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Greenville & Hockessin Life

Q&A: Shan Haq

Jun 29, 2016 02:20PM ● By J. Chambless

Shan Haq runs the last few miles of 2015 New York City Marathon.

Shan Haq is an avid runner who logs a lot of miles running with the Pike Creek Valley Running Club and several other groups. When he is not running, Haq is preparing for his medical boards and hopes to apply for a residency next year. Taking a break from his studies, Shan shared his passion for his favorite sport.

Where were you born and how long have you lived in Delaware?

I was born in Luzerne, Pennsylvania, and I have lived in Greenville since I was two. 

What is your age, are you single or married, and do you have children?

I’m 34, single, and no children.

What type of runner are you?

"Sometimes you have to accept that there is going to be some pain and suffering, that it’s going to be terrible for the next 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour," Haq explained.

  I’ve raced distances from 3.1 miles all the way to 31 miles, from flat roads to the unforgiving rocky and technical trails up Bear Mountain in New York.  I guess I’m a club runner. I started running as I was completing my clinical clerkships in different cities.  I’ve studied at Maryland General Hospital in Baltimore, St. Elizabeth’s in Washington DC, spent a year doing elective rotations at Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn, and did some research credits in Boston.  Moving around so much was rough.  Running helped me relax and quickly find my way around a new city.  I really got into it when I joined Prospect Park Track Club in Brooklyn.  Suddenly, I had 200 or more friends to run with.  I began run-commuting to the hospital on some days.   

Where is the most interesting place you have run?

New York! When I was doing my infectious disease rotation at Interfaith Medical Center, it was summer and the only way to get in a decent run, and to the hospital on time, was to start at 4 a.m.  At that hour, it is like running in a deserted city.  You can run the Brooklyn Bridge without getting whacked by a tourist’s selfie stick.  I would get lost all the time so I had to take my cell phone, and would end up losing 15 minutes by taking Instagram photos of everything.  There is so much to look at.  And if you get tired you can hop on the subway and get back no problem.

You said you are a club runner. Can you explain what that means?  

There are tons of groups to train with. Pike Creek Valley Running Club, Coach Fischer’s track workouts on Tuesdays at St. Marks, Runner’s High near Brandywine Creek State Park, and Delaware Running Club on Thursdays meeting at Tower Hill, to name a few. I run alone much of the time, but I’m happier and more consistent when I get in runs with groups.  That’s why I’d say I’m a club runner.

How did you become interested in medicine as a career?

Shan Haq with VP Joe Biden at the 2016 Beau Biden Memorial 10k.

  Let me tell you about a great man named Dr. Thomas Scott. I met him in 1992.  Working with a team in conjunction with St. Francis Hospital, he would drive a van into the city of Wilmington and give vaccinations to children, see patients, give medicine, everything.  This van was a full-service mobile doctor’s office.  He was delivering medical care to people who are homeless, poor and uninsured.  It was powerful stuff seeing patients who didn’t normally trust doctors come see this man.  

What type of medicine do you plan to practice and where?

Family medicine. I’d like to practice in Delaware, or Brooklyn.  Totally different places, but I have love for them both.


Do you prefer to run short or long distances?

It’s all relative, short and long.  I’ve even run shortish long runs! I guess I like longer runs lasting a little over an hour, since most of my runs are slower and I need that long to get the proper physiological stimulus for good training.

Have you run marathons?

Yes. I ran my first marathon in May 2014 - the Delaware Marathon. It was on a whim.  My whole family was there for me at the finish line.  I remember tearing up crossing the finish line. I didn’t expect to see them there.  Maybe that’s why I like running so much— it’s linked to that memory, like hardwired real solid in my brain.  I finished in 4 hours and 52 minutes, and it was the proudest race of my life. 

Since then I’ve trained consistently and gotten faster. My next marathon was seven months later in November of 2014. I ran it in 3 hours and 5 minutes, beating my previous race by over an hour and a half.  It was pretty nuts. I trained using Phil Maffetone’s methods.  They appealed to me because I was studying medicine, and he really got into the physiology of training, so I believed in it.


What was your most difficult race?

My first marathon, in Delaware in 2014.  I was wearing really light and improper shoes for the distance and my calves were destroyed. I was knackered and suffering from the heat.  In many ways, running a marathon as a slower athlete is harder because you are spending so much time on your feet.  I got passed by a visibly pregnant lady wearing a shirt that said something about “Running for Two” and I felt inspired.  If she could do this, so could I. It was an immensely satisfying race to complete.  There is something to Emil Zapotek’s quote, “If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.”


What is your normal diet?

I am desperately trying to wean myself off of diet Coke!  I eat like a savage.  I was humiliated by a resident for eating too much pizza in the cafeteria when I lived in Baltimore.  I don’t eat swine.  I like chocolate-covered almonds and black coffee.  I eat steamed vegetables smothered in Frank’s Hot Sauce.  My diet is fairly well balanced otherwise. I haven’t had to watch my diet since 2014.


