By Georgina Pembroke

Distance talent, Lara Tamsett, 22, continues to dominate the Australian women’s distance running scene and maintains a bright hope for the future of Australian Athletics. Coached by Sean Williams, she made her debut on the international stage in 2006 at the World Junior Championship. She has since gone on to compete at four World Cross Country Championships. Lara also won the Junior World Mountain Championship in 2007, claimed the National 10,000 title at the Zatopek Classic in 2009, and took home the women’s race, for the first time, at the City to Surf last year. What exactly makes Lara tick? With the another year of athletics in full swing, and the 2011 World Cross Country around the corner, it’s perhaps timely Runner’s Tribe caught up with Lara to discover a bit more about her and her running and where she’s headed next.

RT: Hi Lara, 2010 seemed like another successful year for your running. It included such victories at the Sun Herald City to Surf, the Noosa Bolt and the Bernie Ten. You also made it overseas for a few International Races. How did you find 2010 went for you overall? What were the highlights/lowlights?

LT: Overall 2010 had a sense of disappointment for me, as I missed out on making selection for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Winning the City to Surf, however, was a definite highlight, as were a number of other races throughout the year, mainly:

-2010 World Cross-Country Championships, Poland – 31st place, Open Women 8km

-2010 Melbourne Track Classic – 2nd place 5000m (first Australian)

-2010 Australian Track & Field Championships – 2nd place 5000m; 3rd place 10,000m (Zatopek Classic)

-2010 United Kingdom Track & Field Championships – 2nd place 10,000m

-2010 Sollentuna Grand Prix Track & Field Meet, Stockholm, Sweden – 3rd place, 5000m

-2010 Noosa Bolt – 1st place 5km

-2010 Burnie 10km – 1st place


RT: Having to withdraw from the World University games last year due to an injury must have been disappointing. How do you normally manage and bounce back from setbacks like that?

LT: Withdrawal and injury is always disappointing and frustrating. I bounce back by simply looking forwards and making a plan of action – whether that is for treatment/rehab, or looking towards my next race. Being proactive always makes me feel better and more in control.

RT: Some of your bigger races of late were perhaps the World Cross Country trials in Canberra (which you won), the 10k at the Zatopek Classic in December last year (2rd), and the Bernie 10k in Tasmania in October (1st). Can you tell us a bit about theses races? Did everything go to plan?

LT: Burnie was successful as I felt good racing, and everything went to plan on the day. Zatopek, however, was disappointing, as I dropped off with about 10 laps to go. This definitely wasn’t part of the race plan, but I simply did not have the legs on the night. In Canberra, although I achieved my goal of winning the race and making the World Cross-Country team, I was disappointed with this race as I did not feel good running.

RT: You were meant to race an 8km cross-country race in Fukuoko, Japan last month, but were forced to withdraw due to injury. What injury is it exactly?

LT: It’s an inflammation/tightness in my ITB and hamstring (which was creating discomfort in my right knee) and forced me to withdraw.

RT: Currently, how’s your training/rehab going?

LT: It’s going well – I am now almost 100% recovered! Rehab through physio, deep tissue massage, rest and cross-training (swimming) was effective and has enabled me to get back into normal training.

RT: What are some of the big races/competitions coming up for you this season? What are your goals for them?

LT: Over the next few months my big races will be the World Cross Country in Spain (I hope to achieve my best placing and come in the top 25) and the World Uni Games in China (where I hope to be competitive in either the 5000m or 10000m event).

RT: Your Aunt, Liz Miller, was a highly successful middle and long distance athlete. Is it true distance running runs in your family?

LT: Definitely! Genes are evident simply in the fact that I have exactly the same running style as Liz haha! Almost every family member – from my mum, to cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents etc – runs or has run, and has definite running ability.

RT: Was professional distance running then always on the cards for you?

LT: Yes, as I guess it was always in my genes. Also, not only was it part if my nature, but running was a big part of my nurture – my parents always encouraged me to run from a young age, and I have grown up in a very sport-orientated family.

RT: So you’ve progressed, say over the last 5 years, from the 1500m to the 5km and now the 10km on the track. You have also always shone well at the Cross Country events. What distance do you prefer the most and why?

LT: The longer the better for me! At the moment my favourite distance in 10km on the road. But I am keen to try a half marathon- hopefully this year!

RT: Where do you see yourself competing in say 5, 10 years?

LT: I see myself competing in the longer events, probably the marathon. Hopefully I will be travelling all around the world, representing Australia!!

RT: Your Aunt Liz progressed from the 1500m to the Marathon over her career. Do you set out to follow in the footsteps of your Aunt Liz? How do you feel about running Marathons?

LT: Definitely! But I will probably progress to the marathon at an earlier age than Liz. I feel apprehensive excitement about running a marathon – I think it will be the distance best suited to me, but running 42.2 km is very daunting!

