Born in Edinburgh Scotland, two time Olympian Kathy Butler is now living at altitude with her husband Andrew, and 15 month old Libby in Nederland Colorado. Kathy has competed in two Olympic Games, she raced the 5000m in Atlanta and the 10000m in Athens. She now has her sights on the marathon in London 2012. Kathy is back to hard workouts and local racing in Colorado after giving birth to Libby. She says, ‘It does not matter how fit you were beforehand, you still have to be very careful when coming back. The whole point of having the baby is to enjoy the baby.” Kathy has been very successful in her running career for many years because of her smart, sensible and mindful approach to training. Over the many years of competing at such a high level, this mindful approach is reflected with her rarely being sidelined with injury.
Besides running, Kathy has been coaching the Nederland High School Track and Field team and starting up her own business called Little Libby Lane. She is extremely creative making Eco friendly baby clothes. She is always making and posting new designs, so keep checking back to her site for new items. As for her racing career, watch out for some great results in the marathon this fall.
KM: Where did you grow up?
KB: I was born in Edinburgh Scotland, lived there till I was 10. I lived on the Isle of White for a year. I moved to Canada and lived there till I was 20. I then lived between the Madison, Wisconsin and England until I moved to Nederland Colorado where I currently live now.
KM: Is your family athletic?
KB: My mom played badminton competitively since she was 15. My mom’s uncle coached track. Track and field was in my family.
KM: When did you first get into running?
KB: I first got into running when I was 10. We had different sports days I participated in. When I lived in England for a year, we did a 800 m race with the whole class. I beat all the girls and boys. It was then that I realized I was really good at running.
KM: What excites you about running?
KB: There are a few things about running that excite me, with training I enjoy getting out and just running, I like being in the forest, getting on the trails, I do not listen to music. I also like running with people and talking. I also enjoy hard workouts; I love running fast, feeling like I’m fast and improving. I also enjoy competing, running and pushing hard.
KM: What big races did you do in high school?
KB: I went to world cross country championships as a junior three times. I also raced Canadian juniors and OFFSA. I went to Pan Am juniors in Jamaica for track and world juniors in Korea for track.
KM: Where did you go to University?
KB: I went to the University of Guelph for two years, and then went to Wisconsin on a scholarship three years to finish my degree. I transferred because I had to work while I was in school at Guelph,, and I wanted more running competition. The NCAA division one allowed me to have run with better competition.
KM: What was it like competing in University?
KB: The way I did it with transferring schools was good for me. I was able to compete at the top level in university and then by the time I got to Wisconsin, I was ready for the higher level of competition. I think it allowed a good transition from high school junior level of running, to the senior level. It is such a big jump especially as a distance runner. It’s not like sprinting where you develop younger. It takes some time to develop as a middle-long distance runner.
KM: When did you decide to run for Great Britain?
KB: When I was a junior we were living in Canada and I was a Canadian citizen (dual citizenship) and I did not have any other option as I was part of that system. Once I was out of university and competing internationally and living some of the year in the UK, it became a possibility to run for the country I was born in. The last time I competed for Canada was in 1999, in the year 2000 I started competing for Great Britain.
KM: When did you qualify for the 1996 Olympics?
KB: I was in university in Wisconsin and I ran a qualifying time at one of the early season collegiate meets. I had to then finish top two at the Olympic trials. The trials were in Montreal and I had run 15:36 earlier to qualify and I then came second at the trial to make the team. It was only the second year that the 5000 m was an event in the Olympics for women. Before that, the longest distance was the 3000 m. Now you have to run a bit quicker than that to qualify.
KM: Tell me a bit about that experience?
KB: It was all a bit of a shock to me. I had run big competitions but nothing like that. It was my first time going to a competition six weeks in advance. The training camp where all the athletes went was in South Carolina to get used to the weather. I was in good shape running wise, but with the experience of being there I did not run as well as I could have. I went to the opening/closing ceremonies and did everything that was available to do at the Olympics. I ran pretty well it was very hot. I ran pretty close to as well as I could have run at that time.
