Spartan Obstacle Racing Empowers Women

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Emily LeRoux, is the driving force behind Spartan Women and the newly appointed global ambassador for Spartan Races. She talked to me about Spartan and how it helps empower women.

‘In my early 20s I was a rower. I trained with other women and we were empowered as we managed work and new careers with rowing and we pushed ourselves hard in Salford Keys in Manchester. By the time I met my husband, got married and had children (I’ve got two boys who are now aged seven and four), I found rowing was too time consuming, work was demanding more of my time and of course I had young children to care for. I kept fit with mountain biking and some running.

‘Seven years ago work with a global recruitment company, Michael Page, gave me an opportunity to move to Japan. I launched a running club after work and it was a great way to socialise and break down cultural barriers, we had 120 members and organised two races a year. I’m passionate about empowering women and noticing a lack of support in business I also set up the networking circle, ‘Mums In Business Tokyo’. It whilst in Japan that I also discovered Cross Fit, going three or four times a week to keep fit, and it was there that I became immersed in a fantastic ex-pat community, including Joe De Senna, the current CEO of Spartan. Spartan came along at just the right time for me.

‘I’m now the driving force behind Spartan Women and I work on partnerships and sponsorships.  There’s no typical working week for me and I’m lucky enough to work at home as well as one day a week in the office. I also travel, for example, going to the Stade de France for a weekend of Spartan training.

‘Like a lot of busy women, I fit in exercise where I can, for example after dropping the boys to school going to the gym for an hour or two, and squeeze in my run. I prefer to get my training done in the morning and I always take two days off a week. It makes a big difference if I have a Spartan race ahead, a goal to aim for, as this means I have to train and every week and that make a plan.

All-round fitness

‘I’m not that keen on running, but that’s not a problem where Spartan is concerned. All you need is to be able to run 5K and have a decent all-round fitness, strength and flexibility (which you’ll get from going to the gym regularly or going to classes). The thing that makes Spartan great is that you will always be supported by others. Spartan courses offer a level playing field where  you can excel in different parts and there are no barriers; it’s open to all, old, young, able or not able bodied, male and female.

Strong from Spartan

‘Spartan can mean different things to different people. There are age group competitors who are super-fit and others who just join in for fun. I love the fact that I’m able to move quickly along the monkey bars. Before Spartan this was something I thought I’d left behind me in the playground.

‘I’ve found that racing Spartan is great for work too. As I said when you’re on the Spartan course, it’s a level playing field and hierarchy doesn’t play a part the way it does in the office.  And the nature of the sport is about supporting each other, for example helping each other over obstacles, on monkey bars, or jumping through fire, so it’s fantastic for building team bonds. On top of that there are the fitness, health and wellbeing benefits and there’s plenty of research to show that a healthier workforce is happier and there’s less absenteeism.

Spartan for Women

‘When one woman helps another, amazing things can happen, and that’s what Spartan is all about. It’s also a place where you can discover an inner strength, where you will push boundaries, using your power and agility, and finding your mental fortitude. We’re in the ‘Me Too’ era, we’re fighting inequalities and the gender pay gap and it’s the right time to give women a voice in all areas of their life which can start by building confidence out there on the course. The competitive, team-building disciplines of sport and the skills that women can harness to achieve career success work together. I’m proud that Spartan has its own community of women and a facebook group where women are supporting each other and being each other’s cheerleaders.

‘I really think that Spartan can be a mental and physical catalyst for transformation in all areas of your life.  As a member of the Spartan community you’ll get support, meet new people, and create a new network. Spartan races are held in 30 countries and around one million take part annually, and contrary to what many think, 40 per cent of our racers are women – and the number is growing. We find that women tend to take part in races and train together and women are helping to grow Spartan as a family sport. Joe, who set it all up is a family man and Spartan is now open to kids and families as a fantastically healthy way to spend your weekend with your children.’

Give Spartan a Go

April 7/8 sees the launch of Spartan Races in the UK at St Clere, which is 40 minutes by train from central London and within sight of the M25. Situated on the scenic North Downs and known for its rolling hills – this beautiful yet challenging course will be host to a Sprint and Kids distance. Plus, new for this year, we’ve added a Super to give you more opportunity to go for the hallowed Trifecta! Enter here.

 

The fire jump brings out the Spartan in everyone!

Fiona’s Spartan Day…

Back in 2013, I tried out a Spartan Training Day. You can read about my experience here.

 

An Interview With Marvellous Mimi Anderson

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Mimi Anderson, 55, is an ultra runner and a phenomenon – the very definition of endurance woman. She doesn’t give up. She finds opportunities when things change. At the start of this week, she tweeted: ‘I’ve had 18 years of running around the world it’s been AMAZING but I stay positive that new & exciting adventures will happen with my cycling & swimming: When one door closes another opens. There’s always another door we just need to search for it!’

I don’t have the space to  list the multiple record holder’s achievements and fortunately she’s selected her highlights on her own blog, which include running double versions of ‘hard to get your head around’ ultra races such as, Badwater, the Grand Union Canal 145 mile race and Spartathlon. Mimi’s recently documented her running life in a book, Beyond Impossible: From Reluctant Runner to Guinness World Record BreakerI spoke to her (interestingly, my longest interview to date) about her life as a runner and how she’s adapting after a recent run-stopping injury…

‘I’ve bought myself a turbo, and I’m having swimming lessons,’ Mimi tells me as we start to chat. ‘I promised myself I’d learn how to do front crawl.’ She started learning to swim on the 5th January, by blowing bubbles in the water. As a child she’d seen her sister nearly drown and had she says subconsciously it turned her against swimming. But now she’s up to swimming one length without stopping, and although she finds it frustrating she’s feeling determined. But why is the record-breaking ultra runner swimming?

In 2017, Mimi ran 2, 217.2 miles across the USA, that’s three quarters of the way across the third largest Continent in just 40 days. She was aiming to run 2,850 miles in 53 days but the excruciating pain of serious knee injury that if she’d carried on running would have left her in wheelchair meant the end of the challenge – and for now, it seems an end to her running career. ‘Bone was rubbing against bone and the pain levels were unbearable, even for me,’ she says.

‘At first I felt like I’d lost my identity,’ says Mimi, who’s been running big challenges for 18 years. ‘It’s been like grieving. But, I’ve shaken myself up and I’m focussed on looking forward. I’m thinking about maybe doing a half Ironman and I’ve entered a big bike ride. I can’t think small,’ she adds laughing.

The Start

Mimi’s running career did, however, start with a small idea. ‘I wanted thinner legs,’ she admits. ‘I hadn’t done any sport since school and when I first went to the gym and got on the treadmill, I felt very self-conscious. My first goal was to run a mile.’

Before her 18-year relationship with running, she’d had almost the same amount of time caught up in a far less healthy battle, with the eating disorder, anorexia nervosa. ‘Like lots of girls it started off at school when someone called me fat. I was at a boarding school which I loved and in sports was quite competitive.  The weight loss began by cutting down on second helpings, then puddings until eventually I was skipping meals. But I’m an addictive type and I soon became obsessed with losing weight and keeping it off.’

