Sophie Carter, ultra and trail runner, PT, mother of two from Oxfordshire shares with us her story about running, goals and fears, nutrition, pregnancy and many more.
//Words by Sophie Carter//
If you had asked me this time last year if I would run an ultra race... as in a race distance longer than a marathon - 26.2 miles or 42 km - I would say “No way... I can't do that!”. I am a busy exhausted Mum of two young children, one still at home with me in the afternoons and the other already at school with all the busy schedules of school kids and homework. I have to rely on one or two very good friends for help, no help or support network from family and I work as a personal trainer.
However at the end of June 2016 it suddenly dawned on me that my passion was just running. To take my mind off the stress of watching my Mum deteriorate to cancer (she sadly lost her fight to cancer on 29th October 2016) I decided that to ease the pain in my heart I had to do what I loved and that was just to run. I signed up for my first 100km! This race was amazing... it went wrong as I got lost, but despite not finishing and getting totally lost and disorientated - I knew I loved it and wanted to do another one!
My Mum was in a hospice and my head was all over the place, I then developed this irrational fear of falling when I ran... And suddenly my stress reliever - running - wasn't working... but I was determined to not let the stress win. Stress can do so much to your mind.
What kept me going?...
My love for running... seeing my Mum fight her cancer and not give up... I knew I could not give up and I would sort my fears out.
My children.... they definitely keep me going.... they are my life. I am first and foremost a mother but I am also a runner.
When I first started running competitively I had little self confidence and didn't think I was very good. The same is still sort of true today.
My parents never encouraged me... I wasn't naturally athletic... however over the years my body shape has changed and now most people look at me and say "you look like a runner".
I have always loved running though... Even as a child I loved running. It was always my dream to run a marathon. At first I used to have days where I thought “Oh, I don't feel like running”, but I rarely have days like that now... its like brushing my teeth I do it because its part of my routine and I know it does me good and I enjoy it.
I also have a goal. I think having a goal is important.
I tell my clients that having a goal is a great motivator. It can be anything: completing an event or being fitter.
I usually say the goal has to be something you enjoy. So, for me its not about getting a fit body for summer or losing weight. Its all mainly about enjoying yourself - focusing on what you want and then doing what you can to get there, naturally things will fall into place.
Having said that I do watch what I eat and eat a variety of fruit and vegetables... and mix of protein and carbs.
I also eat sweets and chocolate and cakes... and cola. It helps fuel my running. However I try to have it all in moderation.
The most important thing you can do is enjoy running ... running on the trails you see the beauty of nature all around. Being outside has huge health benefits to your mind too. I do my faster sessions on the road and to get me through a hard session I remember what my personal goals are.
I usually only get time to run but I also do strengthening exercises, using body weight. Working your core strength is great for maintaining a strong running form in long races. Exercises that target your glutes are also very important as you need to run with your glutes firing correctly and therefore avoiding lazy glutes allowing knees and your back to do the work... which can lead to pain.
Always listen to your body when running. I ran through two healthy pregnancies and continued with quite high mileage with my second child. Both births were natural and free of pain relief - being fit helps with the demands of labour. I was back running soon after birth.
I have had minor injuries over the years... mainly overuse but given the amount of miles I cover and have over the years I don't do too badly. I have a good natural running style maybe not perfect but it works for me. The injuries I have had tend to be in my lower legs... so achilles bursitis and in my knee a tear in my meniscus. Both have healed with proper rest and recovery and again listening to my body. I look at the long term picture. Not to say its easy for a runner to be injured but I found alternatives to exercise such as a watt bike, cross trainer and walking.
I love what the philosophy of the brand represents. I have raced in the skirt and never had any thought of what I was wearing it just fits and feels perfect which is what I want. Karina has done an amazing job with the style fit and the pockets.
Ultra and trail runner, personal trainer.