KM: In what situation do you compete the best?
KB: I compete fairly well when I am under pressure. When everything is on the line, then I usually compete well.
KM: What is your favorite event and distance to race?
KB: A great event experience that I have had is world cross country championships. It’s a very unique race because you get everyone in it from1500 m runners to marathoners, all running in the same race. You also have the team aspect of it. You are racing individually, but also competing as a team. You don’t really get that in track. There are so many great events. As for my favorite distance I like the 1500 m because of the intensity of it and how fast you have to go. I also like the marathon and longer events because you have to be more careful of the strategy, and pacing.
KM: In 2000 did you qualify for the Sydney Olympics?
KB: No. Early on in the season I was not running that well, so I went to a doctor in May. He did not give me any numerical feedback about my blood work. He said that I was in the normal range. So I continued to race, and I actually ran the qualifying time for the 5000m. They wanted me to run faster because it was slower than I had ran in the past. They were not going to select me unless I ran a lot faster. Racing was not going well for me, so I decided to stop racing that season and get blood work done in the U.K. By then my blood work had dipped into being clinically anemic, not just running anemic. Basically, the first doctor I went to see did not know what he was doing. If I had known about this in May, I could have taken some iron and that is probably all I needed.
KM: What injuries have you had to overcome?
KB: I have only had a couple of injuries that have stopped me from running for any length of time. I had osteitis pubis which is degradation of the pubic bone. It is a misalignment that caused the bone to degrade. That was a pretty major injury in 2002. I was on crutches for a month and no running no cross training. I built back up slowly were I could walk to the car without crutches. It was about 8 months of rehabilitation. I have other little injuries like strained achilles, and hamstrings. I also have an extra bone in my foot that bisects a tendon. I have a bit of trouble with that, but nothing as serious as the osteitis pubis.
KM: You also raced the 10000m in the 2004 Athens Olympics, can you talk a bit about your experience?
KB: It was different experience than The Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. I had experienced the opening/closing ceremonies before, so I did not do any of that. We were in a training camp in Cyprus so it was a long flight away from Athens. The 10000m was the second last day of the track events, so I did not even go to the Olympic village until a lot of the people were done competing. It was very much focused on just performing. It was still a great Olympic experience, just very different than 1996. I placed 12th in the 10000m and feel I raced very well. It was very hot and the race went out very slow. I went into the race ranked 28th and finished 12th. There was lot of people that ran a lot slower than they had run in the past.
KM: Talk about your pre-race routine the day before and morning of a big event.
KB: The morning of a big event I do a shakeout jog 10-15min some strides/drills. I have breakfast and then hang out and relax with the people that are around. In the afternoon I get out and do something so I’m not sitting around all day. When I raced world cross in Belfast and finished fourth, we went to a movie the day before. If it is a morning race, I get up 4 hours before the race start. Anything shorter than a marathon, I do 10-15 min shakeout jog followed by breakfast. I eat toast, fruit, maybe a hardboiled egg, tea and water. Sometimes I eat chocolate before I race, even if it’s in the morning. When I get to the race I do a warm up jog, drills and strides.
KM: You have a 14 month old baby. When did you get back into training and racing?
KB: I’m still working on it. I’m back training hard. I was on bed rest 5 weeks before she was born so I was out of shape. I was worried because I had the pelvis issues in the past, so I did not want to come back to fast. I wanted to enjoy having a newborn. I started back running six weeks after she was born. I very gradually eased into it the first week and I ran twice. Libby was 7-8 months old before I was back doing proper workouts. When she was 9 months old I rejoined my training group in Boulder Co. I had planned to run a thanksgiving race but Libby was teething the night before, and I did not get much sleep so I did not race it. There wasn’t another race until January. I raced a 5 k In January when Libby was 11 months old. A week later I raced a cross country race. I recently raced 10k a few weeks ago and a 5k last weekend.
