Meet the athlete - Nicola Duncan
I first heard of the pocket rocket, Nicola Duncan, when I lived in Edinburgh. There was a buzz about a fast female runner who could plank for an obscene amount of time and did it all while looking glamorous. It's fair to say that there were and still are quite a lot of runners in awe. Since then, I've followed Nicola's running career from afar when I moved to the south of England. She's one of the most resilient athletes around- working through injuries and plain bad luck, countless times. I asked her about her life in Edinburgh, her running philosophy and, most importantly, about her skincare regime!
I live in Edinburgh with my boyfriend Dave and our two dogs, Senna (8-year-old golden retriever) and Turbo (20-month-old working cocker spaniel). I am originally from Galway but have been here 18.5 years and work as a consulting actuary.
I am coached by Robbie Britton who is amazing...he keeps me on the straight and narrow and is like a therapist when I can’t run! Robbie is based in Italy so it’s all online. I also run with Carnethy Hill Racing Club. Turbo and I join many of the social runs as well as the weekly hill rep session.
I was actually a very good tennis player before I got into running (despite my small size!). One of my tennis pals gave me a place for a 10km and I did better than expected in it despite wearing my tennis trainers and a big yellow hoodie! I gradually did more events and then eventually a marathon...after my second one I joined a club and started to train with more structure.
I like longer less intense distances...probably 50 miles-ish.
I am so lucky living in Edinburgh and have lots of favourite routes! The Seven Hills in one of my favourite routes and I love the coastal trails near Gullane and North Berwick. More internationally I love running in Chamonix and adored the mountains in Patagonia when I visited there in 2019.
I tend to have a 7-day training week which is pretty flexible but at moment it includes a speed flat session, a hill rep session and a long run along with lots of easy running. I tend to have one day where I don’t run but it varies with my life!
I don’t have to adjust my training around my cycle. I’m on a mini pill with no cycle so it’s not really an issue for me.
I take Vitamin D spray throughout the year and periodically add iron and B vitamins if feel I need them.I have a Revive supplement that have been taking recently that seems to be working!
My ideal pre-race meal is porridge with pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, peanut butter and salt! After the race it’s pizza!
I use the Maurten energy drink during my races but also eat blueberry muffins, banana bread, cliff blocks and marshmallows. I can’t stomach most food but soft stuff that doesn’t require much chewing works well. I get most of my energy from Maurten.
I loved my first (Highland) Fling race. I finished second to my good pal Rachel and we had done all our training together and we both had a really good day!
I love the Seven Hills race in Edinburgh but Jedburgh 3 peaks is probably my all-time favourite! You get to go through a play park! I haven’t done a huge number of international races but looking I’m looking forward to the MIUT (Madeira Island Ultra Trail) and Transgrancanaria this year.
My best performance is still to come. I don’t feel ever I’ve had a great performance!
I’ve had too many worst performances to think about. There have been some crackers where I really got dehydrated! I have learned my lesson and actually run with liquids for most events now, even shorter ones.
My running philosophy? It’s not meant to be easy! I like to challenge myself and running ultras really is an ideal way to do this.
I don’t do any structured brain training or mental preparation. But it is something I need to to work on. I do try and remind myself that low points are temporary.
I like to be in bright clothes and love colour! If I can coordinate my outfit even better. I love my merino wool Rapha arm sleeves and my Montane mittens. I suffer from Raynauds Phenomenon and wear gloves all year round. I also have an addiction to bright sunglasses and am loving Nomad at moment, they are made from recycled plastic so I justify buying them as generally I’m trying not to buy so much and instead use all the stuff I already have. I have a complete addiction to trainers though and can’t help myself!
I have been using Trinny London products and love the tinted moisturiser, foundation, and blush. The tinted moisturiser has a very high SPF which is great. I also love Benefit bronzer and concealer. I am always on the lookout for that perfect mascara and I’m loving an Eyeko one at the moment. They have mini sizes that are idea for my adventures! I love facial oils and balms as I have very dry skin. I use products by an Edinburgh based company called Bare Beauty Botanicals which are amazing and make such a difference.
I have had a whole range of bad injuries. Four stress fractures in my pelvis and calcaneal bones, torn hamstrings, severe high hamstring tendinopathy, broken ribs (multiple times), calf strains. I would say that mentally I have managed them very badly and now I manage myself better to avoid injury in the first instance.
I am a member of a gym where I do strength classes twice a week. I also do a lot of Pilates. This has helped me hugely with injuries.
I don’t think there is any one person who influences me. Generally, my running pals like Sophie Mullins, Rachel Normand, Alex Coakley… they all influence me!
I am 40 this year so I’m aiming to do 40 events! Most just for fun with the Lakeland 100 mile race the key target this year. I want to generally increase my distance and get used to running longer distances! I basically want to have a lot of fun this year after the last two years so that’s my main goal. The events overall will vary a lot; canicross with Turbo, mountain biking and orienteering with my friend Kat...100m on the track...all the way up to 100 miles! I will also do a mini triathlon!