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What made you decide to go for the marathon next year?

Originally, in the long-term plan, with my first coach, I had planned to do my first marathon in 2022. Then as things developed and London Marathon moved to October, I thought actually I’ll do my first marathon in October 2021. It was then the night before World Half when everybody was talking about the Olympic trial marathon and the fact that it was at Kew Gardens, and I just thought, there isn’t really much racing over this winter, there is the opportunity for a good training block, that I may not get again, so I thought I might as well go for it. I might as well do it and see how it goes. It can be my focus for the winter, and there isn’t much else to focus on. Rather that plodding along without much direction, I can have something exciting to aim for. So that was it really. If I don’t race before the marathon, I am more than happy for that to be the case.

How are you adapting your training for making the change to the marathon? How has your training changed with changing coach?

I used to session 3 times a week, and now I session 2 times a week. One of them is a
shorter session with a bit more speed work and the other is a longer session. I find doing 2 sessions is so much better, especially as I’m working towards the marathon. It’s 2 sessions, but my run on a Sunday is getting bigger and bigger. It is sort of an additional hard day. Last Sunday I did 20 miles at 6:14 average, which isn’t easy. I couldn’t do a session the day before and expect myself to run for over 2 hours at a decent pace. I also look forward to sessions and feel I’m ready for it when they come. I’m running between 95-100 miles a week and on my easy days, my mileage is still quite big. On Monday, Wednesday, Thursday I’ll do 12 miles and just do it in one go. I’m not really a fan of double running, I would rather just do it all at once. I also do a lot of S&C and I eat really well; I know how important these things are. I have been running quite high mileage for the past 2 years. I do get tired, but I make sure I recover and get enough sleep and look after myself

Geoff (Watkin, Becky’s coach) has just sent through my plan for up the marathon and I’ve looked at some of the sessions, and ‘Oh My’ is all I can say, but that is what I want. I wanted someone to look at me and give me a direct plan. As scary as it is, I have a plan and direction of what is going to happen. I know I need the excitement and the challenge.

Do you see your age as a challenge or a strength?

I think, a lot of people will question my age, and think ‘oh she’s too young’ but because of my very complicated history with running, I went straight to running 10k’s when I was 15, which the majority of people definitely don’t do. I missed out the 800m, 1500m, 300m in the track. I missed that all out. I moved on to the longer distances at a much younger age, and I did my first half when I was 18 and ran under 75 minutes. It was kind of like I always knew the longer distances was where my strength lies, because I’m not naturally particularly fast, but my determination means I am very stubborn and won’t give up, so I can just keep going. So yes, I am young, and yes, it is scary, but equally just because I’m doing the marathon in March it doesn’t mean that’s it for the rest of my life and I’m only going to the marathon. But the opportunity arose to grasp it. I might do it and think, I know I won’t, I don’t want to do this again for another few years, and that’s ok as I’ll only be say 23 or 24. I always think you don’t know what is going to happen in the next 5 or 10 years, something awful might happen and stop you running. My aim has always been to do the marathon, from a little girl, so I want to do it.

What are your opinions on the course? Do you think it could play to your strengths?

There has been a lot of negative press about the course, but I think, a marathon is not something you are going to go into with negative points. There is quite simply no point, it isn’t a 5k, it isn’t over in 16/17 minutes. It is a long time, so you have to go into it with a positive mindset. For me, it is my first marathon, so I think the fact that it is laps means that if for some reason I don’t feel ok, there is going to be people there. I’m not going to be out in a random city, in the middle of nowhere on my own. That’s really positive. In the marathon you are going to have to take on drinks, with the laps, you are going to know where the table is within the first lap aren’t you, so there isn’t going to be ay surprises. It isn’t going to be a mass London marathon with 26 miles of spectators, so we don’t know the rules, but you know, because it is laps, there is going to be some sort of support the entire way around. Some people say the paths are narrow and it is going to be windy, but ultimately, they are no narrower than the paths in Bushy and there aren’t going to be any kids on bikes to dodge or dogs to dodge, so I don’t see how it will be much different to that. There are also going to only be 30 people in the race, so you can choose if you run in a group and tread on peoples toes or choose not to. I don’t know why people are being so negative about it, because a lot of races aren’t ideal, so you just need to be grateful for every race. I have also been invited to race in an Olympic trial and that’s so exciting. I feel for the people organising it as you’re never going to make everyone happy.

What are your aims going into the race?

I feel there are a lot of different stages of aims. For me personally, the ultimate aim is to finish in one piece because that is an achievement in itself. It is difficult to put a time aim on it. There are a lot of different times floating around my head, Geoff’s head. Obviously, the Olympic standard is on everyone on the start line’s mind, but it is difficult to say. Sometimes you feel good on a race day, and other day’s you just feel dreadful. The first 23 miles could be great, I just don’t know.

Kenya and Ethiopia always seem to dominate in the marathon and distance events, what do you think you can do to bridge the barrier between the ‘British runner’ and the ‘Kenyan’?

I feel like British endurance running at the moment has a lot of really really good Women at the moment, and I feel that needs to be noticed. To try and bridge the gap would be to try and increase the number of women finishing around and under the 2:30 mark. If we could have more girls finishing higher up, it would strengthen the base. Rather than having one person who can run 2:15, if we can have a significant amount of very good British runners, it would be great. The more strong women we have over the longer distances, the better it is between each other. We can all help one another out. If you can get a strong field to Frankfurt, Berlin, New York from the UK, it would really be a positive.

Author: Hannah Irwin -
Photo's: Geoff Lowe -