Motivated by a love of the mountains and the wilderness, the British long-distance runner fell into ultra-running by chance and since then it has taken her all over the world
How did you first get in to running?
I can’t ever remember not running – we all run as children and it is so natural. I fell in love with being outside in the mountains at the age of six – there is something amazing about being out in the wild, with open spaces and making a journey powered by my own effort. The mountains also give me perspective on life and put things in context.
They remind me of my insignificance, of just how big the world is and how small my place is in it. When I was living in London I missed being in the mountains and so running became my way of being outside.
How and why did you move to ultra-running?
I got into ultra-running by chance. I was visiting friends who were competing in a 40-mile track race and I thought “why not give it a try”. It was that run that truly opened the door for me into long distance running on the road. Later that same year, a chance reading of an article about the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc led to my first ultra distance race on mountain trails
What is your greatest running achievement?
I have competed in many races over my career, from coming first in the 100km World Championships, representing Great Britain in 2006 to setting the three-day record for the 320km from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu in Nepal in 2013. However, I would not say that there is one running achievement I would call my “greatest”, as I don’t really look at it like that. It’s not about the achievement for me; it’s about the experience and the journey – the tears and the smiles, the sharing and the exploring.
What is your all-time favourite event and why?
Similarly to the answer above, I don’t really have a favourite event. Every race is different, and each experience gives me a new opportunity to learn and explore.
What would you normally eat in the lead up to an event?
Good nutrition and healthy eating is essential to performance. I’ve been a vegetarian since the age of five and generally prefer fresh, real food. I find that eating this way is also beneficial in a race situation too.
What piece of kit would you not be without on race day?
Having a super-light duvet jacket is essential before and after any race to keep warm. The North Face Thermoball Jacket is ultra-packable and the insulation is just as compressible as down yet insulates even when wet, making it perfect for any conditions the mountains throw at you.
Who and what inspires you? And why (athletes or other)?
I am inspired by anyone who isn’t afraid to live their own path, who keeps exploring, challenging themselves and stepping outside their comfort zone. I am also motivated by the simple love of running. I run with heart and soul, as well as head and legs, and I just want to share that joy with others. I would like to encourage more women to try ultra distance running, and particularly in Nepal to encourage girls to run and to realise how sport can empower them.
In one sentence, sum up what running means to you?
Running means the opportunity to explore, to experience and to learn.
When you suffer an injury, how do you get through it?
I try to keep in mind the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence. Nothing lasts, forever and everything in flow will change. So with the hard times, such as injury, I know that time will also pass.
Have you any advice for someone who is thinking of taking up ultra running?
Just try and take those unexpected opportunities. It’s about ripping away the illusions that we have of ourselves and the world around us. It’s having the courage to go beyond what we think is possible.
If you weren’t a runner, what would you be doing?
If I was not running I would be still be in the mountains, exploring and learning from them in some capacity.