2020 has been a strange year, but the rise of the Ultrarunner has been unquestionable, with many names and challenges being thrust into the mainstream media for not only achieving amazing feats of endurance but bagging a world record over these mega distances. Carla Molinaro has to be one of the names that comes top of the list.
She is the latest in a long line of Fastest Known Times (or FKT) achieved on various routes in the UK this summer, having achieved a record-breaking 12 days, 30 minutes, and 14 seconds to complete the LEJOG (Lands end to John O’Groats) on foot on the 28th July 2020. This is one of the longest known record attempts of the summer, and as we all know, summer in the UK means changeable weather, blistering heat, and sideways rain.
Her Outdoors caught up with Carla, three days into her recovery to see how she was feeling, why she took this challenge on, and how the challenge had the flexibility it needed to keep her on record-breaking track.
Q. First of all, a HUGE well done! What an achievement. How is the recovery going?
OK, actually. My ankles are very swollen still but they are getting better and my hamstrings have tightened up a lot. I spoke to my physiotherapist today who has advised me to get on the bike and spin them out, so I will be doing that very slowly.
Q. So are you back home now?
Yes, although it took two days to drive back. I was like ‘Oh my God, how can it be this far…’
Q. ….. Even though you had just run it?
I know right? Dad was a star and drove me back while my feet just swelled in the car. We had to stop a lot so I could keep moving about.
Q. So how long has LEJOG been on the table?
Since the beginning of lockdown. I read Mimi Anderson’s book last year and thought, ‘That’s ridiculous…’ but something must have subconsciously stuck. I re-read it again at the beginning of lockdown and knew this was something I wanted to try. So I got the maps out and started planning.
Q. How do you prepare for something like this, both physically and mentally?
At the start of Lockdown, we were still in South Africa so we were there for five weeks in lockdown and unable to leave the house, so I had to start running up and down the 100m driveway. I suppose this started preparing me for the monotony of keeping going. Once I got back home, I started running with 2-speed sessions a week, then I would do 4 days back to back running. I started this with 15k each day and built this up by 5k per day each week until I hit 50k per day on those 4 days. For something this long, it is difficult to do any more. I didn’t have that much time to do much more and I didn’t want to run the risk of injury.
Q. Sharon Gayter was the previous record holder and ran and supported you on your attempt. How important was it to have her there?
It was really important. I contacted both herself and Mimi to tell them what I was doing and gain advice from them both. Mimi unfortunately could not make the attempt, but having Sharon meet me just north of Shap was great. She is the only person that could possibly know how I felt right at that moment. She was lovely, she ran 10k with me and bought me a cake and we had a really nice chat. That’s the great thing about this sport, people want to see you achieve.
Q. Did you set out with a plan per day and how much of this had to be adjusted on the route?
I set off on the first morning far too quickly. I started averaging 6min per KM and started feeling the DOMS effect by lunchtime that day. I realised I needed to slow down, especially as the route in Cornwall and Devon on those first two days was actually quite brutal!. The hills in Cornwall were largely 3k ups and 3k downs and the hills in Devon were really short and sharp. After day three, I realised I needed more recovery time in my days, so I decided to cut the day off by ten pm whether I had done the mileage or not. Luckily, I had a good 24-hour buffer on my schedule. By doing this, it meant I was in bed by eleven pm, up at four am and running from five am so the sleep deprivation wasn’t nearly as bad.
In the first five days, I was on track in terms of the distance then I fell behind by about thirty to forty km by day seven. I didn’t panic due to the twenty-four hour planned buffer on my schedule and was able to pick the pace back up after having two shorter days.
Q. What were your best and worst moments throughout the challenge?
The best moments had to be sharing this experience so closely with my family. My sister was there the whole time, supporting, sorting social media out, keeping me fed and watered. My brother was there for the first four days of running and helping. He then decided to be there for the last three days as I think he had Fear of Missing Out. My parents were also at the end and supporting me, which meant so much. I also had amazing support outside of my family. People of all abilities were running with me. Guinness World Records need so much evidence that you have covered the distance, so having people jump out and run with you solved that problem. It also let me meet some incredible people. Including one little boy called Lewis, just four years old, who ran by my side in his Dad’s running vest.
The worst moment probably was the daily slump. I went to a dark place daily and couldn’t talk to anyone, I just had to get my head down and get through it. I felt so awful to the people who would come and see me run, or run with me if I felt like this. We had to post out and ask people not to try to run with me between five pm and eight pm just so they weren’t seeing my grumpiness.
Q. So you are also a coach for UK Athletics as well as a Personal Trainer / Sports Massage Practitioner and a Science in Health Exercise and Sport. Do you feel this experience has given you any further insight into body mechanics and recovery?
I already knew how amazing your body can be, but to see just how far it can be pushed is amazing. Unless there is an actual physical injury, you can always run. I think it comes with the experience of knowing your own body and understanding what is a niggle and what is an injury. I am always asking my clients these questions. Are you really tired, or do you just not feel up to it. Get your kit ready the night before and just get up and get it done. Don’t overthink it, just go do it. You can talk yourself out of training so easy and you can use the injury excuse too readily.
Q. Some people love to round up their times especially when running longer distances. Was there any little bit of you that looked at the time you completed and thinks, ‘oooh, I was so close to going under twelve days…’?
Not at all! I couldn’t have run anymore and it didn’t even occur to me at the time. I literally couldn’t have run anymore in those last few hours.