Mimi managed her anorexia and in 1985 gave birth to Emma and had her second child Ruariadh in 1987 but after each birth the cycle would start again. Mimi was weighing herself about 10 times a day, taking over 100 laxatives and vomiting when she did eat food – this had to stop. She eventually plucked up the courage to go and see her doctor to ask for help and was treated as an outpatient at St George’s hospital.  Part of the treatment was having to consume 3,000 calories a day, ‘This was terrifying,’ she says. ‘But I continued to lose weight. By the time my third child, Harry came along in 1993, I was weighing myself up to 10 times a day.’

‘After eight weeks of treatment at St George’s it was obvious it wasn’t working so it was decided that Mimi should be admitted as an impatient at an eating disorder unit.  With children to care for Mimi decided she had to find an alternative way of overcoming her anorexia and a friend recommended she tried hypnotherapy.

‘At first, I’d hear the traffic, all the noises around me, but couldn’t open my eyes.  I was certain I couldn’t be hypnotised, and would sometimes be naughty and scratch my nose or twitch my face to show I wasn’t hypnotised. But eventually, stuff came out, things I’d forgotten and had planted deep within myself. After one year, I knew I was free of my eating disorder.’

A new beginning

In 1999, Mimi took her running outside. ‘The significance of the distance I ran didn’t occur to me. I just loved the freedom, and very quickly I was running five miles out and five miles back. It felt natural to me.’

With long distance running Mimi had found her peace. A 10K was quickly followed by the Hastings Half Marathon in 2000. Next she had entered and completed the Thames Path Meander – ‘I wasn’t frightened by the distance, I saw it as an adventure’ – and then in 2001, she was one of just 12 women (now there are 40 plus women) who took on the race described as the ‘toughest footrace on the earth’, the Marathon Des Sables, a multi-stage 251K ultra marathon, held in the Sahara desert and run over six days. ‘I was one of a team of three, called Tuff Muthers. We were very lucky in that we managed to get sponsorship and were able to pay for a week’s training in Lanzarote. We turned up at the gym in our heels and the trainer looked at us as if were mad, and said, in disbelief you really think you can run in a desert? By the time we’d finished the week’s training, he said he’d never seen anyone work so hard and had no doubts were up for the challenge.’

The Marathon Des Sables

But, when it did come to the race, Mimi hit an unexpected barrier. ‘I was put on a drip for dehydration and felt awful. It had never occurred to me that I may not come home with a medal, that I may not complete the race, but on the day before the longest day of the race, it was looking like some far-off dream.’ A hug and some words from her friend reminded her why she would complete the race. ‘Just think of all the people expecting you to fail,’ she’d said. ‘As I watched the runners ahead of me pouring over the Dunes like ants, tears rolled down my cheeks, and I promised myself I’d finish.

‘It was such a fantastic feeling. I’d proven I wasn’t some dumb blonde on a long holiday, I felt as though I could achieve anything. As for the medal, I slept with it for the whole week after the race!’

Let the Good Times Roll

From then on Mimi’s achievements continued with one or more big races every year. It seems strange to not mention all of her challenges, one of them, for example, coming third in the Marathon of Britain, a 175-mile run done over six days, would be enough for most of us to dine out on for a lifetime, but for Mimi there are so many epic achievements, that it has to be edited highlights.

‘I’d heard about Badwater around the end of 2003. Back then not so much was shared online so I was gleaning bits of information. I knew not many Brits had done it and that to run it you had to qualify by running 100 miles in under 40 hours. I set my sights on the Grand Union Canal race, and everyone told me I was mad to go for sub 40 hours. I ran it in 39’39.

Badwater covers 135 miles (217km) non-stop, starting in Badwater Basin, Death Valley, at the lowest elevation in North America at 280’ (85m) below sea level and finishing at Whitney Portal at 8,300’ (2530m), which is the trailhead to the Mt. Whitney summit, the highest point in the contiguous United States. The course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600’ (4450m) of cumulative vertical ascent and 6,100’ (1859m) of cumulative descent. ‘It’s held in July, it’s very hot and there was a time limit of 60 hours,(now it’s 48 hours)’ explains Mimi. ‘It was a must-do,’ she adds. Mimi first ran the race in 2005 and managed to run under 48 hours (41 hours and five mins) which meant she was awarded the much coveted ‘Buckle’. You can read her blog here. Then in 2011, Mimi went on to a far greater challenge, running the race twice. She became the female course record holder, completing the 292 miles in 108 hrs 10 mins 24 seconds (at the time the third fastest ever crossing). Read more about that race here.

Mimi’s Training

So how did Mimi, a mum of three fit in the training and commitment required to complete these challenges? ‘Running became my full-time job,’ she says. ‘But I still made sure it fitted around family life, running a baseline of five sessions a week on Monday to Friday, and then doing nothing at all on Sunday as this was family time.’ Like many of the elite, long distance athletes I’ve spoken to, Mimi avoided getting too hung up with stats. ‘I had no idea how many miles I ran. I never kept a journal or logs. I had no phone, no watch, no GPS and when I did have a plan it had to be very flexible, especially when racing. I had to listen to my body and realise I could only run as fast as it would allow me to (I’m not naturally fast but I can go long!).’ But setting a clear goal was vital. ‘Without a goal race I would just be floating along,’ explains Mimi.

Mind Power

What about the mind? Do long distance runners in particular need to focus their attention on training their mind? ‘I believe the mind plays a huge part in my ability to run long and keep going. I’m someone who is happy to put myself out there. I’m determined, and I don’t like to fail.

‘Before I race I like to reccy the course and familiarise myself with the hills, the flats, the hard and easy parts. I like to look at photos of others who’ve done the race. When I’m running I keep looking forward at what’s ahead, and avoid looking around. Running for 30-plus hours requires me to empty my head of all thoughts. I listen to music – and I cry. Crying is a great way to release pent-up emotions. I also use visualisation and picture my family at the finish line.’

After the initial disappointment about her injury and having to abandon her run across America, it’s clear that Mimi has applied all she’s learnt as a runner to his next chapter, where she’s learning to swim, discovering Zwift and even buying brightly coloured socks for cycling! Mimi went from ordinary mum to extraordinary athlete, inspiring others along the way. Now as she heads off on the journey to be a triathlete, this extraordinary grandmother is a trail blazer in true endurance woman-style showing 50 plus women what’s possible. Take a leaf out of Mimi’s book and put yourself out there. You never know what’s ahead until you try.

Follow Mimi on Social Media:

Twitter: @MarvellousMimi

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/marvellousmimi/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mimi.anderson.526

 

 

Brathay 10in10: 10 Marathons in 10 Days

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

For most of us running one marathon is a lifetime’s achievement. But for a growing number of women it’s been to run the same marathon, every day for 10 days. Even more amazing is that amongst the 34 women to have completed the Brathay 10in10, six of them have done so as many as two, three and four times.

