Runner Profile:  Keith Shiels

I first met Keith Shiels on the 13th October 2012, not long after I had set up the NiRunning website.  It was at the Northern Ireland Masters Cross Country trials at QUB Playing Fields in Belfast and he had just produced an excellent performance, winning the Vet35 category (which ultimately led to selection!).

As I didn’t recognise him, I approached Keith and asked him for his name, to which he politely replied “Keith Shiels” (I then noted ‘Keith Shields’).  I compiled my report and uploaded it, only to see my error when the official results came out.  I never made the same mistake again; not because I was criticised for the error, nor was I told to change it, but quite simply because since that day, I have found myself writing Keith SHIELS nearly every weekend since.

This has allowed me to watch Keith consistently improve through 2012 and into 2013, gradually establishing himself as one of the most talented runners in the country.  The best part of it is that I still honestly believe he will continue to improve!  Enough of my waffling, please enjoy Keith’s profile.

Full Name:  Keith Shiels
Current Category:  Male Vet35
Associated Club:  Foyle Valley A C
Personal Bests:  3k – 8:59, 5k – 15:11, 5 miles – 25:09, 10k – 32:29, 10 miles – 55:19, Half Marathon -1:23:06

What is your favourite Northern Ireland event?  The tougher ones all spring to mind, like Greencastle 5, Altamuskin 5 and the Masters XC in Belfast.  However, the main one for me would be the Armagh International Road Races.  I have missed it two years in a row, as I was sick both times it was on.  So hopefully I’ll get to compete in it next year.  I love the build up to all the big races.

When did you start running?  I started running in secondary school, doing cross country and then I stopped until about three or four years ago.  I started running again to lose weight initially, so I could still enjoy my food without putting on weight.  I still eat pretty much anything I like; I just run it off now.

Why do you run?  I love the freedom of the open road.  I run alone all the time and have plenty of time to think about things.  Its funny how life seems so much simpler after a run.  I also love the competition side of running now and pushing myself to the limit in training every week.

What is your next race and what would you like to achieve from it?  The Queen’s ‘Race around the River’ (Wednesday 27th March 2013) was a big target for me as I missed Armagh, so I was happy to have run a personal best at it.  I am now heading to London on Sunday 7th April 2013 to compete in the Masters Indoor Championships.  I have never ran indoors or on a track and have never ran a 3k race before, so I’m looking forward to that but I prefer the road.  After that, I will pick a race with a big field and aim everything towards that.

Since the Summer of 2012, you have really progressed as a runner, is there anything in particular you would put that down too?  I am very competitive and love to test myself constantly in every session, trying to better myself each time.  My coach Gabriel Bell constantly changes my sessions so we’re not doing the same thing each week.  He is good at finding new places and sessions to make me suffer!  I often train alone, so it helps having a coach who is flexible with me.  I think I focus more when I train alone, as I joke about too much when in I’m in a group.  Around September 2012, Gabriel got me to start doing some core work, to be honest I’m not a fan of it but it has really helped.

You have had a few brilliant runs recently, second place in Carmen 10k, second place in Altamuskin 5 and then a new personal best at Queen’s 5km; Are you happy with how things are going?  I always take the positives out of all my races.  I look back at results quite a lot and see how much closer I am getting to certain people, this improves my confidence when I see the gaps coming down and always makes me look forward to meeting the top runners at future races.

Pb’s are great fun, I had ten in a row last year and I’m still improving, so I am looking forward to see how far I can improve with each race.  I find that if I train really hard the week leading up to a race, I run better, but when I taper down towards a race I seem to struggle.

What is your favourite training ‘session’?   Hill repeats on ‘South Way’, that’s a hill close to where I live.  I think hills test you when you are out on an ordinary run but sprinting up them makes me feel as if I have got the best out of myself.  In a weird way I love the burning feeling I get in my thighs when I do them.  Then I have to run up the hill to get home, during which I always ask myself if I am wise putting myself through this!

What is your favourite pre-race and post-race meals?  I love my food and biscuits!  A few hours before a race I would probably have some pasta, tuna or chicken, then a banana about two hours before the race itself.  If its morning race, I would have porridge and a slice of wheaten bread toasted.  I really enjoy post-race refreshments and a chat after the race itself.  They really put out great spreads up around Omagh and Donegal, the people are so friendly and welcoming.  I enjoy a night out after the really big races as a reward.

What is your running ambition?  I just love competing and testing myself to see where I can get to.  I enjoy the big race nerves and the build up to them.  My targets for this year is to run a sub 15 minute 5k, a sub 32 minute 10k and towards the end of the year I would like to try and break 70 minutes for a Half Marathon, as I have not ran a Half Marathon in over two years.

What would you consider to be your biggest achievement to date?  To date, I think my biggest achievement is how much I have improved.  I ran 19:45 for my first 5k two years ago at the Bay Road 5km race (a race in Derry/Londonderry).  I constantly think back to the days when I was heavier and I am really proud of all I have done since.  I love representing my club and putting on my purple vest.  I have been lucky enough to have been selected to run as part of the Northern Ireland Masters team which was another great achievement.

What other sports do you like?  I am good snooker player and have won my fair share of tournaments.  I have hit a tournament century break before, but snooker and running don’t mix so I dropped Snooker in September to concentrate on running.  They both require a lot of hours.