Welcome to our newest Runner Profile feature on Sarah Semmens! Sarah is a straight-talking, fiercely competitive runner who thinks about space ships, dragons and leopards whilst running. Hold on to your hats for an honest and straight-up interview!
Hi, I’m Sarah. I’ve been running “properly” – more than the occasional mile or two jog – for a couple of years.
When (and how) did you get into running?
I ran a little when in my early twenties and I’ve always kept as fit as I’ve been able to around health issues, but that’s largely been swimming and gym use.
A couple of years ago I started running outside a little and a friend persuaded me to go to parkrun; I’d seen them setting up and tootled past at the end of my Saturday morning runs which were becoming a regular thing. I had a go and surprised myself by running 23:03 and finishing 10th lady. It had never occurred to me until that point that I could be anything other than terrible at any organised sport. Once that thought took hold, my competitiveness kicked in.
What running shoes are you currently using?
For road running, On Cloudflow. They’re boingy and light.
What is your favourite distance and why?
Difficult question, I’m not sure I have one. My best performances have probably been over 10k, which I generally hate but occasionally decide to bloody kill myself for. I think the races I’ve enjoyed the most have been around the 10 mile mark.
What event(s) would you really like to participate in and why?
There isn’t a single event that I aspire too, although I’m planning on running my first marathon next year.
All the best for that Sarah! What is your most memorable race/event and why?
Again, no single event stands out. I think the events I’ve enjoyed the most have probably been the ones where I’ve performed a lot better than I expected, or the ones where I’ve had a close battle with another runner, but there’s no one that’s more memorable than the others. I have had a couple I’d like to forget about, mind you.
Haven’t we all! What do you love/like about running?
There are a lot of things I love about running. I love the feeling of being in control of my body when I’m running well, just eating up miles and enjoying my surroundings. I love the adrenalin associated with racing. I love the challenge of improving. I love the competitiveness. I love the times when I can see I’ve done well, improved. I love the science behind running, the mechanics. I love the tired achiness that comes the day after training hard. I love the freedom of being able to just put my trainers on, forget about all the stresses associated with daily life, and go. I love the friends I’ve made through running. I love winning stuff!
What a fantastic answer Sarah! OK, what frustrates you about running?
- Injury and underperformance for no bloody good reason.
- Blokes who think it’s OK to cat call and harass; it’s not, and while I would never let on and deal with or ignore it fairly well, when I’m on my own particularly at night it’s bloody scary.
What motivates you to run?
I basically enjoy most of my runs, even the ones that hurt. Running is my freedom from daily life and I don’t feel like I need motivation for that. I think it’s more accurate to say that the thought of running is what motivates me to get through the other things in the day.
Do you have days/times when you just don’t want to run?
Rarely. Sometimes I don’t want to run hard, but even when I don’t want to run hard, I still usually want to run.
How do you fit running into your life?
Fitting in running itself isn’t too hard for me if I accept I may be doing it with little or no sleep. With two young children who both have a lot of problems, fitting in the events and training sessions with others that I want to do is harder. Fortunately my husband has come round to the idea of my running and is very supportive.
What do you think needs to happen to make running more accessible for people?
Running is pretty damn accessible.
When you’re running, what is going on in your head?
I’m not sure anyone really wants to know what’s going on in my head a lot of the time!
I day dream, largely. I run in a fantasy world with leopards, dragons, space ships, and much more. When I’m running really hard, mental arithmetic. Multiplication, division, converting km to miles and back. When I’ve not got enough oxygen to the brain to do that I move on to nursery rhymes. When I can’t remember those I just swear to myself.
Other days I’m largely thinking about food. Chocolate and pie are definitely up there on the list.
Do you wear headphones whilst running or not? What is your reasoning for your response?
Only if I’m running on a treadmill. I like to be aware of my surroundings. I do, however, frequently sing.
Who inspires you and why? (Running or otherwise)
No one person in particular, but I meet many runners who I admire hugely for different reasons, which I guess is inspiring in itself. I admire people who can just push themselves to carry on when every fibre in their body is screaming at them to stop. I admire people who are committed to learning and improving; I admire people who are worried about being last but turn up and run anyway; I admire the people who are far more talented than I’ll ever be and love watching truly gifted runners doing their thing. I admire the lady in the park who runs despite the little scrotes who try to harass and humiliate her because of her weight. I admire the people who always turn up to help out and give up a lot of their time. Running has let me meet so many fantastic people who I wouldn’t have met otherwise that I couldn’t possibly pick one who has inspired me more than the others, even though there are a couple who’ve helped me hugely and to whom I’m very grateful.
What other blogs/articles/books/media do you recommend to others and for what reasons?
Most of my blog and reading interests are not related to running.
What are your ‘go-to’ running brands and why?
Shoes used to be Brooks, then I got some Ons for my birthday. An expensive habit but I absolutely love the bloody things!
What is your funniest moment associated with running?
My life seems to be a comedy of errors some days and there are far too many at my own expense to choose from, so let’s go for one at someone else’s expense instead:
Explaining to the utterly-knackered, about-to-collapse bloke who was about to wee in the sink in the ladies’ toilets after the Ramathon that he’d got the wrong toilets, and that he wasn’t aiming at a urinal. At first he stared at me blankly, then the penny started to drop. I firmly believe he never ran so fast in his life as when making his exit! He then knocked a woman over in his haste to get out the ladies’ toilets. A whole new shade of red was invented right then. Poor bloke!
What is your next running challenge and how are you approaching it?
Cross Country! I want to learn to do hills and off road running as well as nice, flat tarmac. I think it’ll encourage me more towards racing as opposed to chasing PBs on fast flat courses. As I approach all challenges in my life, I shall be massively over-enthusiastic, over-analytical, and bore everyone to death with the details. I’ll bloody do it though.
Oh, and that bloody marathon I signed up for.
There you have it folks! If you’re like me, you’ve just decided you need to go out and run. Now! Great motivating answers from Sarah!
There’ll be another Runner’s Profile dropping next month!