Vee Uye is a friend of mine who inspires me greatly. She’s like a superhero. She is a prolific runner, she’s totally knowledgeable and passionate about running. She motivated me to get into running, which changed my life.
I asked her to answer a few questions to get people psyched for the Great Run (the much loved Manchester 10K) happening this Sunday, and to also offer some advice to people who might be new to running.
She’s a physiotherapist, she’s just completed her Level 3 Sports Massage qualification and soon she will start a Masters in Running Biomechanics!
How did you get into running?
I was never particularly good at sports as a kid. By the time I hit adolescence, I’d completely lost interest. Fast forward to university and I was living a very unhealthy life. I wasn’t active, I was overweight, I drank, I smoked. I remember catching sight of myself one day and thinking, ‘how have I got to this?’.
I headed to the nearest newsagents and picked up a fitness magazine. It contained a running plan it it for absolute beginners. I figured that running was the cheapest activity I could get into to try and lose weight.
I started the plan. The plan nearly finished me! I was running for 1 minute and walking for 3 mins and I thought I was going to die!! But I stuck to it and started running further and further. But the end of the plan I could run for 5k straight so I found a plan that took me from 5k to 10k. I started to legitimately love running and the mental and physical benefits it gave me. I entered the Great Manchester Run for the first time and absolutely loved the vibe. It was like I’d found my people! Since then I’ve run loads of races from 5k to marathon distance. It’s safe to say that running is now a massive part of my life. It inspired me to retrain as a physiotherapist, and in September I’ll be starting a postgraduate degree looking at how running biomechanics relate to injury.
Out of all the races and marathons you’ve done, which is the most memorable so far?
Tough one. I think that has to be the Brighton Marathon in 2014. I ran with my best mate the entire way round. He is a much better runner than me but hadn’t really trained that well for the distance so we ran the same pace. We’ve known each other since we were teenagers and we had similarly difficult starts to life, which translated into us both being a bit too into partying for such young people. So to run the marathon with him, as healthy adults, meant something really special. During the race, there were times when I struggled and he kept my motivation up. Then, he would start to flag, and I’d chat to keep his spirits up. We crossed the line hand in hand. I’ll always remember that.
What are the 3 most interesting insights you’ve learned in all your years of running?
First off, running is excellent therapy. It is meditative and mindful. You can think about absolutely nothing whilst running, or you can work through problems in your head. You can run on your own for some ‘me time’, or you can get out with a group and chat it out. My partner Lucy knows when I haven’t been running much and will practically order me out of the door as it affects my mood that much. Sometimes, when you are feeling low, lacing your trainers up is the last thing you want to do. But that is your cloud talking. If you get yourself out of the door, 9 times out of 10 you come back feeling better than when you left.
The second thing I have learnt is that no one cares! What I mean is that I used to be really paranoid I’d be called out for not being a proper runner. Or laughed at in the street when I was doing my 1 minute wheeze/cough/splutter running. Runners come in all shapes and sizes. I realised that the only person judging my speed, size, or technique was me. No one else cared! They were all busy with their own lives. You are highly unlikely to be last in a race, if you enter one, and even if you are, no one will care! Run because you want to. That’s what counts. That’s what people admire.
Lastly, you can’t just run. This took a while to sink in for me, but it is really important that you are also strong. The forces you will subject your body to whilst running are pretty big. Modern sedentary life has robbed us a bit of our natural capacity to absorb these forces so we need to counteract that by cross training. I’d recommend doing something resistance based at least twice a week. Yoga, or bodyweight exercises, or using the machines in the gym, whatever you enjoy. The bonus is that not only will you reduce your risk of developing a running related injury, but you can carry the many benefits of strength training into other areas of your life.
Which other runners, if any, inspire you?
If I had said Yuki Kawauchi a few weeks ago, you probably wouldn’t have known who I meant but he’s big news at the moment after winning the Boston Marathon. The reason he is a big deal is because until this prestigious win, he worked a full-time job, and raced multiple marathons each year as an amateur. He always, always pushes himself to the absolute limit. ‘Zip up your Yuki suit’ is a saying popularised by a podcast called Marathon Talk. It basically means stop complaining and get it done! Such is the character of Kawauchi. I try to zip my Yuki suit up when I’m in the middle of a tough session or race.
