Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Debbie Martin-Consani: 2012 Female Ultra Runner of the Year

With her much anticipated run at Centurion Running's Thames Path 100 in two weeks time, I figured it was a good time to post a little Q&A with the first UK voted Ultra runner of the year. Debbie Martin-Consani.

Debbie has been an exceptional runner for the last few years however, 2012 saw her shoot to UK Ultra Running super stardom. The biggest head turner was the outright win of the famous and very prestigious 145mile Grand Union Canal Race. This performance also led to Debbie getting the nod to represent GB in the 24 hour World Championships where she put in another stellar run to record 135miles
Q: Before I ask about the ‘big one’ tell us about your first (was it your first?) run as a member of Team  GB, that must be an incredibly proud moment for yourself and the people close to you?
I’ve always been a bit of a self-confessed plodder, so running on the GB team never even crossed my mind. It was a real honour to represent Scotland twice in 2011, but I didn’t think I’d make the step up to GB.  I didn’t even know what the qualifying distance was.  I really have Adrian Stott to thank, as I hadn’t even run a 24-hour race before when I represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Championship.  He just saw some potential and gave me a shot.  My family think I’m nuts, but I’m sure they enjoy the bragging rights.
Q. You set a few records during that run too right?
Yes, I set three Scottish records: 100m (15:48), 200km (20:55) and 24 hour (217km).  Not bad for a day in the office.  It was my main focus for the year – others events were just a bonus – so I trained hard for the race and the conditions were just perfect.  I unravelled in the last few hours, for various reasons, so there’s still room for improvement.
Q. GUCR- what did you realistically expect going into that one?  Had you ever run that far before?
The furthest I had run prior to the GUCR 2012 was 130miles in a 24 hour race in 2011.  I wasn’t overly concerned about the distance, more anxious about being alone in the dark – with a map – in an area I had never stepped foot in.  I was fairly confident that I could do quite well in the ladies placing, but I never expected to win outright.  The biggest shocker though was falling in the canal in the middle of the night.  That mishap will haunt me for the rest of my life, as I get ribbed for it on a daily basis.
Q. How can you prepare for a race of that length? I’m guessing you can’t get close to training runs of that length as it would break you down so how can you mimic those conditions?
I swear by back-to-backs long runs. They make up a significant chunk of my weekly mileage and are the key to building endurance and strength. Running when fatigued on tired legs also simulates the mental and physical issues in the latter stages of an ultra-distance race.  They help train your brain to take over when your body has thrown in the towel.  
I also do two speed sessions during the week.  I think some ultra-runners can sometimes over focus on long slow runs, but the speed sessions prepare my muscles to feel fatigue and pain.  And stop me from going insane too.  I often do sessions at lunchtimes with a group who have jet-propelled legs. Let’s just say I’m punching above my weight, but it really pushes me. 
I think the nasty runs are also an important part of training too.  Granted, I don’t go out looking for them, but grinding out the real stinkers – when faced with bad weather/fatigue/bonking - are the runs that can make you.  After they break you, of course.
Q. What does the future hold for you in terms of racing? It seems as though you have put yourself in position where there are lots of great opportunities for you. Do you concentrate on the GB and Scotland vests, Races abroad or more Home based long stuff?
For me it’s just a hobby, albeit a hobby I’m very passionate about.   I also have a family and a job, which are higher up in the pecking order.  Although my husband is also an ultra-runner, so running is not only important to me, it’s important to us.  Our three-year-old thinks running is perfectly normal and is frequently found darting about the place and racing everyone.
I have been guilty in a past of rehashing the same races, so I’m hoping to branch out a bit over the next couple of years. I’ve already written my bucket list of races – which I keep adding to.  I’m sure I will get round to most of them in my lifetime, just maybe not in my prime.
Q. Is it fair to say you are a bit more of a hard surface runner? Are the more Mountainous Ultras something that appeals to you?
I actually prefer trails, so it’s just unfortunate that I perform better on long and flat J I started off with ultras on the West Highland Way in Scotland, which are a bit on the bumpy side.   I like all terrains really, apart from cross-country.  I don’t do cross-country.  Sometimes road running is just more convenient and less times consuming – especially for two ultra-runners with a small child.  It’s a juggling act.  My heart will always be in trail running, but the logistics are often more challenging than the runs.
I’m hoping to run in GB team at the World 24-hour Championship in the Netherlands in May. Then I’ll be home to train for the Montane Lakeland 100 in July.  I’m sure going back to off road training will be a welcome relief.
Q. If you couldn’t pick yourself, who would you choose as this year’s Female Runner of the year?
It would have to be Emily Gelder.  She’s so talented, yet so demure and unassuming.  Her main focus is running and she doesn’t concern herself with the hype and shameless self-promotion, which I indulge in! She’s amazing to watch, as she just cruises.   Not only is she a fantastic athlete but she’s an amazing person and very supportive team mate. 
 Ok so time for everyone's favourite-
 Quick fire questions-
1         Favourite race in the UK.  The Devil o’ the Highlands was my first ultra, so that will always be special to me.  I’ve run it five times now.  It covers the north sections of the West Highland Way through Glencoe to Fort William. The route and views are just magical. 

2         If you could only race one more time, what would you choose? I have high aspirations of running the Everest Marathon with my Son when he’s old enough.  Although I fear he may rebel and take up Badminton or something.

3         Non-running item you can’t live without: I presume you mean an object, so I would say my iPhone.

4         Favourite running item: It would be a toss-up between my Garmin or iPod.  I’m not overly analytical with stats, but my Gamin is more like a comfort blanket now.  I don’t think my feet would work without it.  Purist, I am not.

5         Biggest Running inspiration: Those who support and put up with me and slog out the miles with me. I am quite self-motivated and just aspire to be the best I can be, but having such great family and friends gives me that extra push.   Having an ultra-running husband means we not only support each other’s dream, but we’re a bad influence on each other too.  Also, Sharon Law, who has been my closest friend since were teenagers, is also my training partner and biggest racing rival. We never let on, but we always try to outdo each other J

6        Favourite Training session: I like to mix up my training. I think there’s nothing worse than just trudging about aimlessly and just churning out miles.  It makes me feel so flat and de-motivated. I like the “buzz” of running, whether it’s the high (or slump!) after a speed session, some good banter with friends or a run with a speculator view. I call them the “wow-wee moments”, when you just have to stop and take it all in.
Q. Finally, one little nugget of Debbie Martin-Consani advice for all Ultra Runners?
Forget natural talent and ability, it’s all about hard work.  Remove your self-imposed glass ceiling.  If you want something bad enough, just work, work, work towards it.  I sometimes lack motivation, but I never lack commitment.
Thanks Debbie!
Debbie tracks a lot of her thoughts and races on her blog. With Debbie’s class and humour it’s well worth adding to your bloggers list

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