Ali Young is an ultra-running legend. She has represented GB on multiple occasions at 24 hour European and World Championships. I asked her about her training, her running philosophy and about her racing plans for the future.
Photo credit - Steve Ashworth
I've been a Personal Trainer for 12 years and run an outdoor fitness group called ParkFit in Amersham. Before this I worked as a TV Producer in Advertising and prior to that I worked for the Probation Service, resettling offenders in the Community.
I did a bit of cross-country and athletics at school and for Wirral A.C as a teenager but had no contact with a running club again until my early 30s. My main sport was hockey where I played for school and Neston CC.
I ran my first marathon at the age of 34yrs in 2008 in 3.20 and continued to do a few more along with other distances (half marathons, 10km, 5km etc). I saw an article on the Marathon Des Sables (MDS) and thought it looked really interesting. I entered the 2013 MDS to mark my 40th Birthday. I knew I had to get some long runs in to prepare for this and did the Druids Challenge organised by XNRG in 2012, my first ultra!
What attracted me to longer distances was the intrigue- could I do it and what would it be like?
I currently run for Chiltern Harriers. My coach, who I’ve been with for the last couple of years is Robbie Britton and prior to that it was Bryan Smith.
My favourite distance is the 5km, parkrun. I love an 800m on the track although very rarely have opportunity to train or compete in this.
I guess my average running mileage is around 35 miles per week but that totally depends on what I'm training for. It's been low weekly mileage since the Centurion 100-mile track race which was in April. My mileage has pretty much stayed the same through the years, rising to around 50 (peaking at 60) towards marathons and ultras. I should be doing Yoga, but it's rare at the moment! I love to do strength training - dynamic free weights, heavy barbell work and I usually do this twice a week although the days change.
I take calcium, magnesium and collagen supplements and add Vitamin D in the winter.
The night before a race I usually have a big plate of pasta with fresh chopped tomatoes, and I squeeze lemon on - very simple. My breakfast is always two pieces of seeded toast with butter and marmalade on. I eat most things and can't remember last time I was sick. I don't like milk.
I love running next to the sea. I don't get the opportunity much living in Buckinghamshire but when I do I love the ever-changing light and drama.
My running highlight was the Team Bronze medal in the 2018 European Championships in Romania (along with Tracey Dean and Wendy Shaw).
I use self-belief and determination to cope with the mental aspects of racing. I don't overthink races. I don't have a clue how I will do in the race, but I am determined to finish.
Within the UK I love parkrun and the London Marathon. I know people have mixed opinions on the MDS, but I actually had the best experience. It was the only ultra I've done where I've thought 'yes I want to do it all again' straight away. It was such a break from the real world with just yourself and your backpack to think of. Not my best race performance wise, but I had brilliant tent mates and the best time. I came 10th lady overall.
My best performance was the Centurion Track 100-mile race earlier this year as I got the V45 British record of 15hrs 41. I also was 1st lady at the Grand Union canal race and at Spartathlon I was the 10th lady overall and the second from Great Britain.
I don't really have a performance I'm sad about (yes, it’s bound to come!!!) but I would've liked to have run further in my GB 24-hour Championship races. Hopefully I will still get the chance to put this right.
My running and life philosophy is ‘don't overthink it, just get on with it’. The challenge motivates me. To complete the challenge.
I've had a few injuries in the past - plantar fasciitis, achilles problems, an ongoing issue with a sciatic injury, a current cyst on back of knee. However, because I enjoy any training that keeps me fit, I've never really lost general fitness due to injury as I concentrate on 'what I can do' rather than 'what I can't do'. I can always find something to do to keep me generally fit and strong.
I am loving watching the Olympics at the moment, of course. I love seeing older athletes do well as it gives me the motivation and hope that I also can continue.
The World Ultra 24-hour Championships have been cancelled for 2021. I've got a place for the London Marathon in October so will probably do that, but just for fun as its not far away and a great race but I haven't started any specific training so no hope of a PB performance. I’d love to do Badwater but it's expensive. Comrades, the Costa Rica Ultra are other bucket races but I don't want to book a foreign race yet as I can't be bothered with the cancellation possibility etc with Covid. Perhaps Spartathlon again. I'm waiting to get that 'intrigue' and draw to a race at the moment but its yet to come! Until then, it's trying to get my parkrun speed back up!
You can find Ali @aliyoungrun on Instagram.