Naomi Taschimowitz combines training and racing at the sharp end of national distance running with working as an economist at the Treasury. We caught up with Naomi to find out how she balances a demanding career, alongside competing with the best in the business on cross-country, track and road.
1500m 4:16 (2017)
3000m 9:12 (2011) (2017 SB 9:13)
5000m 16:08 (2017)
English National 1500m Champs Bronze (2011)
2 x South of England Senior Cross-Country Champion (2011 and 2016)
UK Inter Counties Senior Bronze Medalist (2011)
European U23 Cross Country Championships Individual Silver Medalist (2011)
European U23 Cross Country Championships Team Gold (2011)
45th Place Finisher in the Senior World XC Championships (2011)
World XC Championships Team 5th Place Senior Women’s (2011)
Representations: 6 England vests (2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017), 3 GB vests (2011, 2012)
You’ve got a pretty impressive list of achievements there, especially for someone who works full time and has no external support or funding. We can only assume you must really enjoy racing, but how did it all start, what got you running in the first place and how did it progress?
I did my first cross country league race around the age of 15 but until I got to uni I dabbled in a range of sports. Even within athletics I did high jump at the county champs. I suppose the obsessive streak eventually won out over the average (at best) hand-eye coordination and by the time I got to Cambridge I realised running was the sport for me. While I was there my running really took off and by my second year I got my first England (junior) vest. I’m lucky in that I have a great long distance relationship with my coach, Charlotte Fisher, who has coached me since school.
As to enjoying racing, yes, I do like to race often, and it’s what motivates me to train. Though I do occasionally still get pretty nervous – the British champs on the track always gets me!
Looking back on your running career so far, there must be some particular highlights or standout moments for you, what results or experiences give you most satisfaction?
I’ll pick a recent one: Winning then 1500 A race at the Loughborough BMC this summer in a time a few tenths away from my 2011 PB (I went on to a new PB later in the season). 2011 was the year I ran in the world cross and won a medal at the European u23 cross country, but my weight was unsustainably low and inevitably the injuries came. After 2011 I didn’t break 4:20 for 1500 until the Loughborough race. I suppose in the intervening years I’d gradually accepted I wasn’t capable of my 2011 times at my heavier, healthier weight (which I was obviously ok with if it meant protecting my long-term health). Crossing the line at Loughborough overturned the idea that my fastest running was behind me.
With highs, there must be some lows, for example you went the best part of 18 months without racing between 2012 and 2014. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks and injuries, and how do they shape your approach now?
I was a fairly classic example of the female athlete triad. I wasn’t eating enough for the level of training I was doing and, as a result, I didn’t have a period for nearly four years and had very low bone mineral density (technically osteoporosis at its worst). That left me vulnerable to injuries, and stress fractures in particular. I started to turn this around from 2012, and I’m now a healthier weight and have regular periods. My bone density has improved and – while I obviously still get injuries like any runner – I’m far less susceptible to them.
You’re someone who races cross-country, track and road, do you have a preferred surface? And do you feel competing on one varying surfaces complements each other?
It used to be cross country, but I’m enjoying the track more these days. I’ve tended to do more running on track and road since moving to London five years ago, and so perhaps I now feel more at home on the harder surfaces.
That said, the national cross-country relays are still perhaps my favourite event in the calendar. It’s always a brilliant atmosphere and winning a silver medal with the Shaftesbury team in 2015 was a big highlight!
I do think cross country has helped my track and vice versa, although it’s a busy calendar and I don’t always find it so easy to transition quickly between the two. My break after the track season is just as much about mentally recharging as giving my body some time off.
We’ve focused on your running without noting that you’re doing this all whilst working full time at the Treasury. How’s work going and how does this impact on your running? There must be some compromises to be made?
When I left university to start work in 2012 at first I felt like I was compromising my training all the time. Charlotte helped me change my mind set, so that I’d now say working life has just made me train differently, and in some respects more intelligently. I don’t usually have the time (or energy!) to train twice a day, at least not without sacrificing any form of social life. Instead, I focus on my one run or session being good quality. Because Charlotte’s coached me for so long I feel like she really knows what works for me and completely gets how I adapt training around work.
I’m also very lucky that I love my job, so I never resent having to balance work and running. Not that it makes the feeling of rushing out of work on a dark, cold Tuesday night in time to do a nasty track session any easier!
So, what does a typical training week look like at the minute?
Currently, in a week where I don’t have a race, it looks something like:
- Monday (before work): 60 min on the cross trainer, plus strength and conditioning
- Tuesday (after work): Track session at Parliament Hill of 6-8km volume.
- Wednesday (before work): 60min cross train, plus strength and conditioning
- Thursday (either over lunch or after work): Tempo or threshold run of 30 – 40mins worth, usually in Hyde Park.
- Friday (before work): 40min cross train
- Saturday: Session – on grass or paths, up to 30mins total volume. I usually do this in Regent’s Park, which is my favourite London park to run in, not least because of the Benugo cafe in the middle.
- Sunday: Long run, where possible I try to extend on the cross trainer: e.g. 20 – 30mins cross train then straight into 60 – 75mins run. At the moment, if my legs feel ok, I try to keep the run part under 6:15-30/mile. I often do this run around Clissold Park, which has a wood chip trail and is a bit more forgiving on the legs.
When I have a big race on the Saturday I’ll make the Thursday an easy or steady run and rest on Friday.
Because of my injury history I keep my mileage relatively low, and usually only run 4 days in the week, sticking to the cross trainer on the others. The challenge is fitting in enough sleep, particularly on Mondays and Wednesdays when I often need to get up around 5.30 to fit the gym in before work. I generally try to ensure I get at least 7 hours sleep a night but don’t always manage it during the week!
How will your racing and training approach change on the different surfaces?
It’s only really the sessions that change throughout the year. Track sessions become more focussed in the summer, when I start to target certain split times much more.
And do you have a favourite type of session or workout? And for that matter, least favourite?
When I’m reasonably fit, I love the satisfaction of a good hard tempo. But when I’m unfit, the tempo is my least favourite – every step is an effort, and I often start too hard!
What is your advice for anyone balancing work with serious training and racing?
Be both flexible and disciplined. I think I know what sort of training works for me, but I try not to get too wound up if work commitments force me to change my schedule. And there are so often silver linings – an unplanned rest day can sometimes be exactly what I need.
Equally, and I don’t think I have this nailed yet, I think you need to be disciplined on the whole package. Trying to fit every training session in is counterproductive if you’re not getting enough sleep or the wrong nutrition. In other words, and this is the economist talking, try to consider the marginal value. Is the marginal value of that gym session greater than the marginal value of an extra hour of sleep?
What’s next for you on the racing front? Any near term goals?
I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to the rest of the cross-country season, particularly with the nationals at Parliament Hill, which is only a couple of miles from where I live. For the summer, my biggest target will be to break 16 minutes for 5000m. I failed on a couple of attempts this summer, and it’s becoming a bit of a barrier for me!
Thanks Naomi, and all the best for the rest of the season!