Interview with Emma Neachell

Emma Neachell is a full-time hydrologist and part-time runner. Growing up in the countryside, she has always been a keen runner, representing her school at cross country and long distance events, starting when she was 11 years old. She then finished in the top 10 of the Midlands Independent Schools Cross Country Championships at Bedstone College, wearing trainers not running spikes. In 2018 she completed the Royal Parks Half Marathon and raised over £1,000 for charity. She also writes a popular and honest running blog, sharing the trials and tribulations of a slightly injury-prone runner. Follow her running journey on Twitter and Instagram

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

This is going to sound rather random, but my proudest running achievement was running every single step of the Cathedral to Castle Run in April 2018. I went into the 10-mile race feeling quite nervous because my training in the lead up to the race wasn’t ideal, but also excited as I hadn’t completed a point-to-point race before. The course was quite challenging but something ‘clicked’ that morning and I felt like I could carry on running forever.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me that I’m definitely far more resilient than I sometimes give myself credit for. It’s also taught me that I’m incredibly stubborn. I’ve had so many niggles and injuries, I probably should have hung up my trainers a long time ago. 

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

I set myself the goal of running the 2006 London Marathon in under 3:30. My training was going well until I picked up a groin injury a couple of weeks before the marathon. It took me over five hours to complete the marathon, and I hated every second of the final six miles. Looking back, I should have deferred my place and tried again the following year. 

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

It very much depends on the race. Some events now seem to sell out so quickly, runners have to enter pretty much the morning entries open. I’ve already got a 10k booked in for May 2020 because entries opened almost 12 months in advance. For races above 10k in distance I like to give myself at least six months to prepare for them. For shorter races, I’m more flexible and will even enter on the day if that’s an option.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week and why did you run that far?

I’ve had a look through my mileage stats on Fetcheveryone, and the most miles I’ve ever run in a week is 65, which is not so grand. I’ve no idea why I ran that far, I don’t think I was training for anything at the time!

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

I think the longest period I’ve ever trained for a race would have to be 10 months when I trained for the 2006 London Marathon. For half marathons, I have found that 16-week training plans work best for me as I’m able to build up my mileage slowly. My weekly training updates have been some of my most popular blog posts. People seem to enjoy reading about other people’s training. 

What has been your most serious running injury?

I’ve had so many running niggles and injuries over the last 15 years I’ve started to lose track. I had a metatarsal stress fracture towards the end of 2014. This stopped me running for several months. Once I’d recovered from the stress fracture, a bout of plantar fasciitis meant that the first half of 2017 was a complete write-off. At the moment, I have a niggly right knee. Some mornings the knee feels fine when I get out of bed, other mornings it’s so painful I can hardly walk. 

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

When I was following a half marathon training plan, my attempts at cross-training consisted of what I called “stair sessions”, walking up and down the stairs at home for 30 minutes a week. I’m not great at core exercises and foam rolling. I recently attended a ‘Pilates for Runners’ session. This highlighted something I already suspected; I have very little core strength. I’ve owned a foam roller for several years but rarely use it because I’m not good at inflicting pain on myself. I am, however, very good at stretching after I’ve been for a run and have a routine I like to work my way through.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I’ve thought about working with a running coach a few times. I quite like the idea of having a slightly more personalised approach to training. I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m a lazy runner, so I also like the added accountability of having someone tracking my training. Knowing that someone would be around to virtually kick me up the a**e so to speak could persuade me. To be honest, the only thing that really puts me off working with any sort of running coach is the cost. 

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running for me means freedom, time when I am completely on my own with just my thoughts for company, doing what I love.