Photo by Kyle Hightower
I also admire Paula Radcliffe. Mary Keitany tried to break Paula’s 2003 marathon world record of 02:15:25 in London this year and in failing to do so, she reminded us of just how spectacular an achievement that record is. It’s stood for 15 years and looks like it will stand for a little longer too. Photo from Getty Images
The other runner I have to mention is Eliud Kipchoge. This guy IS running. He is poetry in motion. Super humble, monastic in his approach to training, totally zen. I recommend checking out Nike’s Breaking 2 documentary for an insight into, I believe, the greatest marathon runner of all time.
Photo by Matthias Hangst / Getty Images
What sort of things do you eat the day before a 10K Run?
I think people can get a bit hung up on what to eat before races. There’s a big emphasis on stuffing yourself full of pasta and taking sports gels. Personally, I think you don’t need to. Eat healthy, well balanced, meals the day prior to the race. Your body will have more than enough fuel to get you through. There’s no need to load up on gels or anything like that. I wouldn’t eat anything unfamiliar as it is likely to upset your stomach and that’s the last thing you want while running. You also need to make sure you eat breakfast at least 2 hours before the race. I check the start time of my wave and work back from there. If I get peckish after that, I might have half a banana.
How do you motivate yourself to train throughout the week?
Motivation is a finite resource. I can’t always count on being motivated to get me out of the door, especially when it’s raining, or I’m busy, or stressed. The way I manage this is by making it difficult not to go on a run. For instance, if I know that I have limited time in the morning, I get everything ready the night before so I just have to roll out of bed and into my running gear. Or I might plan to run to work, turning a session into a commute. If I feel that my mood might be getting low, I’ll arrange to run with friends, or with my club. That’s usually enough to ensure I get out as I don’t want to let people down. The bottom line is, it isn’t always a beautiful day, your mind isn’t always in the right place, and time isn’t always on your side. But with a bit of pre-planning, you can usually make it work.
What’s your favourite piece of music to run to at the moment?
Controversially, I tend not to listen to music whilst running. I know some people can’t run without tunes but if I listen to anything, I tend to listen to a lot of podcasts related to running and fitness. I do this for a few reasons. The first one comes back to making runs work for me. I’ve got limited time and it’s a way of maximising my day by learning. The second reason is that I find my feet locking to the tempo of songs I’m listening to. I like to keep my cadence above 175 steps per minute and music that matches that tempo…is usually not what I want to be listening to in the morning! The final reason is that I like to train my mind as well as my body. The marathon is my main distance and to run 26.2 miles, you need to be comfortable in your own head. More often than not, I’ll take my headphones out and just let my mind wander.
What advice would you give to runners doing their first Great Run experience this Sunday?
Enjoy it! It’s probably the best supported 10k you will ever do so soak it up. Also, pace yourself. When you cross the start line, your adrenaline will be pumping and everyone around you will take off like a rocket. Try to remember your training. You aren’t going to be able to magically run 2-3 minutes per mile quicker on race day than you could the day before so stick to your pace and if you have something left in the tank at the end, you can put your foot down then. It’s not easy, everyone gets pulled a bit faster by the occasion and the atmosphere, but try to resist the urge to set a world record. It will only end in tears!
What would you say to someone who is interested in getting into running, but not sure where to start?
The best advice I can give is to start a structured running plan for beginners. Something like the Couch to 5k. Or send a message to running clubs in your area to see if they have any beginners sessions. Both Chorlton Runners and Manchester Frontrunners offer beginner sessions periodically so find out when their next programs begin. The benefit of starting a structured plan is that it will help you gradually increase the time/distance you are running for. One of the biggest risk factors for developing injuries is doing too much too soon, and as an inexperienced runner, it might not be clear how to gauge how much is too much. If you are considering taking up running, go for it! I never looked back. I wish you the same joy and peace of mind running brings to me.
Thank you Vee! Keep up the excellent work, and good luck with your upcoming Masters!
ALL THE BEST TO ALL RUNNERS THIS SUNDAY! 💚