, and hopefully I will get the opportunity to experience it again; at least now I will know what to expect.

*Don’t talk to me about my watch! As I finished, my watch decided to restart before it gave me a chance to save the run at all. Now any fellow runner will know of the addiction we have to our watches, so, I found myself wondering what was worse; The trials and tribulations of having actually ran the Mont Blanc Marathon, or the realisation that my watch thought I had not run it at all…