After breaking through last year, middle distance talent Hanna Tarver spoke to AW about her training, aims and university life

Clocking 2:01.82 over 800m and representing England for the first time at the Loughborough International, along with setting a UK Women’s League division record, 2014 was a year to savour for Hanna Tarver. However, she is just as eager to learn from her mistakes in the UK senior and England under-23 championships and gain as much experience as she can.

The 21-year-old Scot fits her training around studying chemical engineering at Cambridge University. Coached by Stuart Hogg, based near Edinburgh, Tarver speaks to him at least once a day and trains mainly on her own. Nevertheless, it is a set-up that worked last year and the Edinburgh AC runner explains: “In Cambridge, most of my sessions comprise of me with a watch on each wrist. My Garmin has my session programmed in, so it gives me beeps to indicate the beginning and end of a rep and a stopwatch to time myself with.

“When I’m home, I benefit from my mum coming to the track with me to time my sessions, which I complete at the same time as my sister. I do enjoy their company.”

Tarver tends to do a fartlek or a four-mile tempo on a Tuesday, a track session involving anything from 200m-1000m intervals on a Thursday and longer intervals, such as three-minute reps along the tow path on a Saturday.

“I think my improvement was largely down to starting weights in the winter, which improved my strength and running form considerably”

As for the Saturday session, the BUCS 800m champion says: “This session is extremely mentally and physically tough and it lasts forever. It leaves you feeling dead for the rest of the day. Katherine Turner, a 1500m runner who also studies at Cambridge, joins me for this and the company really helps to motivate me.”

She does all of her steady runs around a field close to her college, as she prefers to run on grass for reduced impact and adds: “This can sometimes be tedious but I do switch to the pavements for my tempo runs as it allows me to increase my pace.”

Although Tarver enjoys Cambridge, she finds it difficult to find a hill for sessions and says: “I do enjoy these type of sessions, but get quite a shock when I return home as even a slight incline begins to feel like a mountain!”

She also credits beginning weights training for its role in her improvement last year. “I think my improvement was largely down to starting weights in the winter, which improved my strength and running form considerably,” she explains. “I also increased my training from the previous year. I had been training at Core Cambridge for weights – a specialist strength and conditioning centre – however, they recently closed, so I have been making use of the new university sports centre, which has a brand new and good-quality weights room.”

Studying at Cambridge is academically demanding, but Tarver has established a routine that enables her to train and study. She says: “I do all my morning runs at 7am before lectures and my sessions in the afternoon between supervisions. The scheduled timetabling isn’t too demanding, but there is a lot of work to do outside of this to prepare for supervisions. This means I can easily fit in sessions at times that suit me, but I then have to complete the work in the periods afterwards. I rarely have time for anything other than running and work – but I’m willing to do that.”

Tarver listens to upbeat music when she is warming up before sessions and races and when she is running – trying to think about running as fast as she can while enjoying the freedom it brings.

“I rarely have time for anything other than running and work – but I’m willing to do that”

As for nutrition, she says: “I don’t eat anything before morning runs, but get back and eat a big bowl of porridge. I usually do sessions around two hours after lunch and afterwards have SIS Rego recovery and a banana or bounce ball.”

Having run in Europe for the first time last year and running as fast as she did (2:01.82 in Belgium), the European Under-23 Championships would have seemed an obvious aim for this year. However, Tarver explains: “My main aim is to recover from a stress fracture in my foot. It is my first proper injury and I want to gain a greater understanding about my body, including nutrition, biomechanics and how my body responds to training.

“I want to get back to competition and gain as much racing experience as I can. I would love to travel more extensively to overseas competitions in the future.”


Monday: (am) 4 miles steady. (pm) 1hr weights including: squats, hang cleans, overhead lunges, abs.
Tuesday: (am) 4 miles easy. (pm) 40min fartlek or 4 miles tempo run.
Wednesday: (am) 4 miles steady. (pm) 1hr weights, different to Monday, includes: deadlift, hang clean to jerk, abs.
Thursday: (am) 4 miles easy. (pm) Track session: varies from 200m to 1000m reps.
Friday: Rest.
Saturday: (am) Long session: 3min reps on tow path. (pm) Free body circuit: working abs, arms and legs.
Sunday: (am) 5 miles tempo run. (pm) Mobility and stretching.

» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes