A RUNNING JOKE
Running was never something I consciously chose; it actually chose me. I started long-distance running at school. My friends wanted me to do it as a joke but, as soon as I started doing it, I really enjoyed it. Before that, I’d never even considered that running could be fun so it came out of the blue.
FEELINGS OF FREEDOM & ZONING OUT
My races last for 2.5hrs so they’re quite long. Everybody always asks me what I think of to keep me motivated but I don’t really think or notice much when I run. I just zone out, focusing on my breathing and what I’m doing. That’s what I love about it. If I’m running a marathon, I might look at the sights to see where I’m going, look for the next marker etc. but otherwise nothing else matters.
‘I love going running old school. I don’t even take my phone. I just run out of the door and see where it takes me.’
MY FAVOURITE PLACES TO RUN
JAPAN. I really enjoy running in Japan. I’ve been there a few times and there are so many interesting sights, buildings and people to see. It’s really cool.
ALTITUDE TRAINING is a lot of fun too. There are some incredible places to train: Australia (up to 5000m asl depending on the location); Kenya (2400m asl); Font Romeu; France (1800m asl); and Mount Laguna, California (1749m asl). I love visiting them because they’re always lovely and peaceful so I can just focus on my running.
LONDON. There are some lovely places to run in the London too. I recently started training at Windsor Great Park and around Virginia Water. They’re my favourites. I used to live in Teddington so I ran a lot in Bushey Park and Richmond Park too. They’re completely surrounded by nature. Lovely!
BENEFITS OF ALTITUDE TRAINING
Altitude training is used in many sports but it’s especially great for runners. The camps have much less oxygen in the air so running there really challenges our respiratory and cardiovascular health. It’s a lot harder to breath and your heart has to function far more efficiently than it usually would. That makes running much more difficult because you feel exhausted. We stay there for at least 6 weeks so, over time, out body adapts and begins to cope better but you don’t really see the benefits until you return home. You can train at many altitudes. It really depends on your fitness, goals and how long you’ll be there. On average, 1700m asl is a good guideline. As long-distance runners, we tend to avoid hiking trails; preferring locations with lots of lovely flat trails and grass.
THE KEY TO AVOIDING INJURY
1. WEAR THE RIGHT TRAINERS. So many people pick trainers simply because they’re stylish or a good price but that can be very dangerous. As runners, we’re constantly pounding the ground. Our joints (especially the knees and ankles) absorb a vast amount of impact from the movements so you need trainers that will absorb the impact and reduce the effect on your joints. If you don’t, it could result in long-term health problems. Look for high impact trainers with crossed laces and a flexible, well-gripped sole. They also need to be well cushioned inside (as well as outside) to ensure that they offer good support around and below the foot and ankle.
2. CHANGE YOUR TRAINERS EVERY 5 WEEKS. If you’re running regularly, the cushioning will deteriorate (even if you can’t feel it because you’re so used to wearing them). The trainer itself might look fine but that’s deceptive because it’s no longer supporting your foot or ankle and that increases risk of injury. I like running in Nike trainers the most. Their structure is light and naturally very supportive so you don’t need to wear orthotic insoles.
If you have slightly flat feet like me, you’ll probably understand why we normally need orthotic insoles but that’s so much hassle. I’ve run in Nike trainers for 5 years now and they’re definitely the best ones for us.
3. YOGA AND PILATES can really help your running, especially for injury prevention. They strengthen your muscles, particularly around your knees, feet and ankles, which as runners are most at risk of injury; plus, they’ll rectify any postural imbalances. Since I’ve been doing them, I’ve definitely experienced fewer injuries and seen my running technique improve as, even though they’re not weight training or anything like that, they develop balance, stability, coordination and lots more. I try to run 120m/week, work out at the gym 3 times and then fit in 1 session of yoga or pilates.
4. ALWAYS WARM UP. Most people don’t do this. They think they’ll gradually warm up as they ease into their run but that’s not true. It’s important to do some light activation stretches before you go out the door and then to stretch for 15-20mins when you return.