And this year five more women have been offered a place, one of whom is returning for a second time. In addition to training for the event, no mean feat, they have also pledged to raise over £18,000 between them for Brathay Trust, a youth charity who organise the event to support their work with vulnerable children and young people.

Along with 15 men – also raising £3,000 each, they will run the same 26.2 miles each day. It is an anti-clockwise route circumnavigating England’s longest lake, Windermere and taking in the honeypot villages that include Hawkshead and Ambleside. It’s now one of a handful of marathons around the world whose course is entirely within a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lake District.

Recognised as one of the UK’s ultimate endurance running events, it was devised by academic Sir Christopher Ball, as a trustee of Brathay. He ran it aged 72, to prove that ordinary people can tackle extraordinary feats of physical and mental endurance. It has since raised over £1.2million for Brathay’s work including supporting residential programmes at the charity’s base near Ambleside and community projects in the Furness area of South Cumbria. 104 people have completed it.

With just months to go, we take a closer look at these endurance women ahead of their monumental challenge which starts on Friday (11 May) and finishes on Sunday 20 May.

And we start with the person who looks after the event and keeps a close-eye on the runners – Brathay Trust’s operations manager, Aly Knowles. She has first-hand experience of what the 10in10ers go through to train and then ultimately cross the finish line on day ten, having taken part in two 10in10s. Aly says she was lucky enough to be involved with the first 10in10 and then watched with awe when two women completed it the following year. In 2008, when many believed it was impossible for women to tackle such a physical challenge, Selina Da Silva and Michelle Atkins proved it was. It earned Michelle a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, for the most consecutive marathons run by a female. In 2012, Sally Ford’s phenomenal run meant she was first over the finish line and became the second female 10in10er to enter the Guinness Book of World Records – the 10in10’s fastest woman with a time of 36:38:53 which remains unbroken today. Legal PA Kaz Hurrell has set another record by being the only woman to run the 10in10 four times and she’s keen to be back for a fifth one.

This year the five women who are taking part have very different running backgrounds, and are entered as FV35 to FV60.

Brathay training weekend 2018Diane Morris has six children (aged between 12 and 26 years-old) and three grandchildren. She first started running eight years ago with a group of mums who were fundraising for the playgroup. Since 2013 she has completed six marathons and eight ultra-marathons.

Janet Shepherd claims she would never run for a bus until she made a start in her late forties. Making up for lost time Janet celebrated her 55th birthday by crossing the finishing line of her first 10in10 in 2013. Now she back to kick start her 60th birthday celebrations from the start line of another 10in10 challenge.

Brathay training weekend 2018

Joni Southall says she has been running on and off since her school days, representing North Yorkshire in the 200m and 100m relay and enjoying cross country events in the winter months. This year she and her dad, Gary Wade, are making event history by signing up to run it together – running is clearly in this family’s genes.

Liane Warren voices the relationship many of us have with running – loving it, needing it, but not finding it easy. Running gives Lianne focus and motivation and, describing herself as a natural worrier, it is her stress-reliever and a refuge from the pressures of life too. She says she has a terrible running style, likes to eat chocolate and drink wine – but dares to hope to do something amazing.

Linda Somerville is the event’s youngest runner and ran her first marathon in Edinburgh in 2011, three months before her 30th birthday, and has been hooked ever since. Having notched up 23 marathons she shouldn’t have any problem achieving her goal of getting to 50 before she is 40, and 100 before she hits 50.

All five endurance women and fundraising heroes have only a few months of training left before their first marathon on Friday 11 May.

Why not join them on their last – Sunday 20 May – when the course coincides with the one day ASICS Windermere Marathon? You never know where it may lead – this year, 15 of the 20 signed up for the 10in10 are past Windermere Marathon runners. More details can be found on the Brathay Challenges website.

Profiles of all of the 10in10ers can be found on the Brathay Challenges website here and videos and updates will be shared via twitter @BrathayEvents and facebook @BrathayRunning.

Six years to reach sub-three-hour marathon success

I met Kate Carter the week before she went to Seville and reached her goal of running her first sub-three-hour marathon. At the time of the interview I had no idea she had planned to take on the challenge just four days ahead. As Editor of the Guardian Running Blog and with a high-profile on social media, she understandably chose to go under cover!

‘As a Guardian Life and Style Editor I became aware that running was becoming a  huge thing about seven or eight years ago, before I started running myself.  Parkrun was gaining in popularity and more people were taking on challenges like couch to 5K, including my then editor, so when I suggested starting the running blog at a meeting, it was a case of perfect timing.

‘My own running started at about the same time as the Running Blog, back in 2012. I had done a bit of running before, there was one 10K which my husband had entered me into, the Nike North versus South event. It was horrific. I trained from zero to race in six weeks, and ran it in just under an hour, and the last mile was endless. I also did a triathlon in 2006, but running had never been a focus. I was cycling to and from work, there was a pool next to my office, but the run bit I really didn’t like. There was no structure to my training, I just added in a run. So, I was quite surprised when I managed to run 48 minutes for the 10K as part of the London triathlon. But none of it inspired me to continue, until I had children.

Timing it Right

‘I think running is something that you have to find at the right time for you. And I believe that’s why so many women come to it after they have had children. After breaking from work and having young children dependent on you all day with no adult conversation, many women need to find time to themselves. I didn’t start running properly until I was on maternity leave with my second daughter (Kate is the mum of two girls aged six and nine). One of the reasons I started was simply that I wanted to lose weight and get fit again. And running was an easy way to do this and much more time-efficient as there was no time spent driving to a gym or pool and getting changed. I just needed to get out the door.

Kate Carter and her daughter Lily attend the weekly 2km fun run at Wimbledom park for juniors aged 4-14.
Photo by Souvid Datta
Commissioned for DO SOMETHING

‘As well as getting fit, and giving me time to myself, I discovered I was good at running. In the first few months you gain so much, so quickly and that keeps you motivated to keep going. I started with my friend who had been a runner when she was young, and our goal was to run 10K in sub 50 minutes. I followed this with a half marathon, and managed to run it on small mileage in around 1.45.

‘My husband recognised I was getting good at this and as a birthday present he bought me a package with a coach. I met with him and he watched me run, and then for the first time I had a structured plan to follow. I also joined a running club, and even though when the girls were young I couldn’t get to all the sessions, I loved being part of a club.

Marathon Mum

‘Soon I had my eyes set on the goal of running a marathon and had planned to run Seville in February 2014, but a calf tear (the only injury I’ve had) meant I had to wait until the London marathon​ in April. My training consisted of around 40 miles a week, and I worked runs into my day, as my girls were only two and five. I often ran part of the journey to work to save time, or I’d fit in a lunch-time session. They say if you want something done, get a busy person to do it. I say if you want someone to do marathon training, get a parent to do it. It’s not easy when your children are young. I remember those long runs were so exhausting, and I’d come back from a 21-mile run to a crying two-year old and the demands of a young family.  When it came to the race, again I remember the last few miles felt like an eternity, but I wasn’t worried about it as I didn’t have a time goal and I was very pleased to finish in 3.25.

