Run, Cat, Run: Catherine McManus, Elite Runner

Catherine McManus, 22, from Dublin, is an elite runner who spends six days a week training - as well as studying for an MA in marketing and, y'know, having a life. Phew! We sat down with her to chat running, raining and what's to come...

Elite runner Catherine McManus.

“I’m technically an international sprinter – I sprint for Ireland. Last summer I was part of the women’s 4×100 relay panel and we went to the European Championships in Zurich.

“When you’re doing a relay, you have four to six other girls counting on you – so when you mess up, it’s a lot more painful. There have been a few times when you just feel horrible. But you get over these things together. You just don’t do it again!

“Both of my parents are athletes – my mam, Mary McKenna, did long-distance running and runs our running club, Celtic DCH on the Navan Road, and my dad, Brian McManus, was a sprinter – and is my coach!

I love training because I get to spend so much time with my dad.

“Everyone always asks [if we fight], but I get on so well with my dad. I love training because I get to spend so much time with him. He’s always looking for ways I can improve – it’s like a family project. We travel together as well, so you always have someone there who has your back.

“There are three weeks in a year when you don’t train. I train six times a week; I take Fridays or Saturdays off, depending on what I have planned. The last three weeks in August, you take them off. You go off and do what you want, come back motivated, ready to get ready for the indoor season.

“Do I go crazy in those three weeks? [laughs] You’d always still have it in the back of your mind; if you get out of fitness, your winter training is going to be much harder. Winter training is awful – gruelling circuits, hills, long runs. You don’t want to make that hard for yourself.

The whole thing is about recovery; if you’re training hard and you don’t eat right, you feel like crap.

“My diet tends to look after itself. And when I’m out with my friends, I’m not doing anything particularly different to them, although, coming up to a competition, you wouldn’t be gettnig as many Domino’s! The whole thing is about recovery; if you’re training hard and you don’t eat right, you feel like crap. It’s a matter of taking care of yourself while eating, as opposed to eating for the sake of eating.

“On Mondays and Wednesdays, I’d be in the gym doing a lot of weights, followed by some running. On Tuesdays or Thursdays, I might be doing hurdles or long running. Then, on Saturdays, I’d be doing more hurdles or long runs; on Sundays, I do hills in the Phoenix Park, and more circuits and weights. It’s a nice mix of different things.

“There are some days, when you’re in the Phoenix Park and it’s pouring rain, and you’re belting it up and down hills, trying not to get sick, and the rest of your friends are in bed… all you can think is, why am I doing this?

“Then, other times, when you win a rice or get a personal best – you know, there are a hell of a lot more lows in athletics than there are highs, but the highs make up for the lows.”

Pic credit: Naomi Gaffey.

Make-up: Nicola Cuddy.

Hair: Helen Kenny.

Shot on location at DCU Sports Centre.