We met Jane Hansom at last year's Paris Marathon and were inspired when we heard her story. After a 20-year hiatus in her sporting progress, she discovered a passion for running back in 2010 when a group of friends persuaded her to run the London Marathon.
In the two years since her running debut, she's knocked an hour off her marathon personal best and has turned her attention to triathlon. We caught up with Jane after her impressive win at the Quebrantahueso Triathlon in the Pyrenees recently to find out how she rediscovered sport, the impact its had on her life and what the future holds.
How did you get back into sport?
I was sporty at school and did a bit of cross-country running and swimming (at a national level) but after university I fell out of it and did nothing at all in my twenties and thirties. It was only when four women at Sony PlayStation (my company, Sponge, is their PR and marketing agency) persuaded me to be the fifth person in their 2010 London Marathon team that I took up running again. I refused at first as I wasn’t sure I would actually make it, but they insisted so I eventually agreed. Once I had committed, I set about making sure I could finish in a respectable time. And I reckoned that was under four hours. I finished in 3:54.
Can you describe your running journey prior to taking up triathlon?
After six months spent training for the 2010 London Marathon, I lost two and a half stone and four dress sizes. I was hooked. I immediately signed up for the Loch Ness Marathon, which I ran in 3:30. For the next challenge, I targeted a sub-3:15 time at the 2011 Paris Marathon. I finished race in 3:04. I then signed up for the New York City Marathon in November 2011 and under my coach’s expert guidance, I hit my goal of running sub-three hours exactly 18 months after I ran my first marathon.
What made you sign up to your first triathlon?
After my sub-three hour marathon success my brother George suggested that I should give triathlon a go as I could run and swim so two out of the three boxes were already ticked.
What has been your proudest sporting moment so far?
That’s an easy one: I was third lady over 40 in the 2011 New York City Marathon with a time of 2:58:01
What events do you have coming up?
The World Duathlon Championships in Nancy, France in September 2012 and the World Triathlon Championships in Auckland in October 2012. My preparation is going well. I've been working on improving my bike leg. I won the Quebrantahuesos Triathlon in the Pyrenees recently. It's a middle-distance triathlon with a hilly 80K bike leg over stunning mountain passes with 13 per cent gradients so I must be improving on the bike at long last.
Did you ever expect to be competing so seriously in sport?
No, never, but I'm delighted to be in this position. Sport has undoubtedly changed my life for the better.
What results would you be happy with?
A podium finish for my age group at the World Championships (if not this year, then next).
What are your ultimate triathlon goals?
To qualify for a place at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii and complete the Ironman distance in a decent time. That and drink a coffee from the floating pontoon in the bay in Kona. I am a coffee addict and I love the sound of doing that.
How do you prepare in the days leading up to a race?
I eat well the day before to make sure I'm fuelled up. I pack my kit bag the night before and put my number on my race belt so I don’t have to think about it the next day. I study the course and try to either drive it or even ride it if I have time. The night before a race, I get an early night and on race morning I have a good stretch and a decent breakfast (porridge and banana) two hours before the start. I make sure I understand the transition set up. I once ran the wrong way out after my bike leg and vowed I'd never do this again.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of taking on their first triathlon?
Rent kit for a few races to see if you like it then start saving up and buy the very best kit you can afford so you wont be tempted to upgrade in a matter of months. Spend your money on a good bike. (Vitus bikes are a great affordable option.) Get a proper bike fit: a bike that’s a good fit can help you to shave minutes off your time.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to represent their age-group?
Go for it. British Triathlon does an excellent job of offering all Home Nation members a unique opportunity to represent Great Britain and experience racing at an International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championship. It's a wonderful scheme that allows serious (but non-elite) athletes to compete at a high level, which more sports should follow in my opinion.
How do you balance your job and training?
I get up at 5am every day to train for two hours before work. I try to entertain clients at lunchtime and I go to bed at 10.30pm.
Can you describe an average training week?
Tuesday: swim and run
Thursday: swim and run
Friday: swim and bike
Saturday: long bike
Sunday: long run
What is the best piece of advice anyone has given you?
Listen to your body. Recovery is an important session so don't skip it. Also I use the running mantra ‘rhythm and relax’ a lot.
And the worst?
Apply a hot water bottle to injured muscles or have a hot bath – an ice pack or a cold bath is a much better idea.
Who inspires you?
Olympians winning gold medals. Being goal oriented, I find the concept of years of hard training coming to fruition very inspiring. Personally, however the person who inspires me most is my coach. I simply like to do well to pay back the time and effort that he has invested in me. When I train, I always give it 100 per cent and get inspiration from my personal improvement month on month.