There wasn’t much focus on athletics at my school. It was all about netball and tennis, which I wasn’t much good at. But on the rare occasions we went running, I loved it.
Running back then was something you watched, on TV, not something you did. It was the days of Cram, Ovet and Coe. These days, especially thanks to the Olympic effect, we watch the elite but then think about the practical application of the sport in our lives, which is great.
I took up running at university and got really into it in the years that followed. Work came first though, so once I got a job on BBC local radio, my running career became pretty intermittent.
I got a place in the London Marathon in 1996 and my training in the lead up was perfect. Then I landed an amazing job going to Washington DC for three weeks, to be Bill Turnball’s [her current co-host on BBC Breakfast producer.] It coincided with the marathon, but it was a no brainer – I went to Washington.
I run to the date. I’m not obsessed with running for running’s sake, I like a goal on the horizon to inspire me to get out there. All my training for London had been focused on that date, it didn’t occur to me to roll it over to a different race. I just hung up my trainers.
Years went by and suddenly 2012 was approaching. I thought how amazing it would be to say you’d run the London marathon in the Olympic year. So I got a charity place to run for Sport Relief.
And so my training started again. It consisted mainly of long runs. I started out at six miles, then eight and gradually built it up. I did one 18-miler and one 21. It wasn’t clever training but it worked for me.
Friends recommended a brilliant running coach, Karen Weir. She wrote me a proper training programme and advised me to do more speed work and quality sessions instead of just logging the miles. I’m not a very good student though.
Sometimes it’s good to run with others. Karen hosts group runs in the lead up to the marathon and it’s helpful to have others to pull you round. Other times you just need to head out on your own.
I have a mantra that I write on my wrist during races. ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’ – a quote from Nelson Mandela. That gets me round.
Marathon day came and I found the first 11 miles harder than I expected. But by 16 miles I realised I could do it. And once I’d finished, in 5:12, I realised anyone can do it, if they set their mind to it.
When I did the Great North Run 18 years ago, I had a curry and a few drinks the night before. And I did it in 1:50. These days, I may be slower, but I’m much more disciplined with my preparation.
That said, I should have trained more for the 2012 GNR. It was half the distance but felt twice as hard as the marathon. I enjoyed the Royal Parks Foundation Half, which I did a few weeks later, more. It was flatter, for a start.
I’m an absolute scavenger during a race. I’ll have anything people offer me – chocolate, sweets, pieces of banana. I’m not the fastest runner so I’m out there for a long time. I get really hungry!
Most of us can find time to run if we really want to. It’s the effort and application that’s harder to find. But I have no excuses. If I’m feeling lazy, I remind myself I’m lucky to have the time and the ability to run.
I’m in training again for the VLM 2013 and I’m going to run it faster.My finishing time has to start with a 4!
I was on holiday in January 2012, for my mum’s birthday. I decided if I could go out for an hour and run, I’d be able to do the marathon. I took myself out on January 6 and I did it. It gave me confidence that I hadn’t lost all my fitness.
The world of sports nutrition was completely new to me. On my coach’s advice I made sure I hydrated well in the week before the marathon, and I took gels every 45 minutes during.
My mood changes if I haven’t been for a run. I get cranky. But my other half knows better than to tell me what to do.
I’m very inspired by the Nike No Excuses ad. The one where basketball player Matt Scott is bouncing a ball and going through all the excuses people might use not to get out there and exercise. Gradually the camera pans out and you see he’s in a wheelchair.
I like the discipline of events and having a goal on the horizon. But it can be hard to fit in as many as I’d like, because it means time away from my family.
My sons, aged, seven, eight and 10 were so inspired by the Olympics. We’rea fit family. We’ve all done Parkrun together.
I’m happy running anywhere – pavements, parks, even the treadmill. I’m not distracted or motivated by pretty views.
Upbeat dance music and hip hop works for me. The Black Eyed Peas, Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes…
I hardly drink, but all I could think about as I neared the end of the Great North Run was a glass of beer.