Running with… The Unstoppable Woman

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To put it lightly Kate Jayden is unstoppable. Her list of challenges completed will make your head hurt but she isn’t stopping there, her 2017 is going to be the hardest year yet. At the start of May she will be attempting a six day round trip from London to Paris using only her running shoes and her bike. She plans on running 300 miles of the 600+ mile journey. She’ll be averaging 60-70 miles a day when she is running and 150 miles on the bike. That’s crazy I hear you scream but that’s not even the start of this woman’s year. Just two weeks after that gruelling adventure Kate will be taking part in a 145 mile Ultra-Marathon along the Grand Union Canal. After that she will be taking part in the Thames Ring 250 mile Ultra in June followed by the GBUltra 200, all non-stop races!

I caught up with Kate to find out what it takes to make an unstoppable human:

What challenges have you done in the past?

I’m generally causing mischief and mayhem somewhere if I’m left alone on the internet with google maps for too long. If I say “I have an idea” it usually solicits a response of “oh no what now?”. I’ve been a bit of an adventurer for the last 5.5 years and have visited many countries and continents by running marathons too! I’ve ran a lot of marathons and ultras; around 250 now. Around twelve 100 mile events, three Ironmans and cycled London to Paris three times. I’ve also cycled the length of Britain followed by 11 marathons in 11 days for charity as well as running 20 marathons in 17 days.

What motivates you to keep going?

I usually try and top the previous year’s challenge, which whilst difficult hasn’t proved impossible just yet. I try and find a new goal to push myself. Every other year I set an epic challenge for charity and this year is my best yet I think! A few things aside from charity and challenging myself keep me going though. It helps keep depression at bay, it helps me to stay in tune with my body and to celebrate the things it achieves instead of all it isn’t and thereby keeps my happy positive body image. It helps me learn more about my own limits and determination or will to succeed. Even when you put all that stuff aside I just like to show that an average lass like me can do epic stuff and you don’t have to be a talented athlete to achieve epic goals. Hopefully that inspires others to at least “have a go” and start their own journey of health and fitness.

What do you love/hate the most about running Ultras?

I love most the sense of euphoria and pushing past the human physical limits every time. It doesn’t get easier. I love the camaraderie and social element of ultras too. I meet so many amazingly inspirational people! I love the way it feels when you’ve seen sunset and see the sunrise again on the same run.

I hate that I just stink. I mean really stink. I hate the feeling of tiredness as I love my bed! I also hate that I have to carry all my own food as not often do aid stations have much vegan!

What does it take to become and Ultra runner?

I’d say it takes a healthy dash of determination with an unhealthy level of stupidity and high boredom threshold. You just have to really want it I guess and have an ability to pull yourself back up from the point of being broken to the point of bouncing back again.

What charities are you running for this year and why?

B-eat: the primary UK eating disorders charity. I’ve suffered with bulimia and anorexia in the past and know the determination it takes to get through that. If I can help raise awareness and funds and turn my negative experience into something which helps others then great. There’s still a real stigma at times with eating disorders because it’s hard to hear. There are a lot of misconceptions still too.

Mind: the UK mental health charity. I’ve had debilitating panic attacks in the past but it’s been almost a year since my last one. I’ve also been through very bad bouts of depression which really took parts of my life away. It never really goes away it just has better days and not so good days and luckily I try and manage that well generally through running but still struggle in winter. Anxiety is still very misunderstood at times too. I often get asked “but what are you worried about” and I don’t always have a reason. It means I cancel plans last minute because I can’t face going out. It means I overthink things a lot. Sometimes it’s very physical though and is as simple as I’ve too much adrenaline going around my body and feels like I’m in “fight or flight” mode and it leaves me exhausted. I’m probably in the best point I’ve ever been and no longer need medication and manage it fairly well. We all have bad spells at times and I’m no different. I try to be open and honest about my past and what it’s like so that people are more open and encouraged to talk more, just like they would with any other health matter.

Finally I’m raising for two charities which are international; Doctors without Borders (MSF) and Syria Relief. MSF are a group of doctors and healthcare professionals who help in natural disasters and areas of conflict. They’re helping in Syria at the moment to keep hospitals open; makeshift or otherwise as hospitals are targeted by bombs. Syria Relief helps with aid in the country, on the ground for people stuck there who can’t actually leave. It’s as simple as being an empathetic human and seeing beyond my own front yard. It’s knowing these people aren’t numbers, or just “displaced person” they’re someone’s brother, sister, mother, father, daughter, son. They had a life like you and I. The least I am do is give them a little hope through showing people care.

A tip for runners starting out?

Don’t be hard on yourself and don’t compare too much. Know that you will improve and get better. Enjoy it. Set goals. Make friends with other runners. But perhaps don’t explain in too fine a detail your long runs to your boss on a Monday; especially the impromptu nature toilet stops, or how you lost your toe nails etc!