RT: Do you think your running talent is attributed all to genetics? What other factors might have contributed to your success, in your opinion?

LT: Genes and natural ability definitely plays a role. But other important factors include my love, passion and motivation for the sport, my dedication and discipline when it comes to training, as well as my fantastic support network. All of these factors have been vital to any success I have had in the sport.

RT: Your first attempt at the City to Surf last year saw you run away with the women’s race title in spectacular fashion. What this victory a turning point for your career at all?

LT: It was a definite highlight of my career so far, and a turning point in terms of public exposure. As a result it has helped enormously with sponsorship and forming new partnerships.

RT: Any plans to run it again next year? J

LT: Hopefully! But it all depends on the event timetable for the World Uni Game, which are also in August.

RT: Coaches and family are usually the biggest support for athletes. How has your coach, Sean Williams, and family, each made a difference to your running?

LT: Family has been crucial to my running. Not only did they introduce me to the sport, but they have taken me to-and-from training and races day-in-day-out, as have they financially supported all the expenses associated with the sport. Furthermore not only do they celebrate my successes with me, but more importantly they are the people I can rely on to always be there whether I am running well or not. That kind of unwavering support is invaluable and something I greatly appreciate. My coach, Sean Williams, has been a great mentor, slowly introducing me the world of running and training from the age of 15. He has shaped the way I train as well as my attitude (hopefully I have adopted some of his fearlessness and toughness!). He is always full of knowledge, advice and support.

RT: The miles and miles run by a distance runner make some people label distance running ‘a lonely sport’. Is this the case for you? Why/Why not?

LT: Definitely not! In fact, I find it a great social network. I train in a big squad 4 times a week, full of people who have become very close friends over the years. Also, I meet lots of great people through my club, Sydney Uni Athletics Club, as well as through all the teams and travel running involves

RT: What’s your training squad like? Do you have a good training partner?

LT: My training squad is supportive and diverse – it’s full of great people of all different ages and abilities. I have multiple training partners that are always changing – there is always a boy or man around my standard to keep me company in a session.

RT: How would you describe the lifestyle of a distance runner and what’s the most enjoyable part for you?

LT: A lifestyle of routine! But thankfully I like routine, and the freedom to eat and sleep a lot without feeling guilty!

RT: What personality do you think a good distance runner needs to have?

LT: Disciplined and organised, but with the ability to relax and not get too uptight.

RT: You’re currently studying a Media and Communications degree at Sydney University. How do you manage the demands of balancing your training and studying? What’s the key for you?

LT: I often have to go part time with study, especially during periods of lots of travel and racing. The key to balancing the demands of study with sport is to be organised and upfront. With the support of the Sydney Uni Sport Faculty, my lecturers are always aware of when I’ll be overseas and need extensions etc.

RT: How do you look after yourself, nutrition wise, with all that training?

LT: I make sure I eat mainly wholesome, healthy foods that will give my body the fuel it needs to train. At the same time I listen to my body and give it what it is craving – everything in moderation! I take lots of supplements and protein/recovery drinks, as often food is not sufficient.

RT: What keeps you going when there are setbacks, injuries, and things get tough?

LT: When things get tough I focus on each little hurdle, such as getting through one day at a time of cross-training, rehab and treatment. It is often too overwhelming when you think about the weeks and weeks it can take to recover from injury. Also, I set new goals and look towards those, as do I remind myself why I love the sport and remember all that it has provided me with.

RT: How does Lara spend her days between her training, recovery and races?

LT: Mainly by sleeping/relaxing, socialising with friends and family, and shopping!

RT: I’ve heard you also love to shop and are also very good at it. Your coach, Sean Williams, once stated that you sometimes love your shopping more than your running. Tell us a bit about this. Perhaps your endurance comes into play?

LT: Haha yes I have often been described as a shopaholic – definitely another passion of mine! You definitely need a lot of stamina and endurance when you come on a Lara-style shopping trip – my girlfriends and I recently shopped for 9 hours straight in Hong Kong! Perhaps I am a marathoner when it comes to shopping as well as running haha!!

RT: What inspires you most to Run? Who is your biggest influence?

LT: Self-motivation and discipline is my biggest inspiration and influence. It is often just yourself and your mind to get you through the daily grind of training, or the tough patches in races.

RT: What’s the most important thing for you to remember as an athlete?

LT: At the end of the day it is only sport – happiness and health are the two most important things in life.

RT: What are your hopes and expectations for 2011?

LT: I would like to make the top 25 in the World Cross-Country. Make the World Uni Games team and perform well. Slowly build up my mileage and training throughout the year I.e. fully integrate double runs. Try my first half-marathon, and compete well at in the 10000m at Zatopek in December.

Thanks Lara for taking the time to talk to us. We wish you all the best, goodluck!!