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Interview with US runner Shayne Culpepper before the World Cross Country Championships: „I would be very happy with a top ten finish”

Once again the US will have a big team at the World Cross Country Championships that take place in St. Galmier/St. Etienne (France) this weekend. Among the team members is Shayne Culpepper, who will run the middle distance event on Sunday. She gave the following interview.

Shayne Culpepper (31) is a two times Olympian (2000, 2004), 2004 World Indoor bronze medalist at 3,000 m and current US indoor champion at 3,000m (9:00.59). She has a degree in political science and is married to Alan Culpepper (32), a successful US marathon runner (PB: 2:09:41). They have an almost three year old son, Cruz Samuel Culpepper. Together they own a graphic design business named Culpepper Mill. Her personal best are:

800m - 2:02.18 (2001)

1500m - 4:06.33 (2004)

3000m – 8:55.42i (2004)

Marisa Reich spoke to Shayne Culpepper.

Where do you live and train?

Shayne Culpepper: “I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up in Philadelphia. My parents went to the University of Colorado in Boulder so I lived there for a few years as a young child. They often spoke with enthusiasm about it, and that is what prompted me to move here. Now I live in Lafayette, Colorado. It is about five miles west of Boulder. I do most of my track session on a High School track in Boulder, and I often use the Boulder trails. However there are many trails where we live as well.”

You are married to Alan Culpepper since November 1997. Alan is a successful runner as well. How did you meet?

Shayne Culpepper: “I met Alan at the track team at the University of Colorado in the summer of 1995. It was during a preseason cross country training camp.”

In April 2002 your son Cruz Samuel was born. Why did you decide to have a child in the middle of your career? Did it change your life?

Shayne Culpepper: “Well, I was a little bit frustrated at the time, as I always had been right on the edge of making the team. Sometimes I made the team but then missed the qualifying time, or I had the time but missed the place. I knew I could do both, having a family and competing. So I took a year off. In terms of changing our lives we tended to be more laid back in terms of running. We used to wake up and hang around. Often I felt like I don want to run. I had to force myself out of the door some days. Now, with Cruz Samuel, I don have time to even think about it. There is no problem if you know that there is only a certain amount of time for the sport.”

What changed during and after your pregnancy?

Shayne Culpepper: “During pregnancy I didn’t train at all. I just hung around doing nothing. I enjoyed it. So when Cruz was born it was pretty hard because I was completely out of shape. But I came back quite well. I pretty much coached myself the year after Cruz was born. I kind of simulated what Alan does, but it was not what I needed. It did not work well for me, so I decided to find a coach. I have been working with Brad Hudson for one and a half years and it is going quite well. I do less mileage then I did before, but as I said before it works out better for me.”

Is it right that your son already understands the sentence "Mum and dad go running."? How do you manage training when you both have to train at the same time?

Shayne Culpepper: “Yes, he understands that we are running. But I don think he realizes how different it is from most of his peers parents’ jobs. Cruz is in pre-school two days a week, and we use this time for training. Otherwise we exchange, which works well because I am up an hour before them anyway. So I usually run first before Alan and Cruz get up. When I come back Alan has cared about Cruz. So Alan can run after I come back home. When we do hard workouts, we have a baby sitter who helps us on these days.”

When you and your husband go to competitions, do you take your son with you?

Shayne Culpepper: “Yes, we do. But rarely do we compete at the same venue. Unless it is something big like the Olympics or the World Championships in which case someone from the family will come to help.”

Do you train with your husband together sometimes?

Shayne Culpepper: “No, never. Our pace is way too different. We do share advice and insight with each other, though.”

Do you and your husband afford your life just from running?

Shayne Culpepper: “Yes we do afford our life just out of running. We are well supported by Nike. And we have managed to be injury free for the bulk of our careers. But we also own a graphic design business named Culpepper Mill.”

During pre-season how often do you train and what mileage are you doing usually?

Shayne Culpepper: “I train every day of the week, and about three to four times a week I train twice a day. Each week I run about 80 miles at most during a base phase. During race time I usually run 55 to 70 miles a week. I have tried to run up to 95 miles a week when I trained alone, but with the altitude I found myself going to slow and I was often more tired than I should be.”

Do you have training camps in high altitude?

Shayne Culpepper: “No we don . But we do live at altitude of 1,500 [metres] in Lafayette. You can do speed work up here. But it is really hard to recover from the long interval stuff. You have to take longer rests between the sessions than usually.”

Where is your focus, and what goals do you have this year?

Shayne Culpepper: “Well, the focus is much more on the World Championships in Helsinki than on the World Cross Country Championships in France. Although I am looking forward to running well at the World Cross Country Championships. Track is my favorite and my strength. I would like to run in the 14:40s for 5,000 m, under 4:05 in the 1,500 and be competitive in the final at the World Championships on the track.”

Your husband Alan is running the Boston Marathon on April 18th. What do you think he could reach there, and do you intend to run Marathon yourself in future?

Shayne Culpepper: “Depending on the weather, I think he could run a personal best (sub 2:09:40), and certainly I feel that a top three finish is well within his reach. About running a marathon myself: definately not.”

What is your goal at the World Cross Country Championships in France?

Shayne Culpepper: “I would be very happy with a top ten finish.”

Will you take a break after competing at the World Cross County Championships? And do you plan to compete in Europe besides Helsinki this year?

Shayne Culpepper: “I won’t take a break but I will have an easy week of just running with no workouts. Then I will get right back into it for the trials in June. At this point I have not come up with a detailed race plan for the summer season. So I don’t know if I will be in Europe before Helsinki.”

Do you want to compete at the Olympics 2008?

Shayne Culpepper: “Yes, for sure.”