A GOOD LONG DISTANCE RUNNER IS…
Very determined. You can’t be someone who gets bored or gives up easily because we run for such long times. However, if you want to get away from a busy life and clear your mind but meditation or shutting off in other ways doesn’t necessarily work for you, long-distance running is brilliant. You’re surrounded by nature, away from technology and it’s goal driven so you can just zone out and focus on that. It’s a great feeling of freedom and relaxation.
FAVOURITE PRE-WORKOUT SNACK
When I have a hard workout or a long and really intense session coming up, I usually eat 2 rice cakes topped with peanut butter and banana because it’s quite light but packed full of energy that digests really quickly.
FAVOURITE POST-WORKOUT RECOVERY SNACK
After running, I make a Science In Sport whey protein shake. That’s good for recovery because, after you’ve finished a hard run or training session, you need to consume some protein asap. I don’t like to eat straight after I run so this is perfect for me. I have 1 scoop of protein with some water or milk and that ties me over for an hour or so until I can eat something.
TIPS FOR ENDURANCE TRAINING
1. DO A LONG RUN ONCE A WEEK. Running a long-distance run (1.5 - 2.5hrs) each week will definitely improve your endurance. The more you run for long times without stopping, the easier it will become. The key is to not do too much too soon as you want to feel like you’re achieving your goals and improving; otherwise you could feel like you’re not getting anywhere (even if you are!) and that can be off-putting. Start at 1hr and see how you go. As you get fitter, gradually increase the increment by 10mins each time.
2. HILLS. As you get fitter, try to include some hills in your training programme. They help a lot.
3. HAMSTRING EXERCISES. I do a lot of these because I had a niggling hamstring problem but they’ve really helped to rectify it. RDLs (reverse deadlifts) are particularly good, as are single leg exercises. Single leg lunges, calf raises etc. followed by core exercises such as planks are great. They’ll really strengthen your core muscles and stability.
THE STRANGEST ADVICE I’VE BEEN GIVEN
When I was running down a hill, someone once said ‘You should let yourself go. Just run as fast as you can because if you’re too careful you can injure yourself’ but that’s completely stupid because, literally, when you’re running down a hill, if you just let yourself go and it’s a really steep hill, it will end in disaster. That said; don’t be too careful. For example, I wouldn’t recommend dramatically reducing your speed to almost walking pace when you’re running down a steep hill because it can be quite rocky so you need to be a bit careful but still maintain speed because if you don’t you could injure your knees or trip and end up rolling down it.
DON’T TRUST THE BRANDING. ENERGY DRINKS ARE POINTLESS BEFORE YOUR DAILY RUN
I see so many runners running around with sports drinks: Lucozade, Gatorade and the like - those full-on energy carbohydrate drinks - but they don’t need them. The brands have great marketing but that’s all it is. I never use them before a daily run because there’s so much sugar in them and they really don’t have any benefit. The best electrolytes are by Science In Sport. They’re called Go Hydro Tablets and contain no calories and no sugar. You simply dissolve them in water so I drink them before and after runs. Yes, they contain energy but, more importantly, they contain salts, which replenish the ones you lose when you sweat. I love the berry flavours and the new pineapple and mango is delicious too.
(Note: Energy drinks do have a place but the only time I’d ever recommend having one is during a marathon or something similar. When you’re training for a marathon, for example, I would have one once or twice as you do need to practice what you’re going to do on the race day to make sure it works for you but other than that you don’t need them.)
REVVIES – THE ULTIMATE SUPER ENERGY BOOSTING SECRET
Revvies are brilliant. They’re little minty energy strips that instantly dissolve on your tongue. They’re perfect for people who don’t like – or don’t want to drink – coffee as a single strip has more caffeine in it than a whole cup. I really love them because, for people like me who don’t like to eat before running and don’t want coffee, I can eat one strip before running and it instantly gives me all the energy I need without it sitting on my stomach. They’re very handy to have as they don’t require water or anything else.