‘Running adds to our family life on so many levels. I go on holiday and run early in the morning which some people think is crazy. And I’ve been known to get off a long-haul flight and run (such as after a 24-hour flight to New Zealand)  because it freshens me up and helps me beat jet lag. I know that when I run, I’m happier, and a happier me, is a better mum. And now that the children are older we run together. In the summer we go to the track and they might time me doing laps, or do some laps themselves and then play. We also do our own circuits, and crazy yoga/dancing – they’ve learnt that exercise is fun and it’s not a transaction that’s just about calories in and calories out.

Progression

‘As I got more serious about running I started to up my mileage. I learnt early on that my body absorbs mileage and I’m lucky that I don’t seem to get injured. I’ll run at least 70 miles per week when I want to achieve a bigger goal. My progress continued and in 2014 I ran another marathon, this time in 3.11 in New York, which is a hard and slower marathon than ​some ​others.  Then in 2015 I ran 3.03 in London and finally got tantalizingly close to sub three, running, 3.00.07 in Berlin – so close –  in fact a friend told me I should just call it 2.59.67.

‘After this, in 2016 and 2017, I ran another five marathons (two in 2016 and three in 2017) some for fun, and  some that didn’t go to plan. In preparation for London in 2017 I had achieved PBs at every distance: 5K, 10 mile and half marathon. But  on the day of the race it didn’t happen for me. I think I’d peaked too soon and the timing was just off. In a marathon you can see saw between feeling great and feeling awful, and if you have a bad day, it’s not like you can go and repeat the performance the following week. But the good thing about running marathons is that it makes all other distances seem easy psychologically and physically. And things are on the up again as last week I was absolutely delighted to run a 10K PB of 38.32.

Power of the mind

‘When I’m racing, I try to focus my mind. I think about what my muscles are doing and make sure I check in on my posture. I tell my mind to shut up, especially in the first 5K, or at 16 miles when there’s still 10 miles to go. It’s important to be in control of your mind and break down the distance into manageable blocks, and to simply stay in the moment, and avoid trying to plan for what may or may not happen. I will have an internal dialogue and will always ask myself if there’s more I can give, I definitely do not want to finish a race feeling I may have left it out there.

‘When it comes to training, I’m very good at doing what I’m told. My husband likes to point out that I’m not like this in any other area of my life, But if my coach tells me to do a session, I do it. I don’t question it. I’ve learned that with running it’s a straightforward equation: you get out what you put in. And it’s worth doing. Running can add so much to  life, for busy parents it’s a great way to get much-needed head space – as well as a sense of feeling in control of life. I remember when I first ran the marathon I felt like superwoman, as if I could do anything now!

Men V Women: the race is on!

‘Long distance female runners are much closer to their male counterparts than in other sports, and the further the distance, the smaller the time difference between men and women. I often find when I’m running to and form work, a man will run a long side me and race me. Recently, a guy even decided to give me some unasked for advice about how I could improve my running stride. It was very satisfying to stop at the lights and then destroy him by running away quickly.

Getting Faster

‘I’m going for sub-three hours at the marathon again in April and then after the marathon I’d like to see if I can get faster over shorter distances and dedicate training to improving my 5K and 10K times. But first, it’s the marathon and I really hope I can do it this time.’

Now read what happened just four days later: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2018/feb/26/how-was-your-weekend-running

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2018/feb/26/how-was-your-weekend-running

Teach A Girl To Swim

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Mum of three children (ages nine, 11, 13), Malini Mehra, 50 is determined to make 2018 a year that counts. She’s set herself a goal of swimming 500K, which includes swim training 10K per week (as well as running and cycling) and taking part in swim events in cities around the world (totalling 150K of racing). She’s also lined up a marathon, 100-mile bike ride and Ironman Barcelona. She’s combining her experience from a 30-year career in sustainable development, climate change and human rights with her love of a challenge to make life better for women and teach girls to swim.

‘Climate change is the major issue of our times and it’s devastatingly obvious that it’s here to stay. Its impacts are many and you only have to look at how floods are affecting us all globally – including here in the UK. However, our losses and suffering are nothing compared to what those in coastal areas of Bangladesh, Cambodia and other Asian regions experience.

‘Floods are the most common form of climate disaster and they’re becoming more frequent – with women and girls are most at risk. Women are twice as likely to die in a flood, and four times as likely as men to die in a disaster in the developing world. In addition to this, women are the last ones to respond to emergency warning when disaster strikes as they’re often taking care of young children or elderly relatives.

‘This is a very real gender disparity and explained by the different social roles and status of men and women in these societies. Females are more likely to die than males in floods, for the simple reason that women and girls are generally not taught to swim.

‘There are also important cultural reasons due to notions of modesty and the taboo of menstruation that prevent the same freedoms for girls as boys enjoy. It’s common to see boys jumping into the water and enjoying themselves, but not girls. This isn’t fair or right and needs to change. Everyone should be able to enjoy the wonder of water and swimming. And no-one should die because they haven’t been taught basic safety swimming.

Time to Take Action

‘In my day job I’m the chief executive of GLOBE International, the world’s leading cross-party network of parliamentarians committed to green issues. I could see that there are a number of small organisations doing what they can to help out, but they lacked the resources and political know-how to do more. I decided to use my position to try to make a difference. I’m a mother, a feminist, I’m passionate about action on climate change – and I can swim! So, I came up with Teach A Girl To Swim (TAGS) to raise awareness of the issue and connecting those working on climate change, gender equality and disaster risk reduction around the world.

‘The attention-grabbing part of the TAGs campaign are my 10k swims in different cities – Kolkata, Dhaka, Beijing, Manila, Tokyo etc – which bring media attention to the epidemic of drowning deaths around the world, climate change and its differential impact on women and girls. But the bulk of my work is about raising funds for local organisations doing work on drowning prevention, raising awareness and putting in place national policies and measures, – and money! – to ensure that swim safety (for girls and boys) is a basic part of the national curriculum and a fundamental part of a country’s response to climate change and disaster risk reduction.

‘So, that’s it in a nutshell. Some people think I’m a crackpot, but I hope this publicity will spark dialogue and drive action and make a difference.

Family life

‘In 2000, I founded an NGO working on corporate responsibility, sustainability and climate change in India and the UK. It meant a lot of travel for me back and forth. I’m Indian and my husband is British. It was especially tough when my kids were very young.  I was a militant breastfeeder, which meant I took the kids with me everywhere for the first year of their lives – all around the world, to my offices in India and international board meetings and conferences. My husband is in the same field and we had consecutive travel all the time, so someone was always at home with the kids. We had no nannies and it was exhausting. So, I’m really glad I don’t have to travel with them anymore!

