What made you get into running?
Running, I think, was supposed to be something that I was good at at school, given my family history, but I was always afraid of getting a stitch and not being able to breathe, so I didn’t ever gel with the idea of anything more than 200m. Funnily enough, the day I decided that I did need to learn to run, getting a stitch and not being able to breathe properly were two of the things I had to learn to deal with quickly. I was 23 when I started running. I had two babies at home, living in Germany at the time but within French military quarters, very isolated from the rest of my family and without any close friends, and I had decided that I wanted to train to become a police officer and return back to Wales, so I sort of needed to get fit – because I’ve always understood all British forces (military/police) to be disciplined and fit. So I started running just once a day, 10 minutes at a time, because anything more than that was enough to make anyone think I needed an ambulance, and that was where it all began…
What has been your proudest/best running moment?
The moments of achieving any goal have been my proudest – my first 5km, my first 10 miles, my first mountain race, my first trail marathon. The exhilaration and disbelief have been the same no matter the distance, because the challenge to move the goal posts has always required the same fear, determination, disappointment, focus and success. The journey of pride is in the process, whatever the distance. But, if I had to choose one, it would certainly be completing the double LEJOG, overcoming shin splints, the longest day being 45 miles, running mostly solo sometimes without a clue of my location or direction, and still smiling at the end, because my reasons for finishing outweighed my desire to cover the distance.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
The biggest challenge I have faced in terms of distance was certainly the Fierce Mind (double LEJOG) run. At times it was certainly not a run, it was a walk, or more of a shuffle. It was the biggest, not simply because of the distance, but because I think I had to deal with everything I’ve ever had to deal with in all of my tough races, and in moments of life, all put together. And also because I discovered that even I could get shin splints (I now have a lot of empathy for anyone struggling with this) and yet I still had to run through them. That was a long month of pain.
Who is your inspiration, and why?
My ‘people’ inspirations come from (seemingly) random people at (seemingly) random moments in time. At one stage, Chrissie Wellington would have been at the forefront of my mind, I viewed her as a goddess of sport, someone so high on a pedestal that I couldn’t reach her with a ladder, even if I tried. I still think she’s absolutely ace, but when I realised that I was being inspired in the day-to-day by people who weren’t necessarily excelling in their sports, but were simply invoking sentiments of perseverance, compassion, determination, belief, joy, and selflessness, then I realised that I am inspired by people who put up a fight, who take on life and battle, whatever their circumstance.
What are your future goals?
My future goals…a tough one, but I suddenly have a new pair of legs that can cover quite a distance without losing my breath, so I expect my next step should be to improve on my speed again and merge the two disciplines together, then get back on the battleground: in the mountains and trails.
What would be your one piece of essential advice to someone looking to start up running?
If I knew what one piece of advice would have progressed my running experience back when I started, then that would certainly be worth its weight in gold. But we are all completely different. The start up experience is part of our individual wisdom of running. Making mistakes and learning from them is part of the process. Plan A is not the plan, it’s just a plan. So be ready to try out different styles of running, different terrains, different speeds, at different times of the day, and be prepared to find yourself.
What is your favourite piece of running kit?
My favourite piece of running kit? Meh! Do I answer anything with one option? This time I will, it’s my UnderArmour Gemini 2 black trainers with colourful highlights (there are different colours but these feel like disco trainers and i often refer to trail running as another form of dancing) – I’m not sure they were intended for ultra-running on the road, nor for ultra-running on the West Highland Way, but they did both with absolute perfection.
And finally, what’s your favourite thing about running?
My favourite thing about running is the mindful adventure I can find myself in which allows me to grow, and to heal.