Runlab athlete – Lenka Libanska

I had followed a fairly typical path of many adult runners. I had been an active child, always participated in a lot of sports, at school, in clubs, competitively and as a leisure activity. Gymnastics, Downhill and Cross Country Skiing, Windsurfing, Athletics, you name it. My parents were very supportive and encouraging in this respect.











During my primary school years, I switched from Gymnastics to Athletics (I did mainly track – 400m and 800m), much to the liking of my father, a former skier and athlete. I loved it, running was my sport. I did reasonably well on a regional level, managing to podium after a few local off road races as well.


And then at the end of high school, I stopped running and did nothing for years with university, a busy career, two little sons, moving from one country to another being my regular excuses. It all changed in Spring 2011, while walking from a business dinner in Amsterdam. I realized that I was unable to walk fast and hold a conversation at the same time. I was really out of shape. So, from one day to another, I decided to change my lifestyle and began running again. It was not easy at the beginning, sometimes quite frustrating to be honest. The times when I could run 800m in 2:25 or faster were gone. Luckily, I do not give up easily and having goals work well for me so pretty soon, I had registered for my first half marathon: Hervis Prague half-marathon 2012. I finished in a time of 1:51:29 and was hooked again!

I joined Runlab a year ago when Vlad started a My run group in Mosman. I had only been in Australia a couple of months at that time, regularly running and looking for like-minded people to train with. The guys in Pace Athletic had mentioned Runlab: “You should try it, you will be coached by Vlad Shatrov. I am sure you know Vlad. He is an elite runner”. I did not know him then (sorry Vlad J) but I joined. And I am happy I did!


I enjoy the tough trainings (the fact that you are not suffering alone makes each hard training session more bearable), the encouragement you get from all coaches and other runners (it is great to receive so many messages wishing you good luck before a race and congratulations when you have finished one), the (unspoken) internal rivalry, the informal Sunday runs. Of course, I love the fact that I have improved over the last year despite my recent injury and that other fellow runners have noticed my improvement as well.


I think Runlab is special because of all the great and a bit crazy (that is the point of view of many non-runners) people – the runners & coaches. If they say that they will be cheering on at the 30k mark of a marathon or waiting for you at the finish line, they will be there, shouting and supporting, regardless of the fact they have just finished their own races.I’ve always found Running is an individual sport. You are there on your own. And I enjoy it, but it is also nice to be a part of a group.


Do I have any role models among runners? Indeed, I love to read books about running and runners. I also follow a few of them on Facebook. There are so many great elite-professional runners nowadays – Kilian Jornet, Kara Goucher being among them.

And the legends? Definitely – Grete Waitz and Kathrine Switzer.


Growing up in former Czechoslovakia, Emil Zatopek “the Locomotive” was a running legend that I have admired since I was a child. His grueling training sessions were legendary. And after recently finishing my first marathon, I cannot agree with him more: “If you want to win something, run 100m. If you want to experience something, run a marathon”.


And the others? Vlad Shatrov, Rachel Glasson, Sebastian Gallery, Kirby Clarke, my running friends in Europe incl. my baby-brother and many others are my inspiration.

My big race: I had planned to run my first marathon in September 2013, as a present for my 40th birthday. But it did not happen. So, as soon as they opened entries for Blackmores 2014, I registered. I have always prepared for previous races by myself, not having a coach. And it worked reasonably well. But this time I thought: This is different. A marathon… So I asked Vlad to prepare a training program for me. And I also did a lot of reading and found that all the running books advise novice marathoners not to have a time goal for their first marathon – but how can you properly train and focus without one? When Vlad asked me, I mentioned 3 goals:

o To finish strong

o Anything sub 4:00:00 would be great

o And if all the stars align – crossing the finish line at 3:45:00 would be an amazing bonus.

My training went well, there were of course ups and downs. Especially when my nutrition plan did not work, I panicked a bit. And comments of other runners: “Oh, you have chosen Sydney as your first marathon…any specific reason? It is an interesting course, but quite hilly…” did not calm my pre-race jitters much.

But, I made it to the start line. And the race itself? It went surprisingly well. Not only did I finish my first marathon, I actually enjoyed it. Indeed, cramps (that I have never experienced before) decided to accompany me from 30k mark but I managed to run and finish despite them. Cheering of all the Runlabers, my family and friends and seeing Kirby’s pink shorts a few meters in front of me through the whole race definitely helped!

And the result: 3:40:59 – I smashed it!


The future: being an elite runner is not my destiny but I can still improve a lot. I am very goal driven therefore, I have a lot of them: I want to improve my 10k and half-marathon PB. And since I have not only survived but actually enjoyed my first marathon, I am looking forward to another, hopefully an even faster one. 3:30:00 looks like a nice goal to work on. But the main challenge for 2015, will be The North Face 50 in the Blue Mountains. I have not done a lot of trail running as yet but I am keen to give it a go. And, last but not least: keep on training and enjoy running injury free!


Introductions are usually done at the beginning, but allow me an exception. I moved to Australia with my family – my Dutch husband and our sons Alexander and Sebastian – in January 2013. Australia is the fifth country I have lived in (after the Czech Republic, Canada, the Netherlands and Romania) and probably not the last one. I have to admit that settling in is not always easy but I enjoy the change. And if we move on one day, it is clear already now what I will miss!