Finally; Morning Coffee or Morning Run?

Morning run and then morning coffee!!

To keep up to date with Kate join her Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/projectparis2017) or to donate to the amazing charities she doing all this for flick over to her charity page (www.virginmoneygiving.com/projectparis)

A Roman Running Secret

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Before I left for the Rome Marathon I watched a documentary called Spirit of the Marathon 2 which is about the Rome Marathon from the prospective of a few runners. In a short scene it showed two local runners in a park surrounded by ruins and sunshine. I knew then that when I got to Rome I would run there, only problem was I had no idea where it was.

I didn’t really research it till I arrived in Rome and after a few minutes of arriving in the Airbnb I began the search. After a while I was convinced I had found it and headed off for a walk that would hopefully end up at the marathon expo to pick up my bib for the race a few days later. After long walk, a metro and another long walk we arrived in a park. Not THE park just A park. After about two hours of walking through this park I admitted defeat conceded that we were in the wrong place and got an uber to the expo.

It wasn’t till I got back after the marathon, still drip drying from the thunderstorms that I fired up Google Earth. As soon as I dragged over to a park a road over from the one we had spent two hours wandering around that I saw it clear as day. Not the ruins but their shadows. Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 14.41.24

So, two days after the marathon I laced up my shoes once more and headed back out in search of this mythological park. The walk from the exit of the metro (Giulio Agricola) to the park (Parco degli Acquedotti) was only a few minutes and as soon as we turned into the park I knew I hadn’t messed up again and it was well worth the wait.

We only ran a mile or so, stopping to walk often as I was struggling after the marathon but it will remain one of the best runs of my life. The place was bathed in sun light, spectacularly well maintained and oh so beautiful. The ruins of the aqueduct were just as I had hoped and for those few minutes before we had to go get our plane I felt truly timeless.

Next Race: London Marathon

Three Song Playlist

Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again

Lord Huron – The Night We Met

Alessia Cara – I’m Yours

All Roads Lead to the Rome Marathon

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Much like Rome, a marathon isn’t built in one day. It is built upon hundreds of days, hundreds of miles. Yet, while it might not be built in one day it sure can be tested in one day.

My training began in January and it has consisted of a few months of slowly building my fitness back up to where it was before my injury last year. I had focussed more on my half marathon pace but still felt as though I had done a decent level of training despite injuring my ankle about three weeks ago. However, there was something I hadn’t trained for; rain, lots of rain.

Every time it was chucking it down with rain during my training I would simple opt for some training that didn’t involve venturing into the outdoors, if it was going to rain I would be unprepared. I hoped vainly as I walked to the start in the shadow of the colosseum that the weather would hold. As soon as I got across the start line it started to rain. Lightly at first, a few pleasant spots of rain cooling my apprehensive skin. Then, as I approached the first kilometre a huge crack of thunder split my optimism and the rain fell. Rain the like I hadn’t seen outside of monsoon season in India. Luckily I had a support crew of one who had handed me a poncho before the start and I slipped it on. Sadly by then the rain had taken it’s toll on my brand new headphones and they slowly began to decrease in volume and one ear died completely. Music the thing I depend so heavily on when the road gets long was literally fading out. The rain also made avoiding puddles an impossibility as the streets turned into their own tributaries of the Tiber. Water seeped into my trainers and I knew that taking them off after the race was not going to be a pretty sight.

Still my pace for a 4:30 race remained spot on. In the build up to the race I had only run up to 16 miles so I knew that my body was going to struggle. The rain began to ease at about 12 miles, however, and with the romance of Rome I found myself lost in it. The miles slipped by and with Italy being the land of carbs I felt my energy levels were still very high from eating all the pizza and pasta I could get my hands on in the lead up to the race. I had the fitness to keep going and despite the weather I felt Rome willing me on but I knew it wouldn’t last.

The inevitable point at which my precarious plan came apart was as the rain began to hurl down heavily upon my weary limbs once more. Mile 17 to be exact. The lack of long distance training took it’s toll and my feet and knees needed to rest. That combined with the beautiful cobbled stones of Rome’s streets turning into ice rinks when wet meant I had to slow to a walk at points.

Still I trudged on through the rain of Rome and at around mile 23 we rounded back into the centre of Rome and past many of its iconic sights: I readjusted a wedgie round Piazza du Popolo, snot-rocketed past the Spanish Steps and had an emergency wee behind a Fiat 500, you know the traditional things. Enjoyment picked up my pace and the smile returned to my face.

As I rounded the final bend to be greeted by the sight of the finish I had to admit that despite now being more rain water than man, I didn’t want the race to end. The thunderstorms had simply added to the epic air that Rome blows through it’s cobbled piazzas and I was high on it.

As I walked, dazed, from the finish line to my Airbnb I rounded the Colessium as I had done at the start. The arena where men’s true grit were weighed and measured through blood, sweat and tears. While I was clad in a plastic poncho and a foil blanket rather than a gladiatorial suit of armour (and knowing full well I’d last a few seconds in a real battle) I felt that Rome had tested me and I was still smiling. Five marathons in under a year done but with five more still to go this year and with London only two weeks away, I know I have only just begun to be weighed and measured.

Next Race: London Marathon

Three Song Playlist

Alt-J – In Cold Blood

Jacob Banks – Chainsmoking

Banks – Crowded Places

Running with…The British Forrest Gump

FullSizeRender 13Thousands of people have climbed Everest, as little as three hundred people have run across America.

For a long time running a marathon was considered the pinnacle of endurance running, a sport populated by wierdoes, hippies and trail blazers. As it became more main stream, populated by clueless muppets like me these lone soles moved on to ultra-marathons, pushing themselves and their bodies further and further. Now finish lines aren’t enough, countries and continents are the new race track. Running across America is still considering one of the ultimate achievements. Everything can and will go against you; the terrain, the distance, your body, your mind, the traffic, the weather. You name it and it will throw up roadblocks.

In June, Paul Wheeler will be attempting this awe inspiring feat which he is aiming to complete in 4-5 months. As an ex-army man, Paul understands the sacrifice that goes into achieving. Since leaving the army has tried to control that urge to live a life unscheduled; he brought a house, got the 9-5 but the call of the unknown never dissipated and he eventually relented and began to plan. Unlike Forest Gump it’s not just a case of simply feeling like running the journey takes planning, training and a lot of motivation. I caught up with Paul as his deadline looms to see what it takes to get from San Francisco to New York on nothing but your feet.

What made you decide to run across America?

My initial idea was to run from Land’s End to John O’Groats but then I thought that if I was going to do something like that then I might as well go bigger and better! I have a friend who is currently in Nepal gearing up for a summit attempt on Everest in May and a few years ago he ran, solo and unsupported, across Australia and he suggested why not run across America? The rest is history.

What sort of support crew do you have with you?

I have no support crew or support vehicle, it is just literally me and the stroller! He has now been officially named as ‘Wheelson’, a spin on Wilson from one of my favourite films ‘Cast Away’. I’m sure that I will form a strange yet close relationship with him!

What will be your day to day running schedule be like?

I envisage my day roughly as follows – wake up, make some coffee and porridge, pack my tent and equipment away and then run! It really is as simple as that! I am hopeful of running 20 to 25 miles a day which I think is do-able, however, I am fully aware that I will have good and bad days, and when those bad days come, I will just take a days rest then carry on the following day. I’m not doing this to break any records, it doesn’t matter if I’m running 12 minute miles, the main thing is to keep going, keeping grinding and get across the country! I will try and find somewhere to have a hot meal in the evening but that all depends on where I end up of an evening, if I’m in the middle of nowhere then I’ll just have to knock up some coffee and noodles!

What are you most looking forward to and on the flip side what are you most worried about?

I can easily say, without doubt, the part that excites me most about this run is running through Utah. For years and years I’ve been fascinated by the landscapes and scenery throughout Utah, in particular Arches National Park. Running there will be a dream come true! In terms of what worries me, not a great deal to be honest but I am slightly worried about being hit by a vehicle when I am running through built up areas and near highways as I know this has happened a few times in the past with people trying this run.

What will keep you running when the road gets tough?

In terms of motivation, I guess I won’t really know until I’m out there and things start to get hard. What I will be aware of though is that although I am doing this as a personal adventure, I am also trying to raise some money for charity and I know that there will be people banking on me to complete it. During my 12 years in the British army I failed a course, I can still feel that pain, the hurt, the embarrassment, it’s a feeling that doesn’t fade or diminish, this run is something that WON’T beat me.

To keep up with Paul while he runs across a continent click here and follow him as I will be, every step of the way.

Miles and Memories

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People ask why I prefer to run alone. The simple answer I usually give is that I prefer the quiet. The truth is somewhat different.

The fact is I don’t run alone, so to speak. I have tended, of late, to run with myself. To question where I’ve come from and where I’m going. I run with my 19 year old self, living in India and naively happy. I ask him what he thinks of me now and the life I have ended up living. I run with me two years ago, unfit and unaware what hurdles the world was about to throw up in his path. I tell him everything will be fine. I tell him what I have now, that out of strife comes such wonderful things. I tell him about new friends, new love, new passions and I hope he sees the happiness in my eyes.

