Winning the European under-23 cross country title last December was a massive breakthrough for the young Scot
Earlier this year, Rhona Auckland was forced to pull out of the Bupa Great Edinburgh International cross country, which was disappointing given her great vein of form and also because it would have been a race on home soil for the young Scot. Undeterred, the determined Banchory Stonehaven runner used hopes of selection for the World Cross as motivation to power her through aqua-jogging sessions and was rewarded with a fine 19th place in Guiyang, China, in March.
Reflecting on her biggest victory to date, Auckland explained: “The Euro Cross in Samokov, Bulgaria, was definitely the highlight of my season and I am still smiling like an idiot – the support has been overwhelming. I felt good going into the race as it had been a solid season for me, but I did not expect to come away with the gold.”
She feels it was a change in her mental approach that contributed to her running so well. She adds: “I think that having a more relaxed outlook on racing – focusing on the enjoyment, rather than the nerves – has really helped me this season, and at the Euros I just felt happy and at home. In such a strong field I was surprised to find myself on my own, but I just thought, ‘Hey what have I got to lose?’ and gunned it to the line in panic!”
In her fourth and final year of medical sciences at Edinburgh University, Auckland claims there are “no secrets” to her training. She does three morning interval-tempo sessions per week, provided by Joyce and Ken Hogg, with recovery runs in the evening on those days. In between, she does two strength and conditioning sessions with the support of Edinburgh University, easy runs at a pace based on how she feels, and a long Sunday run.
She adds: “I try to go for an easy swim once a week post-session to help keep things loose – pool-based recovery works well for me.”
Auckland feels the routine her university course provides her with is a big factor in her success. “It’s quite a demanding course, but I feel the routine and required organisation complements my running and gives me a different focus in the lead-up to the big races. Having exams really helped for the Europeans, although I don’t think they did much for my exam the next week!” she says.
Having finished her season at the World Cross, the 22-year-old switched her attention to the road and track with more speed endurance and a slightly lower mileage to balance the increased intensity. She opened her summer season by running 16:01.48 to win the 5000m at the BUCS Championships in Bedford.
Auckland on pre-race and post-race food
“Peanut butter is a must – before and after, and a strong coffee pre-race always gives me that extra buzz,” explains Auckland.
On her favourite and least favourite session
Aware of her strengths and weaknesses as an athlete, Auckland explains: “My strengths as a runner lie in my endurance ability and the love of the sport. My weakness is speed. I can keep my top speed going for 10km, which means I’m not going fast enough in shorter reps, so that is something I need to work on, as lactic and I try to avoid each other!”
As a result, it is little surprise that she names the long run and 10km type intervals, such as 10x1000m on the track as her favourite training sessions.
On her training group
Since she has been at Edinburgh University, Joyce and Ken Hogg have emailed Auckland with her training sessions. “We talk at least once a week to discuss targets and I email them my Garmin splits. I do most of my sessions alone, which I quite enjoy. However, there is a strong group of guys who I occasionally chase too when our sessions match up,” she explains.
She also enjoys doing her individually tailored strength and conditioning sessions in the CSE Edinburgh University Gym, where she trains alongside fencers, swimmers and skiers. “I enjoy the social side of these training sessions” she says.
On music to listen to while training
Auckland does not listen to music when training. She explains: “I like to count my pace and hear my breathing, or get lost in my own thoughts!”
On her goals
One of Auckland’s targets was to perform well in the World Cross, build on the experience of being part of a world-class field and learn from the process. “China was incredible, such a challenging and exciting experience and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to compete.
“I know the selectors took a risk on me in light of the injury, so I was pleased to be able to perform well and hopefully have justified their risk!” she explained.
Her focus is now the 5000m and 10,000m with the aim being to get her times down and put herself in contention for the European Under-23 Championships.
WINTER TRAINING OUTLINE
Monday: (am) 6-8 miles run. (pm) Strength and conditioning at Edinburgh University with a focus on rehab exercises, and currently improving my upper body strength. Exercises such as overhead squats, deadlifts, weighted lunges at 80-100% body weight. There is always a long core session and rehab exercises too. In the coming summer months I will add more dynamic things like box jumps and drills to help with speed.
Tuesday: (am) Session such as 10x1km or a progression interval session of 10, 8, 6, 4, 2min. (pm) Recovery run based on how I feel.
Wednesday: (am) Strength and conditioning – similar to Monday, but with more of a focus on dynamic exercises. (pm) 6-8 miles run.
Thursday: (am) Speedier sessions such as 3x3min with 90sec recovery or 8x2min or a 4/5mile tempo. (pm) Recovery run.
Friday: Rest or easy run/swim.
Saturday: (am) Longer session such as 4x10min or 6x5min (my favourite ones!). (pm) Recovery run.
Sunday: Long run extending to 16 miles in the peak of winter training – done at an easy pace – based on how I feel.
» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes