Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary
Hannah Turner, 39, from Harpenden, is married to Benjamin. She has three children aged 13, 11 and nine. Finding a group of like-minded women in her ante-natal group and starting running changed her life…
‘I was a sporty child, but when it came to running I was more of a sprinter than a long distance runner. I was forced to cross country by my teacher and though I hated it but I still made myself do it. And that’s true now! But like a lot of people, when I got to my teens I fell off the fitness wagon and found other more important things to do, like going to nightclubs. By my 20s I started a return to sport and joined a women-only gym. Then I met my husband, Benjamin, a hockey fanatic, and we both joined the hockey club when we moved to Harpenden.
‘But after my first child was born (13 years ago), both of us playing hockey on a Saturday was a no no. At the same time my friend Katie, suggested that our ante-natal group take it in turns to look after the babies and go for short runs. My initial response was no, I fancied going for coffee instead, but eventually I joined them.
‘The first run was one mile, I got stitch and was out of breath, but I stuck with it. Amazingly there were five or six of us in the one ante-natal group and we were all keen to run – and we’ve remained running friends ever since.
‘Running has changed my life. It’s the focus of everything I do now, and I’ve trained to be a personal trainer and an England athletics Coach in Running Fitness, so I can help others get as much out of running as I do. I plan all my running in the day around school hours (my husband works in London full time).
‘From that one-mile run, we got into a routine and after my second child was born, two years later, I decided to give the 10K a go. I ran the race in 48 minutes, and was comfortable, talking all the way round. Like many other runners, at each stage I said I’ll never do the next thing: ‘I’ll never do a race’, then I did; ‘I’ll never do a half’ and I did; and ‘I’ll never do a marathon’ and I did.
‘Training for my first marathon was time-pressured. I now had three young children. I stuck with three runs and one spin class a week. If you want to run a marathon well, three times a week is not really enough, so I was delighted when I ran 3.21, and that included a walk at finish. Encouraged by this I decided it was time to take my training a bit more seriously.
‘I committed to a proper training routine and ran five times a week, including speed work. I also took on a running coach, Robbie Britton. I wanted someone else to tell me what to do.
‘What followed were a lot of good races. I’d already started doing ultra running and had come fourth in the 50K Royal Parks Ultra. I then had six months training for London. I got PBs across the board including 3.01 (although Strava did say 2.59) for the marathon. After the marathon I did the solo Thunder Run and I won it.
‘I’m pretty sure the reason it worked was because I had total faith in my training prescribed by Robbie. Was it different to what I would have planned? Maybe not. But the important thing is I believed in it. I also make running a priority. I’m very organised. And I say to my personal training clients the same thing. In fact, I often plan my personal training client sessions around my running.
‘In practical terms, what helped me was pulling back a bit and doing less. I’m amazed at the amount of easy runs I do. And ultra training is not hugely different to marathon. I also did regular parkruns which helped me stay faster (especially as I was trying to keep ahead of my 13 year old son). I didn’t do massive mileage, and peaked at 40 to 50 miles. I often ran with friends at their pace at 8 to 9 min mile pace, but then I go and do blocks at 6.50 pace near the end of the run when my legs are tired.
‘Eighteen months ago I started to get a pain in my foot. It felt like I had a stone in my shoe, and I wanted to spread my toes to relieve the discomfort. My friend Dawn, said, it sounds like Morton’s Neuroma (she knew because she’d had them!). So I took myself off to the doctor who referred me to a consultant. And lo and behold, I had a Morton’s neuroma. It’s a lump on the nerve in between the third and fourth toe (between other toes it’s just a neuroma). I had steroid injections, then the other foot started to hurt. More injections followed and the pain got worse.
‘I was lined up to do run the Hampshire Hobbit Marathon and the 100K Race To the Stones, so I went to an osteopath who taped up my feet around the soles of my foot and on the sides. I won both races. It was brilliant!
‘But then I had lots of injuries, which I think was because I was running differently, so I took up biking. I did find doing cycling sessions harder, but I still managed a few duathlons and a 100-mile race. The pain was awful and I had to pull out of the Milton Keynes marathon after 16 miles. I then did the Birmingham marathon and I knew going into it that I’d get to 15 to 20 miles and be in a lot of pain – it was mind over matter, but when I got the end of the race, I was determined to do something about this. I took myself back to the consultant and the only option is surgery, where the nerve will be removed on both feet. I’ve got no specific goals, because I have to take a month off.
‘I’m a better mum and wife because of my running – it makes me happy. When I’m injured I’m grumpier, and just feel moodier. And as for my kids, it’s completely normal to see me in my training gear. I never remember seeing my parents like that. I hope I’m being a good role model. My children all go full in to whatever it is they’ve decided their path is going to be, so I think the dedication and discipline has rubbed off on them.
‘Next for me is to recover from my op, then in-mid January I’ll start again. I’ve still got my eye on that sub three hour marathon.’