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World of Sport

12th Jun 2015

Irish marathon champion Maria McCambridge shares her diet and fitness tips

Savouring victory with husband Gary Crossan

Patrick McCarry

From Mount Anville primary school to, hopefully, the Maracanã.

Four years older, four years wiser, 4,000 more miles in the legs [at least]. Maria McCambridge made the qualifying time for London 2012 and still didn’t make the cut. Weeks away from the preparation of a lifetime, she caught up with us to discuss diets, double breakfasts and Rio 2016 dreams.

Coming first is something McCambridge takes for granted. She has been running for three decades now and has two Dublin Marathon wins to her name. Still, her victory, on June 1, in the Flora’s Women’s Mini Marathon was sweet relief.

‘I was delighted to get the win,’ she said. ‘I have a few second and third place finishes in that event.’

The 39-year-old Dubliner is aiming for a spot in the Olympics for a second time. Her first appearance was in the 5,000 metres, in Athens 2004.

McCambridge actually passed the qualifying standard in 2012, ahead of the London games, but her time was the slowest of four Irishwomen. Athletics Ireland was only allowed three participants. McCambridge missed out.

In a somewhat cruel nutshell, her time of 2:36.37 had been 14 seconds too slow. Difficulties of marathon routes, nor weather conditions during events, did not seem to come into it. She was informed over the phone.

‘It was had,’ she admits, ‘but I knew they would go with the fastest times. There is a lot more consistency to the marathon selection this time around.’

That criteria should now include mandatory participation in the World Half Marathon Championship, in Cardiff, next March.

McCambridge plans to run the Frankfurt Marathon in October. Olympic hopefuls can try to reach the qualifying standard all the way up to April 2016 – four months before the event – but McCambridge is not looking beyond October. ‘I’m leaving it all out there, in Frankfurt,’ she insists.

VHI Women's Mini Marathon, Dublin 1/6/2015  Maria McCambridge winner of the VHI Women's Mini Marathon  Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Her journey is a self-funded one. She receives sponsorship money from Saucony [the running shoe company] and supplements it with coaching runners at DSD [Dundrum] and in schools. At present, she is helping 13 hopefuls for the Dublin Marathon, which takes place later this year.

‘It is a shame I cannot compete in Dublin but I feel the conditions, and weather, in Frankfurt is more suited to my push for a qualifying time. The guys [I have trained] are doing well. I will probably be more nervous about them than myself.’


100-120 miles run per week: I run twice a day, most days. My main training session is in the morning and I would go for a light run [six miles] in the evening. If I do not run, I will do some work on my core or stretching. Every second day – usually Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – I would do recovery runs.

Training runs: These include tempo extension. Pace training includes temp running and fast 100s [metres]. Other than that, I am padding miles.

Two breakfasts: My hard sessions [50 miles plus] are in the morning. I would have something light – bananas on toast – before heading out. My big breakfast is when I get back. Porridge, yoghurt, more toast.

Eating well: I would eat healthy at the best of times but I become more conscious of how I eat when I become marathon-focused. That would usually be 10 weeks before an event. My diet would include a lot of carbs – potatoes, rice and pasta – that I bulk up with chicken and vegetables.