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  • Writer's pictureKarla

Meet the athlete - Gill Bland

There are lots of downsides to social media but the big upside for me is the inspiring women I follow. Gill is certainly one of those women! She manages a full-time job, some seriously tough training and a busy family life, mostly with a smile on her face. I find it incredibly refreshing that she posts the runs and races that haven't gone so well and the weeks when training isn't possible due to life getting in the way. Her determination and self-belief inspire me to dig-in when things aren't going to plan. I'm sure she's got a big PB coming at Valencia!

I'm a Christian, and I live in the Midlands with my husband and 4-year-old boy, having moved from London during lockdown. We live near (allegedly) the biggest man-made hole in Europe - a huge quarry. It's a little village with its own running club. I wish we had pets! We had two cats in London, but they were so attached to our lovely neighbour that we couldn't bear to take them away!

I work for the BBC in the sort of behind-the-scenes bits of the contract that means telly gets on your TV. Mostly I work in a hut at the end of our garden! I also dabble in other bits and pieces like writing for, helping out at NoblePro and just this week I've joined The Run Testers.

I’m coached by Andy Hobdell. The short version of how this came about - I needed a coach, got some recommendations from a friend at England Athletics, spoke to a few of them and felt like Andy was the best fit for this time (though they all seemed brilliant) and I was really lucky that he had space. The long version! I got my first coach when I applied to be part of a programme for Asics where they followed 4 runners to the Manchester marathon, and we had to write articles for Athletics Weekly on the way. I had got down to about 3:10 for the marathon and thought it would be more interesting if I went bold and tried for sub-three, so I saw a coach advertised in Athletics Weekly (FullPotential Coaching), rang them up, had a chat and signed up to online coaching which carried on for about 7 years during which I ran my PB of 2:53:22.

When I had my little boy, I carried on for a bit, but everything had changed so much that it became clear that I needed some time away from my box-ticking brain. I still wanted to do every session exactly as set, even though my coach never assumed that would happen, so I stopped being coached so I could re-calibrate. After a while I was coached by a member of the Running Team as a favour (I loved that patch) for a bit and then I started doing some face-to-face sessions with a local coach where I was living in Harrow. He worked on technique with me, which gave me something different to focus on and was a good way to switch it up. When we moved to the Midlands, we agreed to try remote coaching but his strength was very much in the face-to-face stuff so we agreed that it was probably time to find a new coach. I asked my EA friend, and he gave me some great recommendations with a variety of local, online and different styles of coaching. Andy was the last person I spoke to, but it felt like he understood what I was wanting to do and also would speak honestly to me - I don't like to be told things are going brilliantly if they are not, I like cold hard truth!! So far poor Andy has had everything thrown at him! We had a good, short build up to Manchester Marathon where he wasn't going full pelt with the training but easing me in. Then, not long before it, my boy got ill and we spent a week in hospital with him. He was well enough that it was totally fine for me to race Manchester, but I had picked up a cold and had a stressful month prior, so while I'm still pleased that I executed most of the plan, my 2:56 wasn't what we thought I could do. Since then, we ended up in hospital again, then came out, then went on holiday, then got covid and now here we are!

When we moved to the Midlands one of the things that sealed the deal about living in this particular village was the running club. Mr Bland bumped into them once when he was staying up here for work and they were the friendliest most welcoming people ever. Everyone should come and join Huncote Harriers!

I juggle life and work badly! I should be more flexible, but I get fixated on wanting to get my run done! My ideal is always to get my run done very first thing, as otherwise I never know how the day is going to pan out but that's not always possible and not always wise if more sleep is required. Mr work is fairly flexible in that I can run in the middle of the day and make the time up later if I need to, though it's getting harder to do that. I find it hard that sometimes my boy is grumpy because he's woken up and I'm not there straight away because I've gone for a run - but I know his dad is right there and just as good! But I still feel guilty.

The only sport I did at school was PE. I wish they'd had athletics though I have no idea if I would have been any good then. I started running when I was just out of university and working in London. I ran to catch a train and got out of breath. I thought "I can't be like this already" but I also wasn't getting paid enough to join a gym, so I started running around the block. A mate wanted to run "Run to the Beat" half marathon and I got persuaded to join in and then everyone else pulled out, but I did it because I'd paid! Then I took a job working shifts and ended up running more because that was something to do even when others weren't free to hang out with.

The marathon is my favourite distance. Love it.

Hmm... a normal training cycle….you'd have to ask Andy that!! I just do what I'm told. It's hard to know what's normal at the moment as although I only felt rough for one day with Covid, he's advised me to be very careful about how I run afterwards and come back slowly as otherwise you can store up problems for yourself. I guess normally I would probably have an easy Monday, then something easy/steady with strides on a Tuesday, a session on Wednesday with faster paced track type stuff, some more easy days and then something longer at the weekend.

I have always responded best to high mileage (oh wouldn't life be easier if that wasn't the case!). For example, I baffle my previous coach because I always ran 10k PBs when I'd run at least 10 miles the day before. However, I'm 40 now and I'm starting to notice that I recover more slowly so that was another reason to have a new coach - I need to stop comparing myself to my 30s!!

No, I don’t alter training around my menstrual cycle at the moment, but I have started tracking it a lot more closely as I can see how it affects me sometimes and can take that into account if for example a session feels tougher than it should. If I wasn't tracking, I might worry I was picking up an illness, but I can sometimes put it down to my cycle. I don't think it's helpful for me to back off because it's a certain time of the month as that becomes self-fulfilling but it's useful to know. Also, my cycles are still a bit unpredictable so it would be hard to do!

I take ferrous fumarate and vitamin D.

My best races have been after someone's mum's home-made lasagne (not the same mum). I think I had a really average pizza and some leftover panettone that was in our Air B'n'B the night before my PB!

I am lucky that I've got a pretty cast iron stomach when racing. I've only felt sick at London last year when I had a cold, and the snot was mixing with gels!! I usually use a combination of High Five and SiS Betafuel Nootropics (only one). If it's a 5k I like Caffeine Bullets. I also LOVE Picky Bars and Tribe bars for before/after, but I don't buy them very often as they are expensive.

My favourite ever race was the Maverick Dorset race round the Jurassic coast. Beautiful, beautiful trails even though I'm not a natural trail runner. Right now, there's a road near me that is long, slightly winding, smooth and ever so gently downhill and it's my favourite stretch. I always feel great along there.

My first race abroad at Lake Garda was amazing. Until I met the Advent Running crew in London the idea of travelling for a race seemed so ... over the top! But it was brilliant. Obviously, my PB in Florence was a highlight but actually other races with friends or that Maverick race have made firmer memories.

The Lake Garda marathon is lovely, and I have really fond memories of it, but Valencia Marathon is an AMAZING course, and the city is fab. I feel like I should say Boston marathon, but the race itself isn't the big deal there - it's the vibe around it.

Domestically the Maverick races are just brilliant (argh it's been too long since I've done one!!) but also anything with a good local rivalry is fun!

My best performance was my first sub-40 10k. I've always been a one-pace pony and I fought *hard* for that time.

I had a shocker in London last year. I decided to go out hard and see what happened even though I had a cold - the result was that I died hard and couldn't recover quick enough for my next race. If I'd been sensible and dialled back, then I could have gone hard at the next one. That said, I've worked a lot on going into the pain-zone as I've always been ok at pacing but not at pushing hard.

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