‘Thankfully, we live in a very different world now to our mother and grandmothers. My grandmother had her first child at 13, my mum at 23 and me at 36. That’s a massive change and we have many more choices now. IT has also transformed the working world for women and given opportunities for many modern mums to work at home and grow the ‘kitchen table economy’. We don’t have to compromise family life in the same way as before. Parenting is very different now. I really like working from home and being a hands-on mum. So, now I’m working flexibly with a portfolio career and therefore able to structure my day so that I can prioritise family and also be committed to work and training. I’m lucky, I know this isn’t the case for everyone and the trade-off between family, work and training is very real.

Training

‘I train five days a week, which includes a three to five-mile run after the school drop off and one hour of swimming (2.5K) four days a week. I have focussed my training on swimming and do 10K per week in between four to four and half hours. I also train with Mark Kleanthous (@ironmatemark) for expert coaching. I’ve run more recently as I’m running a marathon on March 11th. I’ll be swimming throughout– it’s the bit of the Ironman that I’m least anxious about – and I’ll begin to focus more on getting cycle fit over the summer so I build my bike legs, and can get off the bike after 180k and still have the legs to run a marathon and have a good finish to Ironman Barcelona!

Teach A Girl To Swim: the Legacy

‘I’ve always loved swimming and as a child growing up in Delhi, I splashed around in pools before learning to swim at school in London when I was 8. I was lucky to learn in the UK when I did. This country is very unusual and our kids very lucky that the national curriculum includes basic swimming skills. This should be the case everywhere. I want this year’s commitment to my goals and challenges to be meaningful, not just a flash in the pan. I hope to raise awareness about teaching girls to swim, to raise money and in the longer term to create a foundation for TAGS, so that I can leave a positive and lasting legacy.

‘Inspiration for me has come from many sources. Back in 2009, I started working with a fabulous Indian ultra-runner, Dr Rajat Chauhan, who had started this amazing Himalayan ultra-run – on the highest peaks  in the world – called  La Ultra – the High. We worked together to use the run to promote awareness, in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate summit, of the impact of climate change on the Himalayas, where glaciers are receding rapidly. The High is an incredibly tough ultra trail race. You’ve got to contend with thin air, altitude sickness and crazy trucks flying past you like juggernauts. I’d love to do it one day though. Events like these are powerful catalysts for change. I’m also driven on to keep going by women like Diana Nyad, the unstoppable endurance swimmer, motivational speaker and author, who’s now almost 70 and an absolute force of nature.

‘And after this crazy year, I’ve got more planned – I love endurance sports and women do get better as they age! We can get better PBs as we age, while men flag and wilt.  So, that’s a real upside of aging – as long as one keeps one’s health. For next year, my son and I are planning to cycle the length of the UK – from Lands End to John O’Groats – when he’s 12, so we’ve got a lot of long training rides in store!

‘I hope 2018 is the start of something bigger and I can inspire people to make a real difference by engaging with and supporting the Teach A Girl to Swim campaign.’

More info

Support Malini: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/teach-a-girl-to-swim 

Check out Malini’s impressive professional profile: https://globalchallenges.org/en/about/ambassadors/malini-mehra

For great coaching advice: http://www.ironmate.co.uk

#endurancewomenstories #realwomen #justdoit #ordinarywomenextraordinary

 

From Zero to World Champion Triathlete

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

At 40, Jane Hansom, was squeezing into a size 14, living a hedonistic, work-orientated busy life as an ad exec for booze and tobacco companies and doing no exercise. The challenge of taking on the London Marathon turned her life around and was the start of her journey to world champion.

‘I promise you, I did nothing, no exercise for at least 20 years. I was three stone heavier than I am now and couldn’t run for a bus, and I had started to look in the mirror, and think what’s happened?  I had natural talent and had been a swimmer and a runner at school but the lid had been firmly shut on my world champion potential. But in 2010 when a client challenged me to take on the London Marathon, I knew I couldn’t say no. I’d heard  Oprah Winfrey saying she’d read a book about how to run a marathon in four hours and I bought that and got started on training.

‘By the time the marathon came around I’d lost all the weight, was size zero, and crossed the line in under four hours. I had officially got the bug, and running became my passion. And I was good at it. In just 18 months I’d managed to run sub-three hours for the marathon in New York.

‘My approach was simple, consistently stick to my plan, and remove any barriers that could stop me running. So for example, I made sure I had a proper jacket, gloves and hat for rain and cold. And I planned in my training around work. I’d also watched some celebrities run the marathon with no preparation and it looked hideous, and I’d decided I wanted to get it over done with and not be crawling around in pain.

‘I’m a 100 per cent in, or 100 per cent out person. And if I decide I’m going to do something, I do it. I guess this helped get me to the podium places and to become world champion. In the run up to the sub-three hour race I had achieved 3.23 when I’d signed up to Runner’s World magazine’s Asics 26.2, which meant I was accountable to their online forum and so there was no way I could miss training. I was also very fortunate to be coached by the famous coach, Bud Buldaro, who taught me that I didn’t need to run every run faster, or longer than the day before and showed me how to structure marathon training. I also joined a running club, Queens Park Harriers. When I started I was one of the slowest runners there, I’m pleased to say I’m now one of the fastest.

Jane’s Marathon times

April 2010 London: 3.54

October2010 Loch Ness: 3.32

April  2011 Paris: 3.04

November 2011, New York: 2.58

April 2012, London: 2.58

The Road To Triathlon

‘With two sub-three marathons done, I was looking for my next challenge. It was my brother who suggested triathlon. He reminded me that I’d been a very good swimmer at school and that I might do well. I  worried about the bike though, as I hadn’t been on bike for 20-plus years and have never trained on a bike.

‘But I entered my first event, a sprint triathlon, held as a test event for the olympics and bought a bike on E-bay. It was the wrong size and clunky but it was good enough and I was amazed to win the race – overall! It turned out that as a good swimmer I could get ahead, then I’d get caught on the bike, but catch it all up again on the run.

‘This win boosted my confidence and was quickly followed by success in Aquathlon and a lot of other races. I took part in the Slateman race in Snowdonia, and loved it, as I enjoy races that dish out some adversity in the middle. I won the series and a two-week holiday at the very well-known training holiday camp for triathletes, Club La Santa, in Lanzarote. By now I was training harder on the bike and had joined a group of guys who cycle around Richmond Park. It was here talk of Ironman started.

‘My first reaction was, that’s way too long. But the more I raced and trained, the more it seemed like it was something I could achieve. Again as someone who likes to do things properly I wanted to be sure I had the best coach – and I found him – Brett Sutton of Tri Sutto (coach to the current world champion at Ironman, Daniela Ryf and four-time world champ Chrissie Wellington).

‘I entered Switzerland Ironman, and didn’t feel ready at all, saying to Brett that maybe I should wait. He disagreed. We decided I’d approach it as a long training session, but I went on to win my age category by 24 minutes. 

