runABC spoke to Essex girl, endurance runner and blogger Gemma Hockett to see what makes this marathoner tick.
When did you first start running, and why?
I was a keen runner at school, more surprisingly a sprinter. As I grew older everyone else grew taller. It was clear I wasn’t like them, and so I got left behind. It didn’t cross my mind that I was perhaps better suited to long distance. Five years ago I started jogging in an attempt to get fit. Life had taken over and I had indulged in the good things that come with working in the City and a happy relationship. I simply wanted to get fit and healthy again. I remember getting on the treadmill for the first time, the furthest I could run was 4km and I couldn’t walk for days!
What was your original goal?
My first event was a 10K race. It was an organised fun run for charity and my goal was to cover the distance; I didn’t have a time in mind. I completed it in just under an hour. It was after this race that I decided to keep going. Looking back I never thought in a million years I would end up becoming a marathon runner, let alone embarking on the journey I am on today.
So marathon is the distance of choice then?
Yes, it’s an absolute beast of a distance, but I love it! I go through every emotion you can think of, however the sense of achievement after running 26.2 miles is unbeatable.
And your favourite marathon so far?
It has to be the Virgin Money London Marathon. The atmosphere is electrifying and it’s superbly organised.
I ran 3:08 at Amsterdam Marathon in 2015 I was particularly pleased with this because I encountered lots of problems on the day. I missed my start pen, and ended up in a much slower one (this caused me to weave lots). The conditions were really tough, it was freezing cold, raining and windy. I dropped an energy gel and my water bottle. However I was still able to get a PB. And this year's marathon at Manchester was special - I went under 3 hours for the first time!
How do you find time to train?
This is a question I get asked a lot! It really helps to be organised. I receive my training schedule two weeks in advance from my coach, and then I plan how I am going to make each run work around my everyday life. I often train before work and in my lunch breaks. Getting a good balance and having a good support network around you is key, but I do have to make sacrifices. I don’t have much time for things like television or shopping!
Where do you train?
I mainly train on the roads, in London mostly as it’s where I work. I also run in parks - I absolutely love Hyde Park. I do some off-road work depending on when my schedule calls for it and I also run on the treadmill in the gym.
What do you love about running?
I love how it makes me feel. Nothing beats the feeling of achievement of getting to the end of a run, regardless of the distance. It’s also great thinking time where I can just let my mind float and let go of any stresses.
Most memorable race moment?
There are so many I could mention, but the one that sticks out is a runner who inspired me to sign up for a marathon. I was positioned around the 20-mile mark at London Marathon cheering on the runners. It was here I had one of those life-changing moments. I spotted a man who was clearly struggling, and yet despite his pain he was determined to continue. I found myself screaming at him that he could do it. He dragged himself on and left a big impression on me. It was that simple. If he could do it then so could I. When the going gets tough I still think back to this man, it really does helps me to dig deep.
Piece of kit you couldn’t do without?
It has to be my iFitness running belt. It has enough room for all my energy gels, my mobile phone, iPod and keys! I would be in trouble without it.
I am a bit of a yogi and I find just once a week does the trick. I go the day after my long run for approximately 45-60 minutes. It really helps me recover while gently building strength and improving my balance. Marathon training can also be quite stressful, so I find it really helps to calm my mind.
Dream running buddy?
It would have to be the one and only Paula Radcliffe (I will keep dreaming!).
Race day breakfast?
My race day breakfast of choice is a toasted white bagel, dry (no spread) with one slice of ham and an unripe banana. I always eat the same thing.
Post race treat
I am partial to letting my hair down after a marathon, so a good few glasses of wine is usually on the agenda.
Top running tip
Listen to your body, don’t ignore niggles and properly rest on your rest days. I have regular sports massages, which really helps me to keep on the straight and narrow.
Find out more about Gemma Hockett at her Marathon Girl blog.