TOKYO 2020

Irish Marathoner Trains In Utah Ahead Of Tokyo Games

Aug 6, 2021, 5:58 PM

HEBER CITY, Utah — Utah has always been known as a great place to train for winter sports. Now, it appears the secret is out internationally for summer sports as well.

KSL’s Alex Cabrero caught up with an athlete from another country who spent more than a month training in Utah right before the Tokyo Games.

Aoife Cooke had never been to the Beehive State before.

She trained for the marathon more often in her home country of Ireland.

However, her coach had some connections to Utah, and since Utah loves Olympians, she got all the help she needed.

“It’s beautiful. The mountains are amazing,” said Cooke.

There are a million reasons why the Beehive State is such a great place to run.

For Cooke, though, there’s only one reason, and it’s why she came all the way from Ireland just to run.

“For the altitude — it increases the hemoglobin in the body to transport oxygen around the body,” she said.

Altitude training is important for high-performance athletes, and it doesn’t get any bigger than the Olympics, which Cooke qualified for in the marathon to represent Ireland.

“Oh, it meant the world to me, you know? I’ve been training for so long to get here, you know? So for it to finally, actually happen, it was, it was a really huge deal, especially after, you know, the year of COVID that we had. It means all the more even,” said Cooke.

She found Utah and the Wasatch High School track in Heber, thanks to her coach, John Starrett — better known in the running world as Coach Stazza.

He trains people virtually to become better runners, and has a lot of friends in Utah who follow his advice.

“Seven years ago, I stumbled upon a running blog called the ‘Fast Running Blog’ by Sasha Pachev from Utah, and I joined that and I made friends with some of the runners there,” said Coach Stazza. “And I started coaching someone, who, in fact, I coach about 30 people in Utah.”

His biggest student right now, though, is Cooke. And Utah was her last stop before Tokyo.

“It didn’t really make sense to go home on a long, long haul flight back to Ireland to go on another long haul flight to Japan. So we’re kind of minimizing that, and the benefits of the altitude will be there, then come race day as well,” said Cooke.

The women’s marathon began in Tokyo Saturday at 7 a.m.

No doubt Cooke will have a lot of fans cheering for her in Ireland and in Utah.

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Irish Marathoner Trains In Utah Ahead Of Tokyo Games