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"Why I Run Ultra-Marathons..."

posted on Wednesday, 6th August 2014 | find under Tamara, Fitness, Nutrition
To any runner - beginner or experienced - Annie Foulds is an inspiration. A dancer turned sportswoman and personal trainer, Annie has qualifications in sport psychology, nutrition & weight management, physiology, pre and post-natal exercise and more. Alongside all this, Annie manages to squeeze in being a mother, SB Ambassador and the trainer behind Sweaty Betty's gruelling Monday night run club. 

While there is so much about Annie that we find inspiring, Sweaty Betty thought it was about time to pick her brains on her out-of-hours passion - running ultra-marathons. Here, Annie gives 
the lowdown on her first experience of these long-distance events, plus shares PBs, training tips and reveals her go-to refuel foods.

The Journey To Fitness
"I started dance training at the age of 4 and instantly loved it," recalls Annie. "For me, it was a way of expressing myself and feeling free. When I got to school, I discovered I felt the same passion when I ran! Training simultaneously in both running and dance, I quickly progressed and became County Champion in the 200m distance."

Annie's natural running ability was obvious, but it wasn't until the age of 23 that she decided to follow fitness full-time. She says, "I gave up my dancing ambition, but it is still a huge part of who I am. I dance all the time - at home, with my sons, with clients and in the gym! It will never leave me. But I think I was born to dance and run - they both make me feel alive and free."

The First Marathon

"I entered my first marathon in 2001 after I had my first son. The training was a great way to lose the baby weight and it gave me a focus and a challenge. I had spent many years watching the London Marathon and had always felt so inspired by the people doing it. In 2001, it felt like it was my time. I ran it for Children with Leukaemia, and they were great support."
"On the day of the 2001 London Marathon, I was nervous, excited and even a little scared! I had spent many months training through the cold winter and pushing myself on those long runs."

She recalls, "I woke up three hours before the event and had to force myself to eat my breakfast, but the race itself was amazing! Everyone was in such good spirits and my whole family came down to cheer me on. Coming down the river towards Big Ben, I just started to cry. I just felt so overwhelmed with the cheers of the crowd and my own sense of achievement. Running towards the finish by Buckingham Palace was amazing - I could see my family and friends waiting for me. I screamed and shouted and as I crossed the finish line I just kept thinking, "I DID IT!"

From Marathon To Ultra-Marathon

Annie made the jump from marathon to ultra-marathon because of a terrible period in her life.

"My son was rushed to hospital where, after seven long days of waiting, the doctors were thankfully able to perform a life-saving operation," explains Annie. "Great Ormond St Hospital diagnosed my son with Endocrine Pancreatic Cancer. It put my family through the ultimate test, and I felt so much gratitude. I believe I have been given the gift of a strong mind and body. No challenge will ever compare to that awful time, so I decided to challenge myself."

Having already completed marathons, Annie needed something tougher. She says, "I feel priveliged to be able to run or move at all. I now run all my events for Great Ormond Street Hospital to prove how dedicated I am to the cause."

The First Ultra-Marathon
Annie completed her first official ultra in just over 13 hours on Sunday 30th September 2012. The London to Brighton Cross-Country Ultra Marathon spanned 56 miles, and she raised over £2,000 for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital.

Opting to tackle her first ultra with her running partner David, event day began with a very early 4:30am taxi through North London. Hundreds of runners and supporters made their way to the London race HQ at Blackheath for the start, and Annie recalls the group's spirits being raised by loud roars from their supporters and the ER crew. As the race began, Annie and David were carried by the crowd from the Heath down to Lewisham, through the first trails out of London and across four different counties.  
"The supporters were magnificent, cheering us all on and dutifully waiting in the chilly Autumn wind," Annie recalls. "As the sun set over Brighton, the finish camp was beginning to be dismantled by the crew, while the remaining supporters welcomed in the determined last few who refused to be beaten by the difficulty of the event. This is always a heartwarming sight - it's what extreme running is all about!"

Ultra-Marathon Training

"When training for an ultra-marathon, I up my mileage and nutrition significantly, from my average weekly mileage of 55 miles to over 100 miles a week," Annie explains.

"For anyone considering taking on an ultra-marathon, the key is preparation. Run several marathons before you decide to step up to the next level, and follow a proper training plan. Nutrition is so important too so make sure you eat well, and purchase the right clothing and equipment. Camelbax hydration packs and trail shoes have been essential for me. Socialising with like-minded people and training with them has always been great for my motivation, especially if you can enter the same events too to keep eachother going."
Ultra-Marathon PB: "I have completed 4 ultra-marathons and to date, my best time was 11 hours and 25 minutes. More to come!"
The Foodie Bits 
Annie's favourite snacks are banana, jelly beans and nuts. During longer runs, she often refuels with Zipvit bars and gels.

She says, "I try to eat clean eighty per cent of the time while training, but during the event I rely on the bars and gels. Most races are really well organised and you can stop at checkpoints to refuel and have a quick rest. However, if you are keen to achieve an awesome time - you may not stop for long, or at all." 

Comment Re. Article
By Angela - 7th August 2014
What an amazing girl, wonderful to hear her achievements through adversity. Very inspiring to read and she looks fantastic in every way.
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