‘In doing this race I’d qualified for the world championship at Kona! I had no expectations for the race, I was just so glad to be there with 87 girls who had all won an Ironman. I didn’t over-think it, or plan too far ahead. I was there and not going to worry about unimportant things. It wasn’t until the last 10K that someone told me I was second in my age. I was so chuffed to come second and to be in the top 50 of this elite group of triathletes.

Training

‘As the owner of my marketing agency, Sponge Marketing, I am super-busy and don’t have time to think too hard about training details. I make sure I train early in the morning between 530am and 730am every day, and often at lunch or in the evening as well, which adds up to between 15 and 20 hours training a week. To do this I have to be organised and leave my kit out the night before and make sure my food is simple and prepared in advance (my husband helps me with this). I don’t miss a session, or hit the snooze button because playing catch-up is too stressful and difficult. I know from my experience of the last seven years that consistency is the key to success.

‘It helps that I really do enjoy training. On my 49th birthday I did 40 x 100M swim reps because it’s what I love to do. I don’t train to win trophies and I’m not trying to go about collecting gongs, triathlon means so much more to me. I love the social side, the lifestyle and the community that I’m part of, and as I said I love to train!

From Runner to Triathlete

‘When I started doing triathlon I relied on a good swim and then my running ability to get me to the podium. Nowadays I never run two days in a row, which gives my body time to repair and recover. But to become a world champion I needed to focus on the bike. Cycling made me stronger overall and the net effect of being faster on the bike is obvious in triathlon as you spend more time on the bike than on the other two disciplines. I’m now accomplished at all three disciplines

‘My body shape changed. As a runner I had no bum and was skinny, but as a triathlete I’m more robust and stronger overall. I don’t need to go to the gym, as I do my strength work when I train, such as cycling in a big gear, or swimming with paddles.

Triathlon is a Great Sport for Women

‘As well as the aesthetic benefits of being a triathlete, it’s a great sport for women. Some women feel they can’t be seen in a tri suit, but if they can overcome that barrier, they will get some much from the sport. Really, who cares how you look? When I first went to Kona I felt like a hefferlump surrounded by world champions with six packs. But I soon forgot about all that. It really doesn’t matter. It’s not a beauty contest. Another problem for many is lack of time, but for me getting up early and training gives me time to switch off the stress, and to be creative, coming up with ideas and solving problems, something I don’t think I’d do by sitting on the tube, or writing a long list. You’ll never know what you can do until you try.’

Don’t Plan It. Just Do It.

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Gill Bickle, 36, a dispensing optician from Brighton, last year qualified as an age group triathlete for the 70.3 distance and has a place at the world championships in 2018. An endurance woman through and through, Gill’s suffered with cancer, and a debilitating iron deficiency – as well as more recently concussion. She’s opted not to plan too much…

‘I didn’t plan on becoming an age group triathlete. I was ‘sort of’ sporty as a kid, then started smoking and partying. When I was around 26 a friend of mine was taking on the marathon, so I stopped smoking and started running. We didn’t have a structured training plan, all of It was hard and we did loads of training.

‘We coped with the long runs and miles by eating lots of sugary sweets and snacks – and we both put on weight, I think I put on about two stone. I had a plan to run to time not mileage and I think my Sunday long run got shorter as I got heavier! We had a goal of completing the marathon in around four and a half hours. By mile 20 I was walking and she’d left me, then when I started running again and caught up with her, she was walking. We crossed the finish line in five and half or maybe five hours 50 minutes – I’ve blocked it out. It was horrendous.

From Jogger to Runner

‘After that I gave up running for a while, but then another friend persuaded me to do the Dublin marathon. Then in 2010, Brighton launched its first marathon and I decided to take on the race being held in my home town. I joined a group, I trained, and ate properly, and I did have a plan. I ran the race in under four hours. By 2014, I’d got my time down to 3.31, which I ran two years in a row.

‘The journey to triathlon was almost accidental. At my fittest I somehow managed to do an unofficial Ironman event in around 13 hours, based mainly on my running fitness. I also did the Stafford 70.3 in 6 hours 45, again off running training. But it was when I was training for the Paris marathon and got injured, and then I ran injured and the injury lingered for four months, that I began to introduce swimming into my training. At around the same time I decided to have a break from the longer distance runs for marathon training. The plan was to try to get faster as I wanted to break 3.30 for the marathon, so I started to do sprint triathlon and shorter runs.

‘It wasn’t long before I had a new plan in place and I lined up for more endurance by entering a half Ironman. But in April 2016, all plans halted as I found a lump – and this lump turned out to be cancer.

A New Challenge

‘At first I hadn’t expected it to be serious. I’d toddled off to the doctor by myself, but when I’d been examined they asked me if there was anyone at home, and organised for me to see a MacMillan nurse as a follow-up, so I quickly worked out what was going on. Then the fear kicked in and I began to play out different scenarios in my head, and weigh up which was the least bad case (all of which were not great!).

‘There was a period of around six weeks when they were trying to work out what type of cancer I had and training was just for enjoyment not performance. Endurance training helped me, for example, when I was getting scanned for 20 minutes, I’d remind myself it was the same time as a park run. And I recovered quickly. Fortunately, it was a rare type of cancer and a simple operation removed it, followed by physiotherapy, radiotherapy and just two weeks of being out of running.

Best laid plans

‘After that I signed up for another half Ironman, this time in Kronborg Denmark, and the Brighton Marathon, and was considering a full Ironman. Training went really well and I was making great progress, but then in the last few weeks of marathon training I started to feel very tired. It had come on very suddenly, from feeling great to feeling awful. A blood test confirmed I had an iron deficiency, and there was a possibility that I’d had a stomach bleed which had accelerated the drop in energy.

‘The iron deficiency had left me feeling very run down. I was catching colds and tired, but until the test had confirmed it, I had believed I was over-trained, as the symptoms were similar. Bike rides were hard and slow, and I was running about two minutes per mile slower than my usual pace and barely able to make it up a hill.

‘It took a while for the iron reserves to build up. Training was patchy and inconsistent, but once the iron levels returned to normal, I felt completely different, so I decided to just go and do the half Ironman I’d signed up to and with around five weeks of proper training under my belt I headed off to the race. I did better than I thought, completing the race in 5’50 and taking 45 minutes off my earlier half Ironman time.

‘With this result under my belt and my confidence and health boosted I signed  up for The Gloria 70.3 Ironman Turkey, being held just 12 weeks later. I wanted to see what good iron, good fitness and good training would result in. I had a terrible swim, and I think lost seven minutes in the swim and transition one. But with triathlon you never know what’s the best balance, because the bad swim might have helped me to work harder on the bike. I felt like I was in a good place to push myself on the run. I did and it was a good race. I did it in 5’31 which meant I qualified as an age group triathlete for the world championships.