KM: What would you suggest to new moms that want to get back into shape after pregnancy?
KB: I think listening to your body is the most important thing. I didn’t push it through my pregnancy and stopped running completely at 6.5 months then just kept walking and getting outside until I was put on bed rest at 31 weeks. I feel pregnancy completely changes your body. It does not matter how fit you were beforehand, you still have to be very careful when coming back. The whole point of having the baby is to enjoy the baby. You want to get back into shape because it’s good for everyone for you to be healthy and fit, but it’s also important not to rush into it. Don’t think of the people in the magazines having flat stomachs after three months and needing to achieve that. It’s not realistic. Take your time.
KM: List three goals you still want to achieve in running.
KB: I want to make my third Olympic team. I want to run faster in the 10 k and marathon. There are a few more marathons that I want to race competitively. I would like to run New York, Boston. I also want to run London again because I raced London marathon in 2007 and did not finish.
KM: When you are not training what do you like to do with your spare time?
KB: I like doing things with Libby, such as taking the dogs for a walk, and have friends over for dinner. I also do some sewing. I make Eco friendly baby clothes, and bags. You can see some of my designs Little Libby Lane at Kathy-butler.com.
KM: You are coaching the Nederland High School track and field team. Do you see yourself coaching full time in the future?
KB: Eventually, it’s hard to say where things will go. In Wisconsin and at Stanford I was a volunteer coach for collegiate athletes. I have a degree in exercise physiology. Collegiate coaching is very rewarding, but also time consuming. If something comes up that fits well in my schedule, then I would like to do that.
KM: What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
KB: To enjoy running and be smart about your training. Try to focus on immediate goals but also on long term goals. Focus on your health, there can be a lot of short cuts you can take with running. If you want to reach your best when you are older than do not overdo it and train smart.
KB: Making the Olympic team in 2004. It all came down to one race. I missed the qualifying time 31:45 by .6 of a sec in May 2004 at Stanford. You can only run so many 10k’s on the track. It came down to the one race at the British trial. To guarantee my spot, I had to win the trail in June plus run the A standard of 31:45 all in one race. I ran 31:36 and won the trial. To do that all in one race was a great moment! Also winning NCAA cross country in Iowa. Some more great races would be World Cross in Belfast, I was 4th in the short race 4 k. In Brussels in 2004 I was 11th in the long race and our team placed third overall. That was really exciting.
KM: What are a few upcoming races you are interested in?
KB: This Spring/Summer I’m going to run a few local races in Boulder, C.O. Then I’m hoping to run some sea level road races 10k. I’m looking also to run a fall marathon. I’m not sure where yet.
KM: Is there anything else that has happened in your career that you care to add?
KB: In 1994 I went to world cross in Budapest. I had a really weird week while I was there. I couldn’t sleep, lost a bunch of weight and dropped out of the race. I had a resting heart rate of 95. I did not know what was going on. I had been anemic before so was worried it was happening again. I went to the student health center when I got home. I told them I needed a blood test for anemia. The doctor listened to my other symptoms and thought she should do some other blood work. She discovered I had Graves’ disease which is an autoimmune disease related to your thyroid. I lost a whole bunch of weight as it affects your muscle. I was not allowed to run at all because my heart rate is so high I could have a heart attack. They put me on medication and said that I could start back running but they were not sure if I would ever run competitively again. Because of my running/racing they caught the disease really early and were able to control it with a low dose of medication. I was back running within a couple months after I was diagnosed. This was amazing considering they told me I may never run again. I got back to training hard after 5 months of being diagnosed with Graves disease. I was on medication for a little over a year, and then it went into remission. Now I go for checkups every 6 months to check my thyroid. A few times it has come close to going out of normal range but never back to where it was.
KM: Do you think because you are an athlete and so in tune with your body that is why you caught the disease in its early stage?
KB: Yes, I definitely would not have noticed the symptoms as quickly as I did. As an athlete you push your body to such extremes you can’t afford to be even a little off. You notice right away when something is wrong.