Meet the runner - Naomi Mitchell
Naomi is definitely the athlete of the moment. A few weeks ago she ran a stellar 2.33 at London Marathon and finished 2nd British woman. On the morning of London marathon my Whatsapp was going crazy with the various running groups from Edinburgh, Northern Ireland and Winchester egging her on virtually. Her battle with Natasha Cockram was one of the highlights of the racing. I often see Naomi running at the speed of light round the track or the fields with Winchester on a Tuesday. A few weeks before she ran at London she took almost every Strava segment I had while doing an easy run round Winchester. I expect those segments won't swap hands (or feet!) again for a very long time!
I am 26 and am a chartered accountant from Reading. I have worked full time as an auditor at KPMG for the past seven years; I started working for them straight after school and they sponsored my university degree at Birmingham University. I did six months of working and six months of university for three years, which meant I could participate in some training in Birmingham and some in Reading, but it made it hard to really integrate into one group. I’ve been married for 5 years to Jonnie, who often runs with me and does some cycling too. He’s a hairdresser and so by the end of 2020 will have had about 130 days where he couldn’t work, which, although not great financially, has meant he could join in on a lot more of my training with me!
I am coached by Nick Anderson in Winchester. I travel to see him and the training group every Tuesday evening, which is about an hour away and then otherwise train alone, with Jonnie or with local runners in Reading the rest of the week. I have competed for my hometown, Reading AC, since I was eleven years old and still do despite training in Winchester. When I was at primary school there was a teacher there who ran for Reading Road Runners and used to do assemblies on the Reading Half and London marathon. I was mainly fascinated by the foil blankets she brought in to show us; as a super competitive child I thought , “if this is so hard that you have to be wrapped up like a human burrito at the end, then this is the sport for me.” The same teacher helped me enter a local kids 3km race when I was 10; I won my age category and was hooked ever since. My subsequent baptism of fire into wider competition was at the Aldershot Road relays, where I probably came close to last and realised this was going to be harder than I thought! This was also the year after the Athens 2004 Olympics and Kelly Holmes’ double gold, which was a big inspiration to me.
My favourite distance is the marathon. I love any long training run, either super easy and chilled but also the big sessions with lots of marathon pace built in.
My training weeks vary based on the time of year and races coming up. For example, right now I do hills most Saturdays as I’m building strength. Typically, in the middle of my marathon build a week looks something like:
AM: 60 mins easy run
PM: 60 mins easy run
AM: 45 mins easy + 60 mins S&C
PM: VO2 or threshold session in Winchester
AM: 45 min easy run + basic core or rest
PM: 90ish min easy run
Thursday: Rest day or
AM: 45 min easy run + 60 mins S&C
PM: 45 mins easy run
PM: Long threshold session (e.g 15-16 miles inc 4-5 x 3-5km at MP, or some kind of progression)
AM: 60 mins easy run
PM: 45 mins easy run + light core
AM: Long run (either all easy or with up to 60% at MP in blocks) - Total 20-23 miles
My training has changed over the years. I did my first marathon in 2016 and generally did a Tuesday and Thursday session, one easy run on Monday and Wednesday (about 45 mins) and then progressed my long Sunday run each week from 13 miles up to 22 miles. From 2018 I have been doing specific marathon training with a coach (Rob McKim at Reading then Nick at Winchester since May 2019).
I have been doing two weekly sessions of S&C for the last two years and it has made a huge difference to how robust I feel and how quickly I can recover, particularly from MP sessions.
I take a vitamin D in the winter and occasionally a B12 and iron tablet. I usually rely on soymilk or cereal to get my B12 and get enough iron in my diet. I might take them with me on holiday for example if I am not 100% confident on what food will be available locally. I have used Heathspan Elite in the past who do good products but like to focus on eating real food for the nutrients I need, as much as possible.
My ideal pre-race meal is spaghetti with a tiny bit of tomato sauce - not exactly thrilling but keeps my stomach settled. While racing I use Maurten. Their carbohydrate drink was a game changer for me at the London marathon. It took me about three marathons to not throw up caffeine gels but now I am used to them, they work great at about mile 21. I don’t take caffeine during the rest of the race. After racing I want to eat all the vegan things at Yo! Sushi - great to get back in all the salt!! I love finding new running routes near home. I love to be able to leave the town and find myself in the middle of the countryside on any night of the week, particularly if work is stressful.
Running 2:37 for the marathon in Frankfurt was a big highlight for me as I’d felt capable of sub 2:40 for a couple of years but it took continual hard work and coming back from disappointment to get there. Also, obviously 2:33 and second Brit at the 2020 London marathon was a great day; just to get to be a part of the race was so much fun. My breakthrough year has been due to a few things:
- A coach who I can trust to set me training which will challenge me but also allow for adequate recovery; I very rarely feel as though I’m getting overtired in a marathon build.
- Consistency in training over a period of years.
- Regular S&C at Go Perform in Reading, with varying focus throughout the year (strength, mobility, stability, etc).
- Changing my job to work from home allowing for more sleep.
- Fuelling appropriately, eating to hunger and educating myself on nutrition, but not thinking of food as “good” and “bad”, rather all part of a balanced diet. Despite the London marathon course actually being pretty tough, you can’t beat the atmosphere. I also loved taking part in the Night of the 10km PB’s last year.
My best performance was at Frankfurt marathon because I ran completely to feel due to lack of GPS. It gave me lots of confidence not to clock watch, which I have taken into marathon training and racing. I only looked at my watch once (about mile 22) when doing 2:33 at London.
My worst performance was at London marathon when it was super-hot because I went out at sub 2:40 pace and didn’t adjust my expectations based on conditions, so I was doomed to fail.
I just try to remember that I am so blessed to be physically able to run for miles each day and also fortunate to live in a country where I have freedom to go and run where I like, wearing what I like in relative safety. This motivates me to enjoy myself more and complain less!
I love the Nike Next % - controversial maybe, but true. I have a lot of other kit which I love, but what I really love is just being out pounding the pavements.
I’ve only had one major running injury in 15 years which was a tibial stress response two years ago.
I had 12 weeks of physio and rehab and changed my job to allow me to sleep more (I was running super early and late at night around 2-4 hours of commuting to clients); I then started regular S&C and made my easy runs much easier.
I have been most influenced by the people I train with on a weekly basis which is why it’s so important to surround yourself with positive people. I have been lucky at Reading and Winchester to find lots of these people!
Hopefully I’ll be racing at the Olympic trials if they go ahead; I never focus on a target time for a marathon until I’m in the last month of a build (I train by pace “feel” before that so I don’t overcook it or under estimate myself). That being said, I would love to achieve the Olympic Qualifying Time (2:29:30) if everything comes together nicely!
You can follow Naomi @naomi.sarah.mitchell on Instagram