Sportsister hears about Liz Yelling’s marathon training for Beijing, how she handles the pressure of competitions and her thought’s on Beijing’s pollution problems.
Can you tell me about your preparations for Beijing?
I am doing 100 miles a week at the moment in preparation and everything is going really well and I am feeling really motivated and excited.
What exactly does your marathon training involve?
I train twice a day for five days a week and on Sundays I just train once. That’s when I do my longest run, and it can be anywhere between 19 and 26 miles. And then I always have a rest day. I think it’s really important to do this as it helps keep me both mentally and physically fresh for the week’s training ahead.
The rest of the days when I am doing double day training it can vary. Sometimes I will be doing intervals, sometimes hills, 10 k runs or recovery runs. I’m usually doing between 16 and 26 miles a day.
What are your hopes and goals for the Games?
I went to my first games in Athens and that was only my second ever marathon and I finished 25th. Beijing will be my tenth marathon and I feel like I have progressed a lot since the last games. I’m a much stronger athlete and much more experienced now.
I am hoping that the conditions throw up a few variables and make the race a lot less predictable and give me the opportunity to finish high up the field.
So if I can finish in the top 15 I think that would be a pretty good achievement for me.
You aren’t worried about the conditions in Beijing then?
No, I love it! I think the harder the better! I’m going to Florida to help me prepare for the heat and humidity so I know I am going to be mentally and physically ready to deal with the conditions. Everyone has been moaning about the pollution but I think it is going to be the same conditions for everybody out there so it’s an even playing field.
Do you feel the pressure of major competitions?
I actually get really excited, I love it! I find actually qualifying much more nerve-racking, I feel like there is much more pressure. But when you get to the championships it’s all about really soaking up the atmosphere and using that to your advantage, you can really ride that positive wave. There will be nerves of course, because I want to do well, but I just find that I get really excited about competing in such a fantastic event.
What for you are the positive aspects of being involved in sport?
Oh, wow! So many! Obviously there are the health and fitness aspects to sport, you keep slim and fit and feel so energized. But also the psychological benefits are huge.
When I run I feel like I can take on anything that’s thrown at me.
And if I am not able to run, through injury say, I feel like the world really gets on top of me and I don’t deal with things as well. Running helps you deal with day to day issues and it just gives you such a buzz. That feeling you get when you have been out for the day and been exercising – it’s a great kind of high. I think that is the same for any sport you do, not just running.
Have you ever experienced any negativity being a female in the sports world?
No not really, and if I did I think I would use that to my advantage and think ‘Right, I’ll show you!’ I know there are lots of women out there who are very self conscious about taking part in sport and I know it can be a very daunting prospect. But once you take your first steps there is no turning back. You realise that not everyone is looking at you and analysing what you’re doing and that they are all just worrying about themselves. So women should just get out there and take those first steps to being active and it won’t be long till they reap the many rewards.
And who in your opinion are the rising female stars in athletics in the UK?
At these games, I would watch Christine Ohuruogu and Nicola Sanders both in the 400m. They are both really strong athletes. And we have a new distance runner Kate Reed who will be running in the 10,000m, she’s a great new talent that’s coming through in endurance sport.
What affect do you think London hosting the Olympics in 2012 will have on our country’s athletes?
I hope it really injects sport back into our lives and I hope we become a sporting nation again. I think that we have started to drag our heels over the last decade or so and sport hasn’t been a priority.
Now I think people are really starting to realise the benefits of sport and that it can create a really positive culture rather than a depressed one.
I think we can solve so many of the illnesses that have started to creep in with growing obesity and sedentary lifestyles and the problems they create. So if we can combat those then I think we will have a much happier and healthier nation.
If you weren’t competing in athletics, what sport do you think you would have done?
I think when I am in life after running I would love to have a go at skiing because it has been one of those forbidden sports to me. But I am quite accident prone so I think I will leave that one till after my running career!
Who are your biggest inspirations in sport?
Kelly Holmes because I spent so much time with her in the lead up to her double gold win in Athens. Watching her prepare and seeing how focused she was but still very relaxed and able to have fun. Being able to share that part of that journey with her was pretty inspiring.
Do you follow a particular diet or nutrition plan?
Because I am such an experienced athlete, I have been running for over 23 years now, I have obviously spoken to nutritionists in the past. But now I just really do my own research and map what I am eating and why I am eating things and how the food that I eat can affect my body.
I look at how it helps me prepare and what energises me and what helps me recover. I have had to educate myself really, and I think if you take responsibility for everything that you do; only you can ensure it is right for you and you can’t be blaming anyone else then if things go wrong.
What would be a typical meal before a race?
Before a marathon it is particularly important to fuel up on lots of carbohydrates, like pasta and rice; quite simple foods are typical before a marathon. You need to get the glycogen into your muscles which is then going to be your energy source for the day and also low GI foods which can sustain your energy for a long time like sweet potatoes and porridge oats. And don’t eat anything too spicy as you don’t want to upset your stomach. So it’s just about getting the energy in and eating healthy too.
Louise Hudson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
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