Interview with Chris Toddington

Chris is a very keen plodder and ultrarunner. He has been running on and off for 16 years, only taking it seriously from 2014 when he took over a friends place for a local half marathon. He had no prior long distance in his legs. He is a National Running Show Ambassador and writes some blogs and social media messages hoping to inspire others. He believes nothing is impossible as he once suffered with mental health and attempted suicide.

What is your proudest running achievement?

This would be finishing my first ultramarathon; the 2018 Race to the Stones. It is a 100km, 2 day or non-stop event along Britain’s oldest path. It’s my proudest moment so far because a few years ago when I got into running distances longer than 6 miles I never thought I’d do a marathon let alone an ultra. But I ran and finished the Manchester Marathon and I got hooked on longer distances and wanted a bigger challenge.

What has running taught you about yourself?

That nothing is impossible and with training and persistence you can achieve any goal you set yourself. There were a few moments during my first ultra where my mind was in a bad place and I wanted to quit but I dug deep and pushed through the pain mentally and physically. Running has also helped my mental health. Just getting out and running in the countryside or just pounding the pavement helps “run off negativity”. 

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

This would have to be Marathon Des Sables. I have many friends who have entered and finished this great event. One finished 3rd overall and it feels like it’s my turn to follow in so many great athletes’ footsteps and meet the legend Patrick Bauer.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

Normally I look a year ahead but if I see a race on social media that’s coming up, looks fun and I can book time off work for it I will enter it .

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

Probably around the 70-80 mile mark when training for my first ultra .

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

6 months for the Race to the Stones in 2018.

What has been your most serious running injury?

Suspected fractured 5th metatarsal in my foot but turned out to be soft tissue damage. I was out of action for about 5 weeks before I gradually began to run again. It happened during my first ultra where I nearly fell in the dark, injuring my foot. This also happened the following year doing the same event.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I tend to just stick to road and trail running but I do occasionally complete core sessions at home like squats, lunges, calf raises. I sometimes foam roll by using a tennis ball and stretch.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I don’t really know to be honest. I tend to fit my training in around work as I work shifts so it’s not something I’ve looked into or thought about .

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

A great way to relax, get rid of stress after work and just be outside with my own thoughts.

Interview with David Swales

David Swales began running five years ago after wanting to get fit as a result of being diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic. He is not the typical type 2 diabetic as he’s not overweight, exercises a reasonable amount and eats a good diet. After a 10k trail race about 3 1/2 years ago he suffered a stroke that left him with some significant disabilities, including loss of vision, cognitive problems, aphasia and memory issues. Thankfully his stroke didn’t cause him mobility problems and now mainly runs parkruns with friends. He has raised £8,500 for the Livability charity and writes a blog about his running journey.

What is your proudest running achievement?

My proudest running memory is running the 2019 London Marathon. After my stoke I never thought that I would run again. I managed to injure my foot after six miles so it was a long, hard slog but an amazing experience. I raised a further £4,800 for my stroke rehab centre. I still look back and think about how much it meant to me. There were probably very few partially sighted, diabetic stroke survivors running.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Even with the difficulties I face I can still run well. I will never be a fast runner again, as I have to keep my heart rate low but I can enjoy the challenge of a race.

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

I am thinking about doing an ultramarathon next year.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

Generally I plan a year ahead with key races planned. I will then try and fit other runs at reasonably short notice but these tend to be shorter in distance.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

40 miles. That was in training for the London Marathon.

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

As I knew I had a 2019 London Marathon charity spot for my stroke charity I trained for 11 months with the marathon in mind. I completed a formal training plan with 18 weeks to go.

What has been your most serious running injury?

It has to be my stroke, which was not a normal injury. I hardly ran for eight months although I did the odd parkrun in that time. Mostly it was psychologically scary to run. I also had a mini stroke after another race last year and was out for about 5 weeks.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I use an exercise bike although I tend to use it when I am having a difficult cognitive day. I have to be careful when I run as I make bad decisions; I have run in front of cars before when I wasn’t thinking properly. In my marathon training I went to a boot camp to strengthen my core which was helpful.

What would persuade you to work with a (online) running coach?

For me it’s about keeping me to account. I would have to have a coach that was prepared to accept that I have some unique problems. Sometimes I just cannot do anything.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running is the thing that helps me deal with the problems I face, and I can tell my stroke that “you haven’t beaten me”.

Interview with Helen Erwin

Helen is an author of historical novels by day, and a foodie and exercise blogger in her spare time. She’s been a runner since 2012, preferring to cycle prior to then. It was when her mother died that she began to take running more seriously. Running helped her get through the grieving process, and was an amazing way for her to calm down and work through issues. Now running is a big part of her life and she loves it. Sometimes she thinks of it as her mother’s last gift.

What is your proudest running achievement?

I don’t have a specific achievement. But I feel very good when I have one of those runs that are effortless, when I feel like I could run forever.

What has running taught you about yourself?

It has taught me that my body can do a lot more than I ever expected. I’m able to use it if I have to run to catch a bus, or hurry up stairs instead of taking a crowded escalator in the subway. It has taught me that when it’s a nice day, my body can take me to places that I would otherwise have to drive or bike to, that would take too long to walk to.

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

I’ve considered a marathon, but I don’t like racing, so for now it’s just an idea.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I don’t usually race. I prefer to run by myself and sometimes with a group just for fun.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

I don’t generally count my miles. But I’m estimating that 20-22 miles in a week might be the most. The weeks I’ve run more than usual have been because the weather has been perfect, or because I’ve been in a particularly nice area.

What has been your most serious running injury?

I had a neuroma. I couldn’t run for at least six months. When I first went back to running, neuroma kept coming back as well. I tried many different brands of shoes but it wasn’t until I found Altra’s that I could run without pain. My neuroma developed from ignoring the pain I experienced when I ran in the wrong shoe that was too tight.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I lift weights, cycle (especially hill biking) and I do foot strengthening exercises.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I worked with a running coach when I had recovered from my neuroma. I wanted to work on my form to make sure I didn’t have any bad habits that could cause other injuries, or bring back my neuroma. I’m injury free now, but I would love to work with a coach again. It was fun and I learned a lot.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

A feeling of power and freedom that I love more than almost anything else.