I’m a runner: Linda Barker

Photo by Ben Knight

I’ve always been a really sporty girl. At school I loved swimming, tennis, netball and athletics. I was big into swimming, and running helped build my fitness for that.

Because I grew up on a farm, I’ve always enjoyed being outside in the fresh air. Going for a run fits in with how I like to live my life as an ‘outdoors’ type of person.

By my 30s, I was a mum and my TV career with Changing Rooms had taken off. It was hard to make time for running, but my fitness was still important to me. Like many busy mums, I tried squeezing everything in.

I also discovered yoga around that time. I love the strength it gives and how it changes my body shape. The core strength I gained was so helpful when I started running longer.

I love the instant freedom running gives me. Wherever you are, you can slip on your trainers and be off on a run. I always take my kit in my overnight bag when I’m away.

In 2012 I ran the London Marathon for the first – and probably last – time. The energy on the day from everyone there was amazing. I took it steadily [she finished in 4:36]. The last four miles were tough, as I’d never run that far. But I still partied afterwards!

The discipline of marathon training really appealed to me. Even though it was cold, wet and grim outside, I knew I had to follow my training plan or face the consequences. You really find out a lot about yourself when you know you’ve got to get out and run whatever number of miles.

An injury I suffered to my knee 24 years ago when skiing has come back to haunt me. When I tore the meniscus [a piece of cartilage] in my knee last year, I went in for some surgery but the surgeon discovered I didn’t have a working anterior cruciate ligament there because of the old injury. I’m now coming out of a long rehab to strengthen my knee and return to proper running.

My kit is very low-tech and has seen better days. For someone like me, who’s into design, maybe my gear should be more eye-catching. But I simply want comfy trainers and to layer up if I’m doing winter runs.

Appearing on the TV show Splash! [celebrity diving show] was the scariest thing I’d ever done. But my marathon training helped give me the mental strength to climb those steps and jump off the diving board.

I’ve done a variety of races and like to try something new rather than do the same ones again. But I did enjoy the Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2013. I think my full marathon days are over because of my knee, but, hopefully, shorter races will be possible.

My favourite…

Post-run treat: I’m really into nutrition so I love making protein bars. I use ingredients such as cashew nuts, coconut oil, almond butter and chia seeds.

Route: When I was working in Paris before my marathon, I loved early morning runs along the River Seine. It was beautiful seeing the city waking up.

Running heroes: I worked with Nell McAndrew (model and sub-3:00 marathon runner) in the build-up to my marathon. She’s amazing.


Linda is an ambassador for World Vision. To find out more, click here or visit the World Vision garden at the Chelsea Flower Show (24th-28th May).