Bike Training For Triathlon

‘My coach has worked on the basis that to get times quicker it has to come from cycling. This means that all training goes against what I want to do – which is to run. I have to look at the margins I can make and it’s always on the bike. So going forward from Turkey to South Africa this year, it will still be bike training as a focus. As you become more efficient on the bike, you’ll use less energy for less time, and this can serve you well on the run. And if you’ve been an endurance runner you’ve built up a mental resilience and you can tap into your runner’s mindset – the one that got you to do off-road runs in horrible weather on a Sunday morning.

Support Network

‘I’ve had some tough times, but the people I’ve met through endurance training and racing have helped me and I have a great support network. I’ve been in my town for a long time and I’m an active member of running groups and a couple of clubs, including Brighton Tri Club and Brighton and Hove City Athletic’s Club. Sometimes I’ve leant on this group even more than my old friends, as we spend longer together out on training rides and runs.

The next race…

‘I’m really looking forward to my next race, but the last few years have given me some perspective. All the plans that I’ve made have changed. Most recently training was going well and then I  came off my bike, got concussion and was out off training for three weeks (Fiona Bugler: Check out my story, Gill is in the ambulance with me).

‘Before, if I got injured or ill and couldn’t run, I’d get really upset, but now (particularly as I’m a triathlete) I let it go, and think if I can’t run, I can swim, or go on my bike.  But one plan I do have, and that is to give the race in South Africa my best shot.’

#endurancewomenstories #realwomen #justdoit #ordinarywomenextraordinary

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Junior Doctor Takes on Spartathlon

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Last week I chatted with fellow Brighton Triathlon Club Member, Kat Ganly, 33, about her real passion, ultra running. In May 2017 she ran the legendary Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ which follows the mountainous spine of Wales from north to south. “This incredible five-day journey is 315KM  long with 15,500 metres of ascent across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain” states the website. Kat says: ‘it’s tough’. Continuing her epic year, in October 2017, she took on the 250K (153-mile) Spartathlon, an iconic race and a bucket-list event for any ultra runner  (for those who can qualify. Last year, well known sports presenter and ultra runner  Vassos Alexander from BBC Radio 2 also took part).

Kat is a junior doctor and trainee anaesthetist, and yes, that means long hours, study and shifts at ungodly hours. She kind of makes a mockery of the ‘I haven’t got time excuse’! She’s under-stated and a fine example of someone living a life of just doing it. She counts time on her feet, not miles and pushes her boundaries every year.

Kat started running a decade ago when she gave up smoking. She started with a half marathon, then she moved onto ultra running.  In her 10-year running career she’s fitted in a 40 and 50 miler ultra, then four 100 mile races, The Grand Union Canal 145-mile run and the Marathon des Sables as well as the two big races in 2017.

She loves running on the trails. She loves the solitude and the space she gets from running. Running has changed her life. It’s given her confidence and with each boundary she’s broken, she grows in strength – and it’s taught her that she can do more than she ever thought she could.

Kat’s takeaway:

Set small goals that you can  reach – and then you keep going forward.

Listen to what she’s got to say as we chat in a noisy Brighton pub!

Guest Blog: Seven Years to go from Zero To 100-mile Ultra Runner

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Victoria Fraser, a 42 year-old pharmacy technician and ultra runner from Oxfordshire  sent me her blog. She’s single and has one daughter, Heidi, age 15.  She started running with a five-mile race in 2010. Seven years later she’d completed a 100-mile off-road race. And her appetite for distance hasn’t waned…

“Did I find ultra running or did running find me?  It was like a calling, one of those things that fitted into my life, without me really trying to fit it in. Only twice before in my life has that happened. The first time, when I was a dancer, and the second, when I started my pharmacy career.

’And my introduction to running was accidental. I never planned to do it  Some people have a  bucket list in life often including running a marathon, I never had this and I really had no wish to run big distances, or even a Parkrun. It just happened!

‘It began at work when a colleague’s daughter was running a five-mile charity fun run at Blenheim Palace, I said I’d sponsor her. Then without thinking, I said I’d do it too. ‘What? Why did I say that?’ I hadn’t run since school. I certainly wasn’t unfit – I’d been a dancer up to the age of 20 and then did a lot of cycling to keep fit – but since becoming a mum I lived in a whirl of crazy activity and hadn’t followed a structured fitness regime.

‘So, the five-mile fun run day arrived April 2010 Because it was only five miles I didn’t train – no need right? Only five miles? Ouch!  No proper training and not wearing the right running shoes taught me the hard way. My lungs were screaming after the first mile, but I still finished in just over an hour and was buzzing that I’d done it. When I got home, still aching, I was looking for more…

‘The next step was to enter an off-road 10K, the Candleford Canter, organised by Alchester Running Club in Bicester. Every weekend I increased the mileage by just half to one mile usually running twice at weekends . I completed the 10k in just over an hour.  Without a great master plan I just started to run more. Gradually, as I ran further, and continued to refine my training, I felt confident to set bigger goals, and very soon , six months later  I ran  an off-road half marathon.

’I was becoming a runner, and it was now more part of my life. And soon I made running friends by joining Runners World online  community, and as runners do, chat about going further, and different races started. And it was in one of these chats the idea was planted to run a marathon. But I was quickly drawn to the ‘dark side’ of ultra running – it was like a magnet for me. My friend, Nick had talked about a 35-mile he had done and it captured my imagination. I knew I had to do it. I entered a marathon in January 2012, but only to use as a stepping stone to the world of ultras. I completed the marathon in January 2012, and was already looking ahead to the Northants Shires and Spires  35-mile race. With this done, the next goal, the Centurion North Downs Way 50 soon followed, it was taking place in August 2012.

‘I was gripped by distance, trails and hills. There was so much to take in, navigation, technical off-road running and nutrition but I was keen to learn and met the right people, asked the right questions and soon I’d become a fully fledged ultra runner.

‘As a mum,  fitting in training could be difficult. And the longer the races and the longer the training runs the more I needed to be organised. My daughter Heidi, who was just seven when I started running, and saw me going out for a short run and her being able to come and watch to mum going to an event and having to leave the night before and not re-appearing until Saturday night! Fitting in more miles has got easier as she’s got older  and early morning runs done before the day’s duties at weekends. Now she’s a teenager and having a mum that runs 100 miles is quite cool! I believe I’m teaching my daughter that there are no limits and if she really wants to do something then she can. Hard work, training, persistence and confidence in yourself will result in achievements.

‘I continued to race in 2013 and 2014 and my body grew stronger and confidently covered the distance. In 2015 I wanted to push it further and so I entered the 100K Race to the Stones. There was no time pressure and I just wanted to cover the distance,  and it felt good knowing I could still run further without injury or issue.

‘By this time I was getting good at knowing which kit worked for me, and how to get fuel,  hydration and pacing right. I’m not fast but I’m a consistent runner. I pace steadily and strongly. I was also learning to trust my mind,  and to respect the fine line between being blasé and thinking nothing will go wrong, and knowing how to push hard.

