Irish athlete Shona Heaslip shares insights into how she trains, why she runs, and race day food.

Heaslip of the An Riocht club in Co Kerry, Ireland, won her second national cross country title in November 2017. Just months after she started running in 2014, she made the Irish U23 team for the European Cross Country and has made the team every year since.

Why do you run?
If you’re the first across the line, no one can take that away from you. I love that about running and racing.

What athletes do you admire?
Fionnuala McCormack has had such a great career. Michelle Finn and Lizzie Lee from Cork are both great athletes and I love sharing with Kerry O’Flaherty – she’s great fun!

I went to the World Student Games with Emma Mitchell and had a brilliant time there.

What are your strengths as a runner?
My strength is my strength. In my years of competitive Irish dancing, I got a few knocks. That’s made me mentally strong.

What would be your weakness?
I’ll be running a lot more 1500m races next year to improve my speed.

What is your favourite distance?
At the moment I like the 5kms, but I’m looking forward to running 10kms and half marathons because I think I’m better over the longer distances.

Will you run the marathon in the future?
Not until I’m in my 30s. I need to work on the shorter distances before I move up.

Your average weekly mileage?
I run about 65 miles a week – which is nothing like the other girls.

When I got picked for my first European Cross-Country, I was only a few months in the sport and running about 45 miles a week.

Favourite session?
I love running hills. We do a session of between six and eight 2 minute hills and I love that.

Least favourite session?
Tempo – we have a 25 minute tempo run and I always go out too hard.

A sample week of training?
I do only one session a day except for Monday and Wednesday when I also do strength and conditioning.

The rest is pretty basic – Sunday and Thursday I have long runs; up to 70 minutes on Sunday and 70 to 90 minutes on Thursdays. Saturday is hills or tempo. Depending on the time of year, there might also be a track session.

Favourite terrain for training?
I run as much as I can on grass. We’re lucky where I’m from – we have three grassy areas all within five minutes of each other where you can run a kilometre lap. It’s repetitive but it’s grand when you’re with other people.

Favourite race day food?
I’m a vegetarian so I work with the nutritionist Andrea Cullen in Limerick. I get my bloods tested regularly and I am careful to get the balance right. On race day, I’d eat porridge with a banana and coffee.

I take a protein shake straight after a race because I have quite a problem eating after a race. Later, I’d have a bap with egg and cottage cheese. I eat loads of eggs and drink lots of milk. I’m more of a snacker, so I always carry healthy snacks.

For more about Shona Heaslip, a feature on her meteoric rise in Irish athletics can be found here.