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Marathon Runner Lizzie Lee talks to Balls.ie About Mental Toughness

Marathon Runner Lizzie Lee talks to Balls.ie About Mental Toughness
By Conor Neville
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According to Lizzie Lee, Ireland's current national champion in the half-marathon, the most common error made by long distance runners is literally a schoolboy one.

One is immediately transported back to school sports days of yore. The favoured tactic in the imaginatively titled 'long race', so termed because it was the only event that wasn't a dash or a fun run (nothing frivolous about them, though, the controversy that accompanied that three-legged race photo finish in fourth class still hasn't died down. They're still talking about it down in Longford), was to jet off like Usain Bolt from the start.

This impetuous but tactically unsound plan rarely paid dividends. Conferring the name 'plan' and 'tactic' on the gambit is to imbue it with rather too much grandeur.

Lizzie gave some enlightening info to Balls.ie this month about the newly popular business of marathon running. What tips has she for the masses?

Take it steady.

My no. 1 tip is consistency. A lot of people when they go out. When they start off running, they obliterate themselves and they get injured or they get sick of it. They run every day for 10 days. You build up things up slowly in a way you can maintain, that you're enjoying and that you can maintain consistency at. Running you can do it anywhere, anytime.

The Cork-born athlete won her second Dublin half marathon last year, having already taken it home in 2013. This year she will be judging the Dublin Rock and Roll Idol contest.


Not many half-marathons or marathons around the world have a rock and roll band giving it socks every mile along the route. She loves the Dublin track.

The atmosphere is superb. I've won it twice. It combines with our national half-marathon. Not only do you get the fun runners. I love running in Dublin anyway. I'm from Cork but I love going up to the Big Shmoke. The atmosphere along the way with a band playing every mile gives everyone a lift. It's a good fun day out but also with an added bonus of being our national championships.

Novices in the marathon presumably start to struggle after a few miles, while the bone-headed tacticians probably start to wilt after 100 metres (true story). But when do even elite runners start panting and screaming for the finish line?


Full disclosure. Her favourite part of a marathon is at 26.0 miles. The last 200 metres, it turns out, are pure bliss.

A friend of mine, Nollaig Hunter. She won the Cork marathon this year. I train with her quite a good bit. She says you're only about halfway when you get to twenty miles. We've had many, many discussions about what goes on in your head during a marathon. She's as tough as nails this woman and she says you're only at halfway when you get to twenty miles. That's the mentality that's in her brain. 'I'm not allowed think about being nearly there until I get to twenty'. So, twenty to twenty-two is when it starts getting really tough. I suppose at the level I'm competing at, it's around then that you really have to start digging in to maintain your pace.

Lizzie (35) recently ran a personal best of 2.32 in the Berlin marathon, making her the fifth fastest woman in Irish history (Catriona McKiernan tops the list). Last month she won the Cork Evening Echo sports star of the year award.

She was unable to defend her half-marathon title in 2014 as she gave birth. Asked how childbirth affected her running, she says matter-of-factly, 'I got better'. See the times:


In Berlin, in 2013, I ran 2.38 and in Berlin in 2015, I ran 2.32. And I wouldn't say that's 100% down to the baby cos I increased my miles and I added in strength and conditioning. But I think the reason I was able to increase my miles was because I had an extra-strength. Certainly, for me, my times have just gone down since I had the baby. The last thing is you get more perspective. Any time I get a niggle now I stop for a day or two.

Fortunately, in her nine years competing in marathons she has never yet been rugby tackled by a man proclaiming the end of days. It is to be most sincerely regretted that not all marathon runners can say likewise. It might have been easier for Vanderlei De Lima to bear if Fr. Neil Horan's predictions about the end of the world had been anyway accurate.

There will be participants dressed up in strange garb at the half marathon but hopefully, they will refrain from rugby tackling the competitors. In common with the London marathon, in the Rock and Roll event, the singlet wearing elite athletes are joined at the ticker tape with the guys dressed up as cuckoo clocks and wardrobes.


How do those there to win regard these creatures? Here, Lizzie bows before the man who completed the race in a fireman's costume.

Well, do you know what, it's usually for charity. We have a guy called Alex O'Shea who broke the world record for running the race in fireman's suit and boots. He did it in Cork this year. And he's a terrific runner, really good standard. And he did it for the Guide Dogs. And Roy Keane said to him 'if you break the world record. I'll give you €5,000'. And he did it. And that's terrific. It's deadly I don't know how they do it. God, I couldn't wear an extra layer.

*Roy Keane appears to have given away most of his fortune to the Guide Dogs at this stage.


Lizzie Lee was speaking for the Rock n Run Idol comp which closes on Monday 14th, you can enter here

Read more: Rock N' Roll Runners: Be A Rock N' Roll Idol And Win A Trip To Las Vegas

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