When trail running becomes a lifestyle

Q&A with Dubai based trail runner Kathleen Leguin

Originally from France, Kathleen, 34, switched from Thai boxing to trail running four years ago. She is pursuing her passion for running in the UAE, successfully taking part in some of the most prestigious trail running races in the region.

We met with Kathleen to learn more about her and her training regime.

How did you get into trail and ultra distance running?

One day, Lee Harris, founder of the Desert Trail Runners and my boxing coach at the time, suggested I joined one of his group runs in Showka. That was in September 2016. At that time, I was using running for some extra conditioning for Muay Thai and I was running a maximum of 10km, twice a week. So, running 21km on trails and in the heat was tough but I immediately loved it. At first, I started with shorter distance (10 to 30km) and progressively ran longer and longer (50km then 100km and finally 130km).

What is your regular training load and what does your training program look like?

It depends on the racing season. Between races, I train around 10-12 hours per week. But if I am preparing for a race, I will be averaging around 14-16 hours a week, peaking at around 18-20 hours. In terms of mileage, it can vary a lot as some training will be done on very technical terrain in the mountains (so covering less distance in a longer time) but on average, I will be running 60-80km per week during the off-race season, from 120km up to 180km during race preparation.

I run daily except on Sundays as it is my rest day. On Mondays, I often train on the track and I do my long runs on Fridays and Saturdays. I will also do two strength training sessions per week. When I can (depending on work), I try to do a 90min run on trails on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. The rest of my runs are done on road.

You are a veterinarian in Dubai. How do you balance your work, your social life and your passion for long distance running?

It’s not always easy and requires a lot of organisation (and very early wake ups). My shift at the clinic varies from day to day. But I always try to run before work, meaning that, sometimes, I need to wake up as early as 3:30am. I also do all my grocery shopping, cleaning and food prep on my days off.

I traditionally don’t have a very busy social life (I am not really the kind of person enjoying brunches or partying late at night) but it’s true that the 4-6 weeks prior to a big event, social life is often reduced to almost zero.

You say you like to test your limits. When is the closest you have been to touching the limits?

Definitely during the race Oman by UTMB. We started on Thursday 7pm and, after over 20 hours of running through the Hajar mountains in Oman, going through the second night was very tough. I knew I still had over 5 hours to go. It was cold, windy and I was alone in the dark. It required a lot of mental strength to continue and to overcome the extreme fatigue. But I am sure that they will be even tougher moments in the future.

What would you say to someone who is new to trail running and would like to make the next step towards racing?

Get a running coach! That will help you structure your training. Ultra-runners always tend to push their training further and further and often end up over-training.

How are you dealing with COVID at the moment? How has it impacted you and your training?

I have a treadmill at home and, over time, I have built myself a mini gym at home. So, COVID and the restrictions it brought, didn’t really impact my training too much. All the races I had planned for the 2020 summer got canceled, so I took advantage of not racing to concentrate my effort on my weaknesses and on building up speed.

But it impacted a bit on the mental side. I worked throughout the lockdown and that wasn’t an easy period. Very stressful! Being able to run at home was a stress reliever.

To handle the heat and the long running sessions, do you have a specific nutrition plan? Any restrictions that you impose to yourself?

I keep the same nutrition plan throughout the year but in summer, I make sure I stay properly hydrated. I also add some electrolytes in my water before and after sessions.

Can you give some advice on how to gear up for trail and desert running? What are your favorite pieces of equipment?

Get comfortable equipment that fits you properly and doesn’t chafe. The worst would be to run for over four hours with a bra or shorts that are chafing. It’s really not enjoyable.

My go to crop top is Runderwear. All other sports bras were chafing me. I tried a lot of different brands until I discovered Runderwear. I tested it on Urban Ultra Sana 60, a hot 60km trail running race, and it didn’t chafe at all. Since then, I never use anything else.

As regarding shorts and socks, I now use BV Sport. I like the compression they are offering and I don’t get any blisters with their socks.

Also get shoes that you feel confident in. I am currently using the VJ MAX on trails as I love their grip so I am confident to run fast on the technical downhills.

What are your next challenges? What are you currently training for?

With COVID-19, nothing is sure but my next big challenge is the Salomon Golden Trail Championships in Azores, Portugal, at the end of October. It is a four-day event where all the best trail runners in the world will be. It will be the first time I will be competing at that level so that will be a nice challenge.
Then back in the UAE, for the local Urban Ultra races, targeting Sana 60km and Hajar 100km. I’m also looking forward to 2021 with some other big challenges: Ultra X World Championships in Slovenia in June (a 250km stage race over 5 days) and CCC UTMB 100km in Chamonix in August. These two international races will also attract a lot of elite athletes.

Thank you and good luck Kathleen as we continue to follow your efforts on the trails!!

If you run around Wadi Showka on the weekends, you might catch a sight of Kathleen’s silhouette running the ridges or jumping up and down boulders. You might only see her from afar though, as she is a very fast, very discrete and very focused ultra-distance runner. Follow Kathleen @kath.leguin

Q&A with Kathleen by Sported’s Anne Muehlenbeck

Posted on 4th Sep 2020