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Meet the runner - Hannah Willson

I have a few memories of Hannah that make me laugh. One is her vomiting at the end of the finishing corral at a cross-country race. She explained she’d had a large and delicious brunch (kedgeree!) but perhaps too close to the race. She was sad about the wasted food! Another memory is her turning up, cool as a cucumber, 30 seconds before the start of another cross-country race, not remotely phased by the team manager’s panic about having enough counters.

Hannah always seems totally unflappable. I’ve always admired her positive attitude to running, racing and life. She has two jobs, working in Alan Whitehead MP's constituency office in Southampton and representing Shirley ward as a councillor at Southampton City Council. 



I run for Southampton Athletic Club and train at the University of Southampton's Wide Lane sports fields.  Ian Richardson from Southampton AC sets our sessions but isn't a formal coach.

I got into running by accident! I went to the pub with some mates when I was at university and my friend asked if I wanted to go running with her the next day.  I'd almost forgotten about it (I'd had a few drinks!), but she turned up on my doorstep the following day and I think I ran and walked in some office trousers, as I didn't have any kit!

My last race before lockdown was the National Cross-Country championships in Nottingham.  I also did a very muddy Itchen Valley Country Park Parkrun after that too.

I do intervals, hills or fartlek training on Tuesday and Thursday with my training group but if I've got an evening work meeting, I'll do the session by myself in the morning instead.  I sometimes do a parkrun on a Saturday and normally do a long run on a Sunday. I feel like I've really achieved something after interval training with my training group and I love long runs, when I find a good off-road route in the countryside. 

At the moment (mid coronavirus lockdown) I miss running with mates and racing. I am lucky that my husband, Nick, is also a runner, and we do training sessions and long runs together.  The Southampton AC challenges for charity during lockdown have definitely helped to keep me focused on my running (we’ve done a virtual 5k and a Land's End - John o' Groats virtual relay). 

My best ever performance was coming 11th in the senior category at the Grizzly in 2009. (The Grizzly describes itself as twentyish muddy, hilly, boggy, beachy miles).

I had a bad race at the National Cross-Country this year, where I went a bit too hard on one of the hills and then had a bad stitch for the last mile of the race!  I need to be careful with pacing, especially on hills.




My favourite bit of kit used to be Saucony Grizzly off-road trainers, but they don't make them anymore!  My current favourite bit of kit is a really grippy headband, as I hate hair getting in my face!

I loved reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run.

I found it hard to regain my running mojo after returning from a long bout of sciatica. Getting back to training with my group, even though I was pretty slow and unfit, helped give me focus.

When I've been marathon training in the past, I've had to eat 4 meals a day to get enough energy.  I try to limit meat to 2-3 times a week and love Georgina Fuggle’s Take One Veg cookbook.

Running has massively helped my mental health; it gives me healthy goals and a lot of important friendships.

I love watching all athletics, triathlon, cycling, gymnastics, climbing, ski and snowboard cross and biathlon. 

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