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Even those distance runs can't stop her

Winning keeps Sanya Richards motivated on long workout days as she trains for the 2008 Olympic games.

December 24, 2007|Janet Cromley | Times Staff Writer

Sanya Richards is once again ahead of the pack. A gold medalist in the 4-by-400 relay at the 2004 Olympics and named 2006 athlete of the year by the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, Richards won the 400 meter race at the World Athletics Final in September in Stuttgart, Germany, in a blistering 49.27 seconds. She took a few minutes to e-mail us from Austin, Texas, where she's training for the 2008 Olympics.

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When did you know for sure that you were a runner? Was there an "aha" moment that you can remember?

I have been running since I was 7 years old, so it's hard to pinpoint one moment when I knew for sure that running was what I really wanted to do. But this past year, the importance of running and what it means to me crystallized when I was diagnosed with Behcet's disease [an autoimmune disorder]. I was suddenly terrified that I could have a health condition that would keep me from running, something that I know now I'm born to do.

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What keeps you motivated during a hard workout?

I think about the times that I lost races that I knew I should have won. I think about how much I hate to lose, and that motivates me to give my all. I also think about the great support staff I have in my family, coaches and agents. I always want to make them proud.

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How often do you work out and for how long? What does your workout consist of?

I run on the track five days a week and lift weights three to four times a week, and I try to do Pilates twice a week. Depending on the time of year, if it is in the early season I will go for long runs -- up to 30 minutes -- and as the season progresses my training will get more specific and I will get on the track and do 200s, 350s, 600s. My weight training is pretty consistent. I start out four days a week, and when I start competing I drop down to three. I do Pilates two days a week to keep flexible and to work on my core strength.

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What's the hardest you've ever worked out? What were you doing?

My hardest workouts are on Tuesdays. This is the toughest day because we do distance runs that are usually very challenging. We start with [two runs of 1,000 meters] with 10 minutes rest [in between]. Then we go down gradually to 950, then 900 . . . all the way down to 450. They are extremely difficult because they are usually pretty fast, and the rest goes by quicker than it seems.

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Tell us a little about your diet. Low-fat, high-carb?

I am very lucky to have a family that has always followed a very good diet. It has played in my favor because I have never really had to cut anything out. We don't eat red meats; we only eat chicken and fish, making it really easy to eat healthy. I have a high-protein diet and eat a lot of grilled chicken and grilled salmon. I also drink protein shakes to supplement my diet. I don't really count my calories, because I don't eat enough junk food for it to really matter. The one thing I can't live without, though, is a bag of Skittles every now and then.

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janet.cromley@latimes.com

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