What made you get into running?
I started running in 2004. I was over thirty, unfit, had put on weight, and missed the buzz of exercise that I’d had from on-off weight-training over the years. I’d been shocked by holiday photos of how much weight I’d put on, and the health dangers of carrying on like that frightened me. Running appealed, so on a series of sunny summer Saturday early mornings I took myself off to our local park.
I hadn’t done any exercise for three years, and even at a shuffling jog I laboured and toiled to run roughly a hundred metres – red in the face, soaked in sweat and gasping for breath. I did three or four bursts like this, then headed home.
The best thing I did was to take a stopwatch, because the following week I went back and was a little quicker. I thought it must have been a mistake. The following week I was quicker again, and that was all the encouragement in the world to keep at it, just as getting up early and going out on a Saturday morning began to lose its novelty. And gradually, incrementally – and despite a couple of long breaks over the years – my distances and speed built as I enjoyed challenging myself, always trying to beat my best time, until in my forties I was able to run a marathon.
What has been your proudest/best running moment?
Obviously particular races and events stand out, such as my first ever race, the whole experience of running the London Marathon, and the UKRunChat Eastbourne weekend.
But my best moments are those rushes of sheer transcendental joy and euphoria that occur from time to time while running – just random training runs – and everything is going right. I’ve had moments when I’m locked into ‘the zone’ and the motion which make my spine tingle. And the sheer lunatic joy of breakneck speed, or running further than I’ve run before. Utter joy.
And anyway, best moments aren’t just for finishing lines, they’re at start lines too. The anticipation of the race ahead, the adrenaline, the atmosphere, the buzz, knowing that I’ve done the training, feeling confident in my preparation, thanking myself for having put the hard work in, facing up to the challenge ahead. Then setting off, getting going, rising to the challenge, running, racing, pushing, chasing – it stirs the blood!
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
Fitting training in around daily life is a challenge I’m sure everyone faces. But aside from that, injury. Problems with ‘runner’s knee’ (in both knees) stopped me for a long time in the early days. And in 2013 I tore my right gluteus medius. I now know the value of complementary exercise: strength and conditioning, including flexibility and working so-called non-major muscle groups. Hips and glutes, people – you’ve got to train those hips and glutes.
Who is your inspiration, and why?
I’m inspired by the idea of setting a good example for my little girl (she’s nearly seven, and we’ve already been out running together). I’m inspired by fellow runners, including and especially folk on UKRunChat. Reading about other peoples’ exploits, adventures, first runs, successes and PBs makes me want to get up and out there myself. I’m inspired by runners who are fitter and faster than me. I’m inspired by new runners: reading about somebody who’s made such a fantastic choice to dive into such hard work when it’s new, unfamiliar and doubly difficult, but doing it anyway, meeting the challenge of their first run/s and the early days of exercise – how could I not want to get out there myself?
And one person that inspires me to run is the me I would be if I didn’t. I remember how unhealthy I felt when I didn’t run. I’m now forty-three and I’m fitter, faster and in way better shape than when I was twenty-three. Not many people can say that.
What are your future goals?
Firstly, to be better at running marathons. After hitting the wall at London 2014 and finishing way outside my sub-four hours target time, I set myself a two-year goal to be better. In 2016 I’ll be running the Brighton Marathon, have entered the ballot for London again, and will hopefully be running the New York Marathon. Plus at least one or two others.
I’d then planned to move up to ultras in 2017. But that’s been brought forward as I’ve just entered the 50K Canalathon in March 2016 with a bunch of other lovely UKRunChat folk!
I’d like to keep it going and push the boundaries of what people in their forties, fifties and beyond are supposed to be able to do. I’d like to be able to help others with their running too – pacing is an idea that appeals. And other UKRunChat folk have branched out to get leadership and coaching qualifications, or run their own clubs and events.
What would be your one piece of essential advice to someone looking to start up running?
Get the right running shoes (oh my, that’s a loaded statement). Do strength and conditioning as well as running. Eat right for the best results (high protein and carbs, low fat, reduce/cut out alcohol). Don’t try to do too much too soon, be realistic. Think positive. This is tremendously important. If you tell yourself you can’t do something, you probably won’t. Tell yourself that you can, and you probably will.
But my one piece of essential advice would be to stick with it, consistent training brings results. Results will drive you on. You can amaze yourself and others around you, but it does take a bit of work and discipline. But that’s all part of the fun. Knowing that you were up and out at six a.m. while your family, friends and colleagues were asleep – that’s the training that everyone else doesn’t see; then they wonder how you run so far or so fast. And why you’re looking so much fitter. And healthier. And happier.
What is your favourite piece of running kit?
My Garmin. I’m a stats geek, and I’m meticulous about pace.
And finally, what’s your favourite thing about running?
Running has brought me fitness, health, happiness, friends and adventure. It’s brought me self-confidence and a massive sense of achievement.
I love that, via UKRunChat in particular, running has introduced me to so many new friends and new adventures. I’ve picked up so many new ideas and so much knowledge, and UKRunChat is always a source of inspiration, motivation and unceasing support. So much so that, if I am lucky enough to run New York next year, I’m pretty sure that even though I’ll be in America for the first time and travelling on my own, there’ll be people there that I know.