Meet the runner - Claire McErlean
Claire is a rainbow in a rain storm, sunshine on a cloudy day, a breath of fresh air. I'm lucky to have her as one of my cheerleaders in life. We both can talk the hind leg off a donkey so runs are filled with chatter about everything from leopard print to world politics. It was such a pleasure to ask her some questions about her running and life.
I am a SEN (Special Educational Needs) Primary School Teacher and have been teaching for ten years but have worked in education for fifteen. I absolutely love my job and the opportunity to be creative. I run for Southampton Athletics Club and my husband Dan sets my training. When not running or working I can often be found perusing the charity shops of Portswood in Southampton. I love vintage clothing, sparkly shoes, upcycling, sewing and crafting. I am also an amateur photographer. Before I did my PGCE (teacher training) I did documentary photography as part of my degree. I enjoy photos a lot (that could be a whole other blog!), podcasts and books.
I started running about 7 years ago. I am not entirely sure how! Dan, my husband ran, I did a parkrun and that was it really. I also realised how good running was for balance and general fitness and I got hooked.
Before lockdown I took part in the Hampshire Cross Country Championships in January. I hate cross country as I am so clumsy! But I took at as good hard strength training, no pressure and I actually enjoyed it! Apart from that, I raced at the Chichester 10K. This was a good race for me, it was blustery but fun. I was in a good marathon training block and I really enjoyed this race. My first mile was the same pace as my last and I got a PB. I loved running around Goodwood racetrack and I felt able to accelerate in the last kilometre rather than hang on.
On a normal training week, I run 6 days a week including 2 sessions, a double day (2 runs in one day) and a long run. Since moving to a job closer to home I have reintroduced doubles into my training plan, and these seem to be working for me now.
My favourite session involves long repetitions on the track- trying to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The feeling you get when you finish is awesome. I also like running in weird weather. I believe these kinds of runs are character building and good for the soul. Twenty-one miles in Storm Dennis was one of my more interesting runs! I’ve also done some excellent vertical swimming at the Southampton sports centre track.
In lockdown I am still running 6 days a week but the pressure of training is off for now. I am thankful to be able to get out for runs and to stay fit. I have been trying to focus on some strength and conditioning at home taking part in some 30-day abs and plank challenges and some YouTube Yoga. Yoga with Adrienne has some great Yoga for runners and some good stretching sessions
My best performance was at the London Marathon in 2016. I ran 3.06.48 and I’m yet to get back there. I felt it was coming this year. I felt physically and mentally strong. After having a year off marathoning I have learnt a lot about what suits me during training- nutrition wise, training wise and rest wise! I’m looking forward to getting back to it when we can but for now, I’m happy running.
Another great race was in 2017 when I ran as part of relay team in the Lakeside Relays (including Hampshire Champs). I was the 2nd leg of the relay team with Jen Elkins and Laura Brenton, two excellent and fast ladies! Jen took the lead. I just remember thinking all the way around you have to keep this lead! I managed to and I was so relieved to pass the baton to Laura. We won! That was a good day.
It wasn’t my worst performance per say but one I will never forget is the Rotterdam Marathon in 2018. I’d been plagued with plantar fasciitis during my training. At one point during the March snow I’d done a 23-mile total double treadmill and the next day I couldn’t put my foot down. I saw a physiotherapist, did daily exercises, had insoles and did all I possibly could to get back to having happy feet. It was intermittent but it was still there. As I stood on the start line, the atmosphere was that of a party, but I knew that my foot still wasn’t right. For about 9 miles I was on pace. Then at mile 10 my foot blew, and I thought ‘okay I might still PB’. But as the race went on, I had to revert to plan C. Just finish. The last few miles I felt like I was running over plugs. I remember seeing spectators drinking beers and dancing with ghetto blasters in the park. It took a lot to keep going but I crossed the line in tears. 3.16.48. I had to admit I was injured, and it was time for some rest and rehab.
My favourite kit is invariably patterned. Preferably leopard print- the louder the better. On a serious note probably my trusty Garmin watch. And my sunglasses.
Photo: Paul Hammond
I loved reading Once a Runner by John. L Parker Jr. Before a marathon I like to read a sporting autobiography and I really enjoyed Chrissie Wellington’s book and Paula Radcliffe’s too.
I’ve lost my mojo, absolutely, especially after Rotterdam and now if it happens, I try not to ruminate on it. I think you can do a lot of overthinking when actually it’s better to just file it under B and crack on. I have become a lot better at putting less pressure on myself. It works! This last round of training was the best yet. I was resting properly, fuelling properly, running well and if a session didn’t go to plan, I wasn’t stressing about it too much. I have also realised how much stress can impact on training, so I try to be more relaxed.
I have been vegetarian since I was ten. I eat mainly plant based and now understand the power of protein and good nutrition after a run for recovery. My favourite post run instant snack is a frozen date with peanut butter inside sprinkled with salt! I love pre-race porridge (carrot, spices, fruit and nuts or mincemeat are my favourite additions!), eat a lot of peanut butter and marmite and drink a lot of water. I take Iron, Vitamin C, Zinc and B12 every morning and I swear by the immunity boosting echinacea tea. That’s my morning cuppa. I also love a pint of Guinness.
My running philosophy varies! During a marathon I think of the Guinness I’m going to have at the end.Before a marathon I had planned to employ ‘Ask the marathon’, a technique employed by the comedian Paul Tomlinson in his book 26.2 miles to happiness. Basically, you personify the marathon and ask if something is a good idea. For example, ‘I want to stay out late and have an extra Guinness’, so I’d ask the marathon if it’s a good idea. The answer is usually no to that one! In our house you have 24hrs to ruminate on something and debrief if you’ve had a bad race. Then that’s it. It’s over and you crack on.
You can find Claire @attention.reinvention where you can look at her beautiful preloved clothing and Friday Shoes.