I want to tell you about Alison.
Alison and I first met when she turned up to a dark and cold efforts session in Grassington in October 2020.
I could tell she was an experienced runner as she looked strong and confident running each interval but when we spoke at the end of the session Alison played down her running experience. Something all of us have a nasty habit of doing!
After a couple more week’s Alison asked if we could sit down and have a chat about a goal she wanted to achieve to help celebrate a big birthday.
Alison’s goal was to win her age category at a 42km event (which has become a bit of a classic in the world trail running calender) which forms part of the Solomon Golden Trail World Series. Unfortunately due to over-demand post covid Alison missed out on a place in the 42km but decided to sign up for the 23km instead.
Over the last two years we’ve formed a really close relationship to get Alison ready for this event. As an aside I have also learnt and gained so much from coaching her.
Let’s hear from Alison as she shares her running journey with us.
When did you start running?
I have always run, when I was young for school and the athletics club Skyrac, trailing towards the back in 800m/1500m races and then running to keep fit for other sports.
I did an odd road race and The Great North Run but began seriously training initially just to complete the London Marathon, a long held dream. This took 3 years as 1st year when I got an entry I developed a knee problem training so deferred, the second year training ended with a knee operation, but I finally completed it in 1999 in 3:42, it was hard, but an amazing experience and I cried as I crossed the line to have finally achieved my goal after 3 years! I continued to run as it fitted in between looking after the children.
How did you get into off road/fell running?
Whilst out training on the roads of Ilkley for the London Marathon the first year I met runners from Ilkley Harriers, who suggested I join them. That felt a bit grand as I felt I was not a real runner, was in fact fitting training in between breast feeding for my second son!
Two years later when I once again began training for the London Marathon I re-met members of Ilkley Harriers who once again invited me down to the club, this time I bit the bullet and went. Ilkley Harriers was then a small club, and I felt completely out of my depth, everyone seemed so much better then me, real runners! But they were friendly, re-grouped to pick me up when out and were so enthusiastic about me doing the London Marathon, that I felt welcomed and decided to join them (for 20+ years).
They were so made up for me when I beat my target of under 4hrs, that it began not to matter that they all seemed faster/better than me! I began road running/few local races and then in my 40s one of them suggested I did an English Championship Fell Race in Calderdale, Thievely Pike.
I struggled in towards the back but loved it, it brought two of my passions together, running and being on the fells! Still to this day I regret not knowing about this sport when younger, I had always spent time walking in the hills and mountains, in fact I was an Outdoor Education teacher, I had run on the fells for fun and keeping fit but had never realised there was this sport of fell running!
What made you fall in love with running in the mountains?
When I started, fell running and in turn mountain running, was a little known sport. You just turned up on the day, entered and ran! It was a lovely friendly, family atmosphere around the events, those at the front were there for the same reason as you, to do your best but to enjoy it! During the race it was competitive, before and after everyone just chatted to each other, the winners as keen to hear about your race as you theirs! It has now changed a lot, mainly the number now wanting to compete, not a bad thing in itself, but I miss the spontaneity that pre-entry stops (though some local shows/races do still have entry on day).
What is it that keeps you motivated?
Knowing that I will feel better, mentally and physically, when I am out there, however hard it is at times I will feel better having done it than not!
What is the hardest part of training for you?
Simply getting out that door! I have struggled with hormonal depression most of my life and it is being outdoors, running or walking that has got me through but sometimes it is difficult to get out, even when I know it is what I need.
What are the three things you couldn’t do marathon training without?
Support from those around me, the Dales – I love where I live, comfortable shoes/clothes (and treats after, sorry that’s four!)
I’m very pleased and proud to confirm that Alison secured that 1st lady spot for her age category and had a fantastic race!
Here are some of her thoughts on the difference a coach made to her training.
Why did you choose to use a coach for your race?
I can find it hard to get out at times with only myself to motivate me. Finding Hannah gave the support and motivation I needed. Her enthusiasm for my running and my success, gave me the extra push to get out there and to believe in myself again.
What value do you think you got out of working with a coach rather than going it alone?
There would have been times I would simply not have got out that door or turned up at that race!, Most of all though it was the reminder of the joy there is in running, at times when struggling it is easy to forget!
What did you enjoy most about the coaching you received?
The friendship and support, having someone to listen to you and to chat things through with. To not have to think each time I went out what to do, the plan was there for me.