‘In 2016 I set myself my biggest goal to date, a grand slam of 50-mile races, adding up to 400 miles and 27,000 ft elevation in total. I had a step-by-step approach, and broke each race down into manageable chunks, not daring to think about the next race. It was an amazing year of running! And as I suspected once completed, my appetite to run further was still there.

‘So in 2017 I decide to reach for 100 miles in one go. This was another step up and now I had to consider crew, a pacer, and drop bags – I had to have a plan. I chose the South Downs Way 100 in June. Two months before I’d run the South Downs Way 50 and had knocked a lot of time off the previous race time, so I knew I was in good shape. The night run was fantastic. I knew the second half of the course which would be at night so this helped, and my trusted friend, James acted as my pacer and confidence builder, reminding me I could do it.

‘When it came to the night, it all went to plan. The weather was prefect, there was a full moon all night and I couldn’t have asked for more help than I had. There were tough moments – steep climbs and hallucinations – and there were beautiful moments – looking back over the hills at Southease to see tiny bobbing head torches in he distance!  I arrived in Eastbourne and crossed the line at 8am on Sunday morning, severely sleep-deprived but elated. Later, as I sat with my cup of tea in the sports hall, I smiled to myself as I looked at my 100-mile running buckle resting on my knee, and remembered it had all started with a five-mile run, and once again asked myself, did I find running, or did it find me?

‘As for what’s next. I want to keep seeing what I can do. I hope to complete the Centurion slam of four 100-mile races in 2018, and then I hope to progress into mountain ultras such as Tenerife Blue Trail or Transvulcania Ultra, both of which are on volcanic mountain terrain. The journey continues.’

 

Doing Buggy Miles and Making a Difference

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Becci Holdaway, 34, from Eastbourne, works as a sister at Eastbourne’s District General Hospital’s (DGH) A&E. She’s also a mum of two boys, and runner racking up ‘Buggy Miles‘ and has ambitions to run a sub-three hour marathon.

‘Running is a time when I’m not a mum, a partner, nurse – it’s time for not thinking, it’s my relaxation. Now that I have a one-year old I’m really enjoying clocking up Buggy Miles.

‘I haven’t always been a runner, my passion was dance, and as a child I danced with the Royal Ballet and then went on to the Sylvia Young theatre school. But my dad was a runner, and I had happy memories of going to watch him at the London Marathon, then the Mars London Marathon.

‘By the age of 18 dance was coming to an end and I started to run on the treadmill, building up to running 30 minutes non-stop. I then joined Crowborough Running Club and took part in the Brighton 10K, running 48 minutes without too much difficulty.

The marathon journey starts

‘I had my first child, Joshua in 2008 and  in 2009. Now settled in a new job at DGH, I was running regularly and in 2009, aged, 26, I took on my first marathon on the lapped (and slightly dull) course at Luton. I had a goal to run sub 3.30  so I felt gutted when I ran 3.31. But disappointment didn’t last long and just five months later in 2010, I ran 3.21 at London. The next goal, was sub 3.15 and by 2013 I’d run 3.16.

‘After this attempt life got busy with  a master’s degree, and then I went through divorce in 2013. There was one night when I put on my wedding dress and got smashed, but I didn’t let it drag me down for too long and running helped to get me back on track, and I focussed my energy on my next marathon in Poland. Finally, in September 2014, I achieved my sub 3.15 goal, running 3.08.

New Beginnings

‘I had just met my partner Lee, and it was great to have someone to share my training life with. He took me up on to the South Downs to train on the hills, I’m a road runner and moaned a lot at first, but training off-road got me stronger.

‘Lee is a great runner, and swimmer and has kept fit all his life, but in December 2015, his life underwent a dramatic change when he had a heart attack at The Mince Pie 10 Mile race. He’d started to feel unwell in the race, but carried on running and still managed to gain fifth place and ran 10 miles off-road in 1.03. I came in seven minutes later and placed third woman. I knew he wasn’t right when I saw him. He’d spoken to first aiders who thought he’d over exerted himself, but I knew he needed emergency help. The paramedics took an ECG but didn’t know how to read it. Luckily, I had done a cardio course and was able to see that his result showed ST elevation. In layman’s terms, the main artery to Lee’s heart was totally blocked. When we got to the hospital I had hoped the cardiologist was going to tell me I’d misread the ECG – but I’d got it right. However, it was my quick actions and knowledge that saved Lee.

Life change

‘It was a life-changing event and just three months later when I found out I was pregnant with Ted, we both felt it was right. I  felt determined to not let pregnancy stop me training and had set my goal of running Beachy Head Marathon once Ted, my baby, was born.

‘I ran all the way through my pregnancy and I’m sure it helped not just keep me in shape, but keep me in good spirits too. Just three weeks after the birth I started to run Buggy Miles with Ted. Often I’d go out after just two or three hours sleep, but a good strong coffee and getting my foot out the door was all it took and soon I was making progress.

‘When maternity leave finished, I went back to work three to four days a week after. Then I started to do some intervals by myself and kept the Buggy Miles easy, establishing a good aerobic base of fitness. In October 2017, just 11 months  postpartum, I ran 3.43 at Beachy Head Marathon (a tough off-road marathon that includes the Seven Sisters’ cliffs), taking sixth female place, and having a really brilliant day from start to finish.

Taking Positive Action

‘I love running and I love Parkrun. Joshua, my (just) 10-year old son, has also go the bug and has just started doing Junior Parkrun. Running is also a great way to bring people together and raise money for charity and with this in mind, I decided to do something positive.

‘In 2017 three of my colleagues were diagnosed with terminal cancer and another young person I knew died at the end of 2017 in the care of the hospice. In A&E we’re like a family and we all wanted to feel we were doing something. As a regular parkrunner I decided it was time to take positive action and came up with the idea of an A&E parkrun takeover. We had #TeamA&E t-shirts made up and got everyone involved. Staff who’d never run before gave up smoking, got fit and got into running (and kept at it after). On the day (November 11 2017), we had: local radio; an ice cream van ; a mascot, ‘Wifie Bear’; sports massage; and hundreds of runners in #TeamA&E t-shirts. We managed to raise £6,000 for St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne and McMillan Cancer.

‘I have lots of running ambitions and want to get as fast as I can over the next two years, whilst still spending time with my boys. I’m very disciplined about my training, Lee might say I’m a bit OCD! I do three sessions of Buggy Miles every week, to build by baseline of fitness, and the rest of the time by myself I run faster threshold or interval sessions. I do shifts so have to take my running times and stick with them and I’m often out of bed at 530am, and after a caffeine shot I’m out the door. Lee is really supportive and he plans my training for me – and once he’s planned it, I do it. The goal is to run a sub 1.25 half marathon, and keep doing the Buggy Miles, and then when Ted starts school, I’ll revisit the marathon – I’d love to try for a sub-three hour marathon. I’m motivated by the push of a new goal, and I absolutely love running, so why not?’