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'Hills and sunshine make Madrid a year-round paradise for runners'

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'Hills and sunshine make Madrid a year-round paradise for runners'
Photo: Robert Shultz.
16:13 CEST+02:00
In this week's instalment of My Spanish Career, The Local talks to Robert Shultz, an American English teacher and now head of the quirky Lactic Acid Junkies running group in Madrid.

What brought you to Spain originally?

I was a high school English teacher in the US and came to Spain for a change of scene, but somewhere I could continue teaching English. I've been here for nearly 12 years.
 
When did you start Lactic Acid Junkies and why?
 
I started the run crew in February of this year. I created the Crew because there are a lot of runners who need motivation to get out and exercise and push themselves.
 
Tell us a bit about your runs and are they open to anyone, even beginners?
 
Some runs are more difficult than others, but we try to be as inclusive as possible. One way is to have a set route so that everyone knows where they're going, and if you're slower you don't feel compelled to keep up and can run your own run without pressure.
 
Now we also have days for more experienced runners, such as Hill Repeat Thursday or Savage Sunday. We run at the moment three days a week. Soon to expand to four days once runners get a bit more confidence and strength. Also non-run days like Movie Night and Beerfest Night help build bonds between crew members.
 
Photo: Robert Shultz.
 
Is it all just for fun or do you train for any specific events?
 
It's both fun and serious. I try not to scare runners by taking it too seriously, but as playful as our name is, we're a serious group of runners. We will begin training as a crew for April's full and half Madrid marathon. And perhaps destination race before or after the marathon. But that depends on scheduling and the strength of the runners.
 
Tell us about your Kickstarter campaign.
 
The Kickstarter campaign is raise money for the creation of shirts that will raise the profile of our running crew. I've run races where big groups of runners from specific crews run together in shared shirts. I would like us to be one of those crews. Also we don't charge fees for being in the group, which is the major difference between a crew and a club. The money would allow us to do more things. For example, the Copenhagen crew NBRO travelled to last year's Paris marathon and competed in significant numbers. I would like us to do that someday.
 
People might not automatically think of Madrid as a good place for running. Why is the city a great place to pound the pavement?
 
In a word: hills. There are few better ways to become a good runner than constant running of hills. So much so you can replace leg workouts in the gym with hill repeats. We routinely run hills, both small and large, every week. And with easy access to Casa de Campo for trail running, and the river esplanade for flat workouts, Madrid is a great home for runners. Furthermore, you throw in the weather, it becomes a perfect year-round paradise for runners.
 
Brunching and running. Photo: Robert Shultz.
 
Where are your top five places for running in Madrid?
 
We run Parque Oeste, Casa de Campo, the river esplanade. I would place Retiro and the "canal area" track at a distant fourth and fifth. I say this because they don't offer runners enough space to truly cut lose and push themselves.
 
Any advice or warnings for first-time runners in Madrid?
 
Madrileños still seem surprised to see someone running and don't tend to move out of the way. Car drivers also race through red lights, so I counsel my runners to wait for a solid green before running. Also, some tiled pavement is very slippery in winter rains. And hydrate constantly from April to October even, if you come from a warm country. 
 
For information about Lactic Acid Junkies, visit their website.
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