Interview with Johanna Leahy

Interview #12 for Inspiring Women Who Run

Here is an interview I did with another inspiring lady runner back in December 2013 that somehow fell off my radar and never got published – and I just found out today that she has now moved from Kuala Lumpur to Perth! That’s how long I’ve not been in touch with her. Oh well, here’s to your new life down under, Johanna! Sorry for the late publication. 😛

Fairy M Proudly Presents: Inspiring Women Who Run!

Where I come from, we believe that stereotypically fit, tall, slender Caucasian women are fast runners because of their seemingly advantageous physique (e.g. long legs = longer strides, bigger lungs, higher nose bridge = more efficient oxygen intake, etc). Johanna Leahy, or known as the Expat Runner online, perpetuates this myth. Fairly new to the running scene, she has achieved some amazing finishing times, like the Angkor Watt Half Marathon in 1:57 – and that was with toilet breaks and nursing runner’s stitch. Astounded? I certainly was. Read on.

Johanna Leahy - The Expat Runner
Johanna Leahy – The Expat Runner

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Irish, 42, and have three children with my Danish husband. We’ve lived in Scotland, the US, Singapore, the Philippines, Norway and have been in Kuala Lumpur since 2010. (Editor’s note: Johanna left KL mid-June 2014).

What made you get into running and how long have you been doing it?
I started running in mid-2011. It seemed that so many people I knew were running, both in Malaysia and abroad, and I figured that if they could do it, so could I. I’ve been a keen walker for many, many years but it still wasn’t easy to up the tempo to running. My new year’s resolution for 2012 was to be able to run 10 km.

What’s your typical training pattern like?
My training pattern is still evolving as I tackle more races and different distances. I run 6 days a week most weeks, with a 7-12 km hilly run as my staple. I do a long run 15-21km on Saturday mornings. I’m starting to incorporate some tempo runs into my schedule now. In September, I joined the F1 Runners KL Club, where I’m learning a lot from Coach Mark Williams. I attend a speed session with the club one evening a week.

Do you have any special diets?
No, I eat pretty healthily though. I don’t count calories but eat when I’m hungry – which is often. The greatest challenge as a runner in KL is staying hydrated.

What is your favorite race distance and why?
Of the nine races I’ve done so far, my favourites have definitely been the 15-16km races. I’m determined to grow more comfortable with the 21km distance though and so far have already registered for two Half Marathons in 2014.

What was your favorite race? Where was it and why?

At her first race - the Energizer Night Run 2012
At her first race – the Energizer Night Run 2012

Well my first race was the Energizer Night Race 15.5km in April 2012 so that will always be special as I discovered a love of racing. My first 21 km – BSN Putrajaya Night Marathon 2012 – was also special not only as it was my first half marathon and I enjoyed most of the race until I got a stitch about 2 km from the end, but also because when I crossed the line I was given a tag to say I had come in 5th in the Veteran Category. I burst into tears with relief that I had finished and disbelief that I had won a prize but the volunteers thought I was upset and tried to cheer me up telling me that I’d do better next time! In the end, there was a disqualification so I was awarded 4th place. I’ve run faster times in every race since but that was my highest placing. Unfortunately, I developed a running injury in September this year so I couldn’t return to try and improve my time in BSN Putrajaya 2013.

Tell us about your proudest achievement in running to date?
Besides the BSN Putrajaya race in 2012, I’m proudest of my 1:23 time at the Mizuno Run 2013 (16km). I guess I have a soft spot for Putrajaya races now. 🙂

Do you have any other goals which you have not yet achieved in running?
I have only just started running really so I’m sure there are plenty of race goals ahead. My main goals are to keep my passion for running alive and to stay injury-free.

Do you have additional advice or shout-out to say to all lady runners out there?
For me, my discovery of running was a gift that keeps on giving. I can’t imagine not running now and wish I had started in my twenties instead of at 40. I would advise anyone, male or female, starting out to pay very close attention to his or her form, as this is the key to avoiding injury. It’s also important to incorporate some strength-training into one’s routine, something I have been poor at doing, but which I’m trying to be more conscientious about. Some running sessions feel harder than others, irrespective of the pace or distance, but I’ve never had a run that didn’t make me feel better both mentally and physically. I would say to anyone ‘you can do it’ – you just have to want to.

Thanks Johanna for this interview! Be sure to visit Johanna at her website,


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Hi! I am Fairy from Petaling Jaya, Malaysia - currently residing in Sydney, Australia. This blog contains write-ups on my fitness adventures, whether it's running, swimming, hiking, Zumba, whatever! If I sweat, I write! As a young adult in my twenties, I led a relatively sedentary lifestyle before I had an awakening in 2011. I was overweight by age 30 and finally decided to turn my life around, so I started to reclaim my health back by losing 20 percent of my then body weight by playing dance and fitness video games! I've not looked back since and now happily lead an active lifestyle. If you want to get in touch with me, please email me at fairy[at] or DM me on Instagram @myindo. Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. Thanks so much for posting the interview. I’ve been in Perth for 7 weeks now but still really miss the running community in KL. I even miss the heat! Though I’ve had an ITB injury since May (2014), I’m still as enthusiastic about running as ever. I managed some great races in Malaysia before the injury and am looking forward to getting back up to speed in Perth once my ITB has fully healed. Thanks again & Happy Running!

    1. Hey Johanna thanks for being part of my Inspiring Women Who Run interview! Sorry it took so long to post it, but better late than never huh. Well if you miss KL we’re only a 5-hour flight away, come back anytime! 😉 I hope you recover from your ITBS soon, it sucks having to be on the bench!

  2. LOL! Just read your intro. I have very SHORT legs but thanks for creating a myth for the legs I wish I had 😉 I improved my Half Marathon time to 1:53 at Putrajaya Half Ironman in April and was hoping to break the 1:50 mark before I got injured but my efforts to do so probably had something to do with me getting injured! I may never do it and I won’t mind either way as long as I can keep running until the Big Finish Line:)

    1. Wow you ran a new HM PB in that crazy Putrajaya 70.3 heat?? You are something else! I can only imagine the wonderful finishing times you’ll achieve in Perth, simply mad! 😀

      And yes we shall forever believe that white women run fast!

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