Runner's Web
Lynne Bermel
Lynne Bermel's Column

Contact Lynne via email @

Interview with Sarah Dillabaugh

Ottawa runner Sarah Dillabaugh recently returned from competing in the Women's International Yokohoma Ekiden Relay in Japan. Her selection to the Canadian team was based on her second place finish at last yearís Road Race National Championships and a second place finish at the Canadian Cross Country Championships. Her next major race is the World Cross-Country Championships in Portugal on March 19th. Sheís also hoping to qualify this summer for the Canadian Olympic team in the 5kms.

Sarah Dillabaugh

Sarah Dillabaugh on the run

Sarahís best times:

3000m track 9:15 (Feb 2000)

5000m track 16:07 (July 1999)

5k road 16:21 (Summer 1997)

10k road 33:26 ( May 1997)

Sarah is married to fellow runner Kirk Dillabaugh. They have two children: Adara, 4 and Darion, 18 months.

Runnerís Web: Tell us about your recent race in Japan. How did it go?

Sarah: Our race was broken up into six legs of 5k, 10k, 6k, 6.195k, 10k, and 5k. I did the 5th leg

(10k) and ran 34:46. That wasn't a best time for me (I've run 33:26), but I was OK with it since I was running alone until I caught someone in the last 1k. Our team was 11th overall and the 8th international team. There were 10 international teams and 7 Japan Club teams. The top 3 teams were Kenya, Japan and Romania.

Some of the top runners we were competing against included Wincatherine Ndereva from Kenya (she ran the 2nd leg 10k in 31:34)! and Constantine Dita from Romania (she ran the 6th leg, 5k, in 15:19) Our team agreed that this was one of the most competitive years ever for this race.

Runnerís Web: Turning to the World Cross Country Championships, what are your expectations?

Sarah: This will be my first time at World Cross-Country, so it is hard to predict. I hope to be in the top half of the field. I think we have a very strong team so hopefully as a team we will place well. Top p 8 I think would be realistic.

RW: You are also hoping to qualify for the Olympics in the 5kms. What do you think your chances are of meeting the Olympic qualifying standard of 15:28?

Sarah: Last summer, I ran 16:07 and that was my first time trying 5k on the track. I feel I was in shape to run faster maybe 15:50-15:55 pace but didn't have enough opportunities to race the distance. As well, I was just returning to get in shape after having a baby in the fall of Ď98.

This year, Iíve got a much better base from the past year of training I hope to be able to do it. I feel I have been training harder than ever before and am feeling fitter than ever before. If not this year, for sure in the next 2004 Olympics. We also have to be top four at Olympic trials, which I think is a reasonable goal.

RW: You are doing some training with fellow Ottawa runner Nathalie Cote who is also hoping to make the Olympic 1500m standard. What sort of workouts are you doing together since youíre both preparing for different distances?

Sarah: Nathalie and I run a lot of our off day runs together. For 1500m, you still need a good base. Nathalie actually runs more mileage than I do because she has been running longer and her body can handle it better than mine.

As far as interval workouts go, it depends on the time of year and upcoming races whether we can do them together or not. Generally, in the winter we are both doing longer intervals. It is hard to do much speed work in the winter with no indoor track here in Ottawa! I think our workouts will get a little bit more different in the spring, though, as we start to specialize for our events. We workout well together because we have different strengths.

RW: How do you find training in Ottawa winters? Where do you do your speed work?

We use the "Accelerator" at the Corel Centre ( a high speed treadmill) for most of our speedwork during the winter months. I tend to do a lot of treadmill running, not just because it gets very cold but because the footing can be very bad in the snow sometimes. This year, I would say I averaged running on the treadmill 3x/week. I also use the YMCA on Argyle as well as my own treadmill at home.

RW: Since moving to Ottawa and becoming a "mom," youíre running better than ever. To what would you attribute your improvement?

Sarah: That is hard to say. There may be some physiological explanation because I know it has happened to other athletes; however, I don't know of any solid explanation yet. It could be that a general satisfaction with my life that makes me run better. Some people say it may be a better pain tolerance after experiencing labor! It is very helpful having a husband who competes as well because he always understands how Iím feeling and all the time I put into running.

I think also, a lot my development as a runner was a natural progression since I didn't start running competitively until I was in university. There was a lot of room for improvement. (Sarahís best times in university for the 3k: 9:42 (now: 9:15), 5k: 16:38 (now 16:07) 10k: 36:30 (now: 33:26)

RW: Finally, what would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as a runner?

Sarah: I am very self motivated. I trained by myself for a few months while we were living up on James Bay where my husband was teaching. It would have been easy to say it was too hard but I stuck to it. I remember doing strides in the hallway of the school! I am mentally tough too, I think.

My weakness is that I have been easily injured in the past. This year has been much better for that because I now see a chiropractor regularly (Dr. Jacques Pelletier in Osgoode) and I try to ice regularly whether Iím sore or not.

Sarahís Typical Training Week

  • Weekly mileage ranges from 45 miles (easy week) to 63 miles (heavier weeks)
  • Runs 6 days a week with Sunday off unless racing
  • 3 Interval workouts/week
  • Weights 2x/ week
  • Off day runs often include some slow tempo


Contact Lynne via email @

For more on Lynne's background read this interview with Wayne Scanlan which appeared originally in the Ottawa Citizen.

Top of Article

Click Here!