Do you follow a training or workout schedule?

I follow some simple guidelines to structure my training weeks.  Usually, for 70 to 80 miles of running, 80 percent of it easy.  Easy really means easy! My friend Jennie in Brooklyn always teases me for lagging behind her when running in Prospect Park.  She thinks I do it to make her feel fast (she IS fast) but the truth is I like to train slowly.  I get passed by mommy-joggers pushing strollers in the park.  Aside from easy runs, I have one workout at the track with Coach Fischer, and then a long run on the weekend.  If I haven’t run enough hard miles, I’ll do a tempo run on Thursday.  


On the day before a race, do you do anything special as far as food, sleep, exercise?

The day before a goal race (last year’s was New York City Marathon for me) I try to slow down my movements as much as possible.  I know it sounds weird, but trust me  I’ll even try to blink slowly. It helps me stay calm.  I’ll put my phone on 'do not disturb' mode and watch “Gladiator” or some other movie that lets me turn off my brain.  I drink Miso soup and eat lots of sushi, and try to spend as little time on my feet as possible. I’ll avoid hyper or anxious people for the day.  Surprisingly I think very little about the race itself.


What is your race day routine? Any superstitions?

I wake up so that I can eat a meal three hours before the race starts— it's usually a peanut butter covered bagel, and I'll drink 20 ounces of fluid—a fifty-fifty mix of Gatorade and water.  I have a black coffee, use the bathroom, pin on my bib and then go to the race.


What hobbies or interests do you have that are not related to running?

I enjoy climbing, drawing and comic books.  


What sports did you play before you started running?

My favorite sports in high school were soccer and lacrosse.  I was a good lacrosse player, but terrible at soccer. Before getting into running I was lifting weights.  It was pretty terrible. For some reason I believed that if I could join the 1000-pound club I’d be something special.  So I followed a 5x5 lifting program, and did my squats, deadlifts, rows, bench-press, and overhead presses.  Got up to 860 lbs total, and YouTubed the video.  My neck became so thickly muscled I developed sleep apnea from the surrounding structures collapsing my glottis. I had a neck like a bulldog!  I looked like a ninja turtle.  

How do you physically recover from a long distance race?

You know, it’s weird!  I needed more recovery time after the Brooklyn half-marathon (13.1miles) than I did for the Dirty German 50k (31miles).  I recover fairly quickly; I ran North Face Endurance Challenge Ultra Marathon 50k (31miles), ran a 5k the next day, the 2016 Delaware Marathon a week later, then the Dirty German 50k a week after that, and finally the Brooklyn Half Marathon.  It wasn’t planned, just worked out that way.  I joined Marathon Maniacs after that.


What benefits do you get from running?

I like how calm and centered running makes me.  Before I discovered running, I was an anxious person.  A friend I met through Prospect Park Track Club recently moved to Chicago.  I remember a month before she moved, she remarked, “I’m not really worried about making new friends. All I have to do is join a running club!”   She’s right.  It is funny how an activity that we all universally do and enjoy can feel so personal.  Maybe that’s why running brings people closer in friendships. I’ve never met a runner I didn’t like.

Any advice for new runners?

Run more miles. Run them slower than you think you need to. Meet with a friend or group twice a week for a social run.

Do you have a favorite author/book?

My mom! (Author Hina Haq) She published "Sadika’s Way”. She’s the best!


What cause are you passionate about?

There’s a lot of noise and social media—it's a busy electronic landscape.  I wish there was more kindness and authenticity in the world.  It’s something my best friend summed up for me a year ago, “Ask yourself before you do or say something, ‘Is it kind?'”   That’s a cause I’ll get behind.


Who has helped you become the runner you are today?

I am so grateful for the following people: My friends in Prospect Park Track Club in Brooklyn, in particular Johnny Nuzzela, Mahesh  Bailakanavar, and Jennie Matz. Stacey Haddock Schiller, Director of Delaware Marathon and leader of Pike Creek Valley Running Club. Coach Fischer and his track workouts at St. Marks.

Chris Scarpitti’s Delaware’s Runner’s High near Brandywine Creek State Park. John Honorkamp, who leads track workouts on Tuesdays at Red Hook. And the considerate residents of Greenville. A thousand thank you's for the times you have given me room when I’m running on route 52, Owl’s Nest Road, and the back country roads near Hoopes Reservoir. Some of you will even cross the double yellow to give me room. Thank you all sincerely.

What is your next running challenge?

I’m running the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9. I am hoping to break my previous marathon personal record of 2:53:38. That would feel great! I would love to win a race.  I never got to bust through the tape.  It looks so triumphant.  I would love to do that. At the Brooklyn Half Marathon, I slipped off my flat and spiked that shoe like a football after I finished.  I bet busting through the tape feels an order of magnitude better.    I can see it possibly happening for me on a good day at a small local race in Wilmington.

Do you have a favorite quote?

Robert Frost's "And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep." 

You can see Shan Haq’s full race history at

and follow Shan on STRAVA (running website) at

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