Q. And what is next on the cards for you?
A little time off and a couple of months of gentle running. I would love to do the Western States so I will try to get into their ballot system this year. I was hoping to do the CCC this year after returning to the Comrades again, but everything got cancelled so I might look to try to do the CCC next year. I have done the UTMB course over a couple of days and feel the CCC is more of my kind of race. The comrades won’t be on the cards next year. It takes too much time out of my summer and I would love to give other things ago.
Some of Carla’s other Achievements:
You can book in for Coaching with Carla by visiting her website: www.carlamolinaro.com/coaching
Ahead of our Event in August, we thought we would write a little piece to give people more information about Shelli.
This year, Shelli took part in Britains most brutal of races, the 268mile Spine Race, that is a non-stop race over the Pennine way, in the bleakest of conditions. Not only did she finish 2nd Female, she did it while paying a rather emotional tribute to her late partner, who sadly, took his own life.
In Shelli’s own words:
In July this year I found myself part of a large family that previously i didn’t really know existed, this was not a family I chose to be a part of and I had no idea of the huge amount of people who were already a part of it by no choice of their own- the ones left behind.
That day now seems so surreal even with a background of a Psychology degree, Policing, and experience of mental health, nothing prepared me for finding Tony, and discovering he had taken his own life, i cut my arms as i smashed the window to get to him, although i knew already it was too late, I took him down and waited for help to arrive, sitting in the sunshine with the world continuing on as if nothing had happened, just waiting for the circus to begin, helpless to be able to change anything.
From Policing I knew the protocol but this time I was on the receiving end of the box filling and paperwork, I felt for the officers attending having to go through this, Tony being so young and a death that just seemed so pointless and preventable, this should not have occurred.
That day my life and my future changed, from planning my sons birthday and school holidays, to suddenly finding myself in a whole new world of grieving my partner our history and the future, running a still new business alone, running a home, being a parent to two children who were massively impacted, looking after my zoo of animals, comforting and speaking to people from all over the country and abroad, dealing with messages, cards, every known social media outlet (i’m not good with techy stuff), organising a funeral, and running out of vases for the flowers being sent, there weren’t enough hours in the day, sleep was a couple of restless hours per night and food unfaceable.
That day and in the following weeks I discovered the so much wider impact that the loss of one life has on so so many people and the communities it effects as well as the families involved.
Dedications were held across the Country at Race starts, from road races and trail races to fell races, and ultras to triathlons and local running groups, people ran with pictures of Tony with the hashtag runfortony at Lakeland along with numerous other events, the disbelief was felt unanimously.
Whilst all this was ongoing the reoccurring theme was ‘WHY’?
This was not just the reason being questioned, but a total disbelief and incomprehensibility as to how someone like Tony who on the outside had it all (and was very vocal in telling anyone who would listen the same), someone so happy and full of life, who exercised, and succeeded could possibly feel that their only option was suicide.
That someone who was so lively could hide it so well from those closest to him, nothing being said to friends the evening before, nothing said to me who lived and worked with him, how could this be disguised?
In the aftermath and since i’ve met so many people directly affected by suicide, the reoccurring theme is they weren’t the ‘typical’ candidate of suicide. There is no ‘typical’ candidate everyone is at risk when mental health takes over your brain, it doesn’t function the way it would normally, there isn’t any rationalisation, or thoughts of loved ones, no thought to how they will cope, or the impact of finding you, the sleepless nights with children that can’t sleep apart from in your bed, the nightmares and daytime flashbacks.
Taken from her Charity Page
I want to make changes and the only way to do that is to make mental health awareness visible to everyone to make sure that its ok to talk, and its ok to not be ok, to seek help, to support those needing help and to look out for each other. This is the only way to make this disease stop!!
We are so excited to be able to have this fantastic woman, come and speak at an event, to share her story, to run with us and to raise awareness for Men’s mental health.
As of time of writing this article, Shelli has raised over £28,000 for Campaign Against Living Miserably
We look forward to welcoming her to the Holme Valley Mountain Rescue centre in August 2019
We are looking for some exceptional women to come join our Ambassador programme to help us build and spread the word.
Are you into the outdoors and want to encourage other women into this too, then you might just be right up our street!
We are looking for applicants who can help us bring events // talks // films to women and encourage them to take part in all manor of activities in the outdoors.
We want to work with caring people who want to help us promote and encourage everyday women to push their boundaries a little and start to enjoy the outdoor life in a safe way!
Sounds like something you are interested in? Head over to our Ambassadors Page for more information on how to apply!
Well we could not be more delighted to get HerOut.co.uk (home of Her Outdoors) up and running so we can start delivering content, events and inspiration to our friends, followers and fellow female nomads!
So what is “Her Outdoors”
We are a community based brand essentially, we aim to bring women together via activity in the outdoors, experiences and share knowledge. We will be setting up events so we can all meet up and share experiences, as well as providing some more skilled events where we bring in the experts.
We want to celebrate women embracing the outdoor life style and give confidence to others that they can be safe in the wild.
Is it just for women?
Well, it is and isn’t! Yes, we know that equality is amazing and we are not discouraging men from supporting or even coming to mixed events, however, most of our events will primarily be aimed at women and building their confidence in the outdoors so some of these may be women only.
We will host mixed events too, as after all, we have some very supportive men who follow us and we want to encourage everyone to enjoy the outdoors.
Our main aim is a celebration of women in the Outdoor world and their achievements. We aim to highlight this and hopefully inspire more along the way to get involved!
How can I get involved?
We will be starting an Ambassadors programme and selecting some talented people we want to join us to help with events, spreading the word and being generally amazing! More information will be on the site this week about this!
And a little thank you…
Thank you for taking the time to read this! We are looking forward to sharing some experiences with you!