This week, we're behind the scenes with Tara Shanahan. Tara holds both the Female course record and the age-graded record - an amazing achievement! Tara gives us an insight into her journey into becoming a runner, how parkrun fits in with her training schedule, and she introduces us to her running and race partner - Rita, her dog!
1. What's your parkrun stats? Number of runs, PB, number of times volunteered?
I’ve run 205 parkruns at 12 different events. My PB is 17.59 at Hove Prom in 2018. And I’ve volunteered 24 times.
2. How long have you been running and how did you get into it?
I started running in 2009 when I was 39 and my sister challenged me to enter a sprint triathlon with her. The man in the running shoe shop told be about parkrun so I went and had a couple of practice runs before the triathlon. Then in 2010 the Brighton marathon started so I entered that and was hooked.
3. What's your favourite running experience that you've had?
Can I have three?
The South Downs Way Relay is an amazing event. You run in a team of six from Eastbourne to Winchester, racing against other clubs in beautiful scenery. I’ve been lucky enough to run it five times and have really bonded with my team mates, making some great friendships. And we’ve won it a few times too!
Winning the Kings Head Canter in 2018, it was totally unexpected and I overtook a big rival to get the win.
And the K9 Challenge in 2019. My Staffie dog Rita is a brilliant runner and this fun Canicross event was our first race as a pair. It was thrilling, at one point we were leading but Rita stops trying once she's in the front so it was a big tussle with two others and ultimately we were a very close third.
4. 18:24 is an incredible time for a parkrun that's way beyond the grasp of many of us. Tell us a little about your approach to training and how parkrun fits into it.
Consistency is key and I normally run about 6 times a week, totalling about 40 miles. A typical training week would include a tough track session with my club Arena 80, a long run of about 10 miles and a tempo session. The other runs would be mostly at an easy pace, normally with Rita my dog. And always a parkrun!
Sometimes I’ll use parkrun as a race to see what sort of shape I’m in, sometimes I’ll use it at the end of a long run to work on running hard on tired legs, sometimes its a steady, chatty run and sometimes I’ll run it with my dog Rita.
5. How long have you been parkrunning and what do you enjoy the most about it?
I did my first one in 2009. It took me 5 years to get to 10 park runs and then the penny dropped and I realised I didn’t have to race it every time, just being part of it was the point, so since about 2015 I’ve been most weeks.
I love the idea of a community coming together and going for a run. It’s just brilliant!
6. What's your favourite volunteer role?
I’ve volunteered at a couple of Junior parkruns, doing the warm up is fun!
7. What advice would you give to someone new to running and parkrun?
Follow a training plan like the couch to 5k to build you up slowly. I’ve heard lots of people say that they don’t want to go to parkrun until they can run 5k. But I would say use parkrun as part of your training. You can walk it or run/walk it and it’s so much easier than doing it on your own. And nobody is judging you, really they’re not!
8. What, as a runner, are you most looking forward to when the current global situation changes?
Parkrun obviously! And goals, I’m very goal orientated so I need a race to train for to keep me motivated.
9. What are your goals as a runner?
I turned 50 in March this year which was a big motivator to get some good results in my new age group. But then lockdown happened so I haven’t been able to race. So I’ll be going for some VW50 records at the earliest opportunity!
10. And finally, will we be seeing you back at Seaford Beach to improve on your record time?
I hope so. Although I suspect it will be an improvement in age grading rather than time. That’s another great thing about parking, even when you get slower you can get better!