So far this year I have run two half marathons I ran the year before. I can vividly picture myself running them, remember the thoughts that swirled through the collected sweat. Before running the Silverstone Half on Sunday I stood and remembered the panic I felt at the start last year. I was stood right at the back of the crowd alone and paced around, I couldn’t focus on anything but the nerves that rippled through my body. Nowadays, I enjoy the build up, the nerves will always be there but that’s a good thing as it means I don’t go into a race unprepared for the task ahead. As soon as those races started however, I was a lot more focussed on the miles than the memories. At Hampton I was being pushed by a friend to reach my PB and during Silverstone it was my turn to push someone to reach theirs. Simply no time for nostalgia when you have a job focus on.

As soon as the medals are put away and the kit is washed and worn again I allow my mind to wonder back once more. When there is no one on the road but me, myself and I. The truth is I’m never running away from anything. Sometimes, I simply run to remember.

NEXT RACE: Rome Marathon

Three Song Playlist

Ed Sheeran – Nancy Mulligan

Jacob Banks – Unknown

Laura Marling – Nouel

No Room for Doubt

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We spend so much of our lives doubting ourselves. We doubt that we can, that we could or that we even should. We doubt careers, loved ones and life directions. We doubt the large and the small; from moving house to what food to eat. It’s the lives we lead nowadays, we cannot take a leap of faith in a world that hinders self belief.

Running a marathon is liberating in that respect. It forces you to think differently. To fight that silent, shouting voice in your head that you simply don’t have it within yourself. You face it head on because if you don’t, you fail. My favourite phrase, that I often repeat to fellow runners, is by the ultra-marathon runner Dean Karnazes:

“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.”

This motto pushed me onwards in Athens last November when injury crippled my running and self-doubt lengthened the road. I walked and limped to the end. I finished in the worse time ever but I finished. After my injury last year stopped me from running the Lisbon Marathon I wasn’t going to let it spoil Athens. If I had gone and not felt that medal around my neck it would have haunted my running future and fed my self doubt until it was fat and full.

Athens taught me that there will be times when you’ll question your sanity, when pain and effort throw hurdles in front of every step. Your mind crumbles into nothing but shadows. Despite all that if you believe in yourself, you can triumph. It’s because the Marathon runs you raw, removing any preconceptions of who you are that it’s so addictive.

I have just over a month before my first marathon of the year and I honestly cannot wait. This year I am aiming to get faster, building on the slow and steady start I made last year. By October I’m aiming to strip an hour off my fastest time of 2016 to run a sub four hour marathon. Self belief in my running keeps me striving to better myself and leaves no room for doubt.

The Marathon is unlike anything I have ever experience because when you cross that line, you’ll never face things the same way again. For many years I never thought that I could but once the pain had gone there’s only one thing that remained, knowing that I did.

NEXT RACE: Silverstone Half Marathon

Three Song Playlist

SOHN – Lessons

Couros – Breathe Again

Passenger – A Kindly Reminder

Experiment Conclusions

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“I’ll have the burger please” – words I have literally been waiting four weeks to say.

The end of the veggie experiment was the finish line of the Hampton Court Half Marathon that was held on Sunday. The race is one of my firm favourites, not just because it’s a flat, fast course with excellent organisation and a hefty, gorgeous medal but because it gives me an excuse to stay with two incredible friends who, coincidentally, are also runners. Happily, this year one of them was running and said he’d help me pace out a new PB. He recently set out to set a 1:45 Half Marathon time and did so with a time of exactly 1:45:00, so I fancied our chances of getting the pacing right . We were so good at pacing that unbeknown to us, until about mile 10, we had amassed a pack of people following our pacing strategy behind us. Mile 10 was when I hit the wall, our steady and strong pace waved and I began to slip back. I wouldn’t put me hitting the wall down to my diet but more to losing my rhythm. If it wasn’t for my friend shouting words of encouragement and literally pushing me on at times, I wouldn’t have got anywhere close to setting a new personal best.

In the past four weeks I have set three new PBs in 5k, 10k and half marathon. I’ve recovered faster and felt more motivated to exercise but now that I have finished and looking back I am still left wondering what if anything did the vegetarian diet have to do with it? Rather than the diet itself I think the last month has given me a better understanding of what my body wants vs what it actually needs. I have become far better at giving my body the best fuel it needs and more resilient to my constant craving to eat bacon. mmm bacon.

I would encourage any runner to try something like this. It is a fantastic way to get to know your body and what it needs to keep you bumbling along. Running is so remarkable because it is all about learning more about yourself, challenging yourself and ultimately looking after yourself. Doing this has made me re-evaluate what and how much food I eat and in doing so it will no doubt make me a better (or at least a thinner) runner in the future. One thing I am sure of though, I will definitely not turn into a vegetarian runner. Quorn burgers are nothing compared to the real deal.

But what was the first meal I made after stopping? A mushroom risotto. Seems like you can teach an old carnivore new tricks.

NEXT RACE: Silverstone Half Marathon

Three Song Playlist

Banks – Trainwreck

Majical Cloudz – Downtown

Jamie Lawson – The Only Conclusion