Lining up for he 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbría, Spain on 20 March 2011 should be a relatively familiar experience for distance runner Anna Thompson. Since first competing in ‘World Cross’ in 2002, she only missed 2009 when she was living in Singapore and not focusing on her running. Some of those years she ran both the short and long course versions of the event, so this will be her 12th race, making her the most experienced cross country runner on the team. She regularly competes in road races and her pb’s range from 15.42 for 5,000m to 2.33.20 for the marathon, but cross country is her favourite event. We caught up with her before she was about to board the plane – and she was looking forward to the flight as a well-earned rest!
RT: What are your goals for Spain?

AT: I would love to get back to a top 20 finish however realistically that is going to be difficult. I haven’t had the same preparation as I did when I had those results. Top 40-50 is probably more likely, although experience always plays a part and I know I have plenty of that.

RT: What are your medium to long term running goals?

AT: My number one aim is to be consistent. Over the last few years I have realised this is the key to good running. It is just too hard to get the results when you have interruptions in training whether they are due to injuries or other hurdles life brings. Racing wise, I would like to get back into good 10k and half marathon shape and then do a marathon next year.

RT: What has been a typical training week for you?

Mon – pm 60mins + core stability/gym
Tues – am 30min + pm Fartlek
Wed – am 90min + pm core stability/gym
Thurs – am 30min + pm track or hills
Fri – am rest or easy run + core stability/gym
Sat – am threshold run + pm 30min
Sun – am 1hr 45

RT: How long have you been coached by Chris Wardlaw? How does this training differ from your previous training?

AT: Chris has been coaching me since early 2009. I was living in Singapore then. The principles of training are the same however there are some different sessions and structure.

RT: How do you manage to combine running and full-time teaching?
Early mornings and a good diary! It’s not easy to be honest. Except for Monday morning and Friday night, I am doing some kind of training both before and after work. I also fit in regular massage and physio. This means time is always short and I do get tired. I just have to be organised and can’t always do everything I would like to do as I simply don’t have time. Fortunately, I run with friends so I tend to combine my training and socialising – and it makes it easier to get out of bed at 5.15am when you know others are waiting!

I rely on the weekend and term holidays to catch up on rest and getting non-running related tasks done. I will also make the most of the days before WXC when we are acclimatising and getting over the jetlag to rest and focus on the race. You can’t imagine how much I am looking forward to those few days in Spain before the race when I won’t be working and will be tapering. I might even have some spare time to read a book!

The good thing about working full-time is that I don’t have time to get nervous or worry about an injury or how my form is. Schools are a busy place and my day as a teacher is always full, but I enjoy it. I know I have to work full-time and I love running so I just make them both work.

RT: Do you follow any special diet or nutrition regimes? How do you balance the need to be lean as a distance runner with the need to fuel your body?

AT: No I don’t follow any special diet. I just eat an overall healthy diet and eat everything in moderation. However, I have had problems with low iron in the past, so I do make sure I eat red meat a few times a week. Otherwise I enjoy all foods. As for keeping lean, well I don’t think a distance runner really needs to worry. It is easy to keep lean with the amount of running that we do. I don’t focus on weight but more importantly I aim to keep myself healthy. Being too light is unhealthy and your running suffers. A healthy runner is a strong runner. I definitely enjoy my treats and the occasional glass of wine. It’s about being balanced. I don’t think I could have a long career as an athlete if I could never indulge in my favourite foods now and then!

RT: Who inspires you? Do you have any running heroes?

Recently I tend to look at peoples ages and find myself inspired by anyone over 35 who is still running! Life seemed much easier when I started running 15 or so years ago – I’d jump out of the car and be ready to go. Nowadays the body takes longer to warm up and there are more sore spots! I also have other commitments now which I never used to have…mortgages, bills etc. I know I still have more years of running in me so it inspires me to see other women out there who are balancing both work and sport, and for some, children. There are a few of us in Australia…Lisa Weightman, Benita Willis, Sarah McCrae for example, who are still running and are able to balance work, sport and family life. I think we inspire each other to keep going because at the end of the day I guess we just love running.