July’s member of the month Jarlath McKenna has clocked up an impressive list of achievements over a wide range of disciplines. Here, he tells us about what he has been up to recently and answers some of our questions.
Jarlath: July probably epitomised my running – trying my hand (or rather legs) at everything! In the last couple of years, as well as road and XC, I’ve been doing more trail and fell, and trying out different distances and challenges. I’ve usually a few big goals for the year and then fit in shorter races in the build-up and down periods.
This year’s main event was Lakeland 100 at the end of July, a 105-mile circuit of the Lake District and comfortably the longest I’ve run. It’s quite a special event in the UK trail calendar and I loved the vibe of it. The race itself proved a learning experience that tested me to my limit (literally!).
My month, however, started with one of my favourites, the Chevy Chase, a Northumberland classic fell race that takes in a 20-mile route around the Cheviots. Sandwiched between these were TBH’s Bridges of the Tyne 5-miler and Sunderland Harriers 5k, both that I immensely enjoy for the local camaraderie and competition, and they’re super well organised. If only I could have July every month!
Ideal pre-race snack/breakfast?
Usually porridge for breakfast and a biscuit bar (a couple of hours before).
Ideal post-race snack/meal?
It’s hard to beat a nice (ideally strawberry) milkshake. Chunky chips too if I can get them!
Hot or cold weather runner?
100% cold (except when my fingers go numb!).
Flat course or hills?
Definitely hills (at least the uphill bit!). I don’t shy away from flat courses, but hills seem to give me a bit of an edge.
Long or short distance?
Ooo, that’s tough. I’ve been trying out longer distances, moving into ultras, in the past couple of years to challenge myself in different ways and that’s been exciting. That said, there’s something about shorter races (around 5k–10k) that gets the adrenaline pumping, especially when they’re fast and competitive. I’m not sure I can pick!
Favourite song to listen to while running?
That would have to be American Skin (41 Shots) by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I have multiple entries of it on my (shuffled) playlist so probably listen to it a few times each morning run!
Main piece of kit you couldn’t do without?
Shorts, to protect my modesty :D
Most surprising thing you have found since you started running?
How running brings people together – whether a get together at parkrun or a simple nod or smile when you cross paths with another runner.
Biggest running inspiration?
To pick one, I’d say Paula Radcliffe. Growing up, she, Sonia O’Sullivan and Haile Gebrselassie were huge to look up to. Nowadays, icons like Eliud Kipchoge, Kilian Jornet and Courtney Dauwalter are truly inspiring. Closer to home, and he’ll hate me for saying it, but I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from TBH’s own Terry Scott, he’s proof that age is no barrier!
Proudest running achievement?
TBH Member of the Month, of course Otherwise, I think I’m most proud of the effort in training that I put in, the races and events are just the end product.
Favourite running event and why?
That’s a toss up between London Marathon, with its expo, amazing crowds and brilliant organisation, and the National XC, especially when at Parliament Hill – I’d maybe tip it towards the latter as it’s a wonderful spectacle to be experienced at least once in your lifetime!
Biggest challenge to running and training and how do you try to overcome this?
Staying motivated. I always find this easier when I have a target race to work towards. A friend also once said that even when you’re not feeling it, just put your running kit on, rarely will you back out of it – that works too!
Main training goal at the moment?
I’m tapering now towards Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra on 7 October and then have (Snowdonia) Marathon Eryri on 28 October. Beyond that I’m looking forward to a good XC season
Advice you would give to someone thinking about starting running?
Don’t :P No, give it a go! Enjoy the social side. Train smartly and consistently, and build the mileage up slowly. Try out different types of running to see what you enjoy most. Oh, and get a good pair of running shoes (I learned that the hard way!).