30 Nov

Windsor's Winning Model

Nell McAndrewrunABC spoke to model, runner and mum Nell McAndrew to find out more about what makes this race-winner tick…

When did you first start running, and why?
Despite being a regular treadmill runner at the gym for years, in 2004 I decided to do the London Marathon and that is when I started running properly. I didn’t want to let anyone down (charity, sponsors, myself) and realised I needed to think carefully about how I was training and take advice. A friend, Ali, persuaded me to go to Thames Valley Harriers with her and although I was extremely nervous at the thought, I did. It was the start of my running journey.

Tell me about that first club experience?
It was so daunting, I remember turning up in my cotton joggers and trainers and thinking that everyone was judging me. They were ‘real’ runners. But of course I was wrong – the members were all friendly and kind and helped enormously with my training.

And London – how did it go?
I can remember finishing and saying to myself, ‘never again’! But a few weeks later I thought actually I do want to do again, and faster! I have now done the race five times and the last time I took part in 2012 I felt great, ran a PB and didn’t even get a blister.

So London 2012 was your ‘Olympic year’?
You could say that, throughout the race I thought, ‘this is what it feels like when you do the extra mileage and put the effort in’. It all clicked into place and I felt strong. Combined with the amazing atmosphere, it made for a memorable day.

How do you find time to train?
I haven’t been doing any major training since 2012 but I do still like (need) to get out for a run as often as possible. With two young kids (Devon, 9 and Anya, 2) it can be incredibly hard to find the time, but I have found that a running buggy is a great way to cram those miles in!

Is there any time to cross train?
I joined British Military Fitness when Anya was old enough for me to leave her. And it has proved to be my saviour. Every Saturday I can stop thinking, step off the mummy treadmill and get stuck in with other like-minded people. I am also getting into weight training at the moment – in an attempt to correct my posture and strengthen my core – both of which have suffered since becoming a mum. I am training once a week with ex Harlequins rugby player Mel Deane and it has been great to learn new ways to train my body and also to admit my weaknesses.

What is it you love about running?
When I was modelling it was all very much about appearance. I love that with running it’s not about being perfect – it is about trying your best.

I am chasing my parkrun PB at the moment. In 2012 I clocked 18.43 and I am currently at about 19 ‘something’. I’ll keep plugging away, it’s not going to happen overnight. But when it does I will feel that I am really back on it!

What’s your favourite distance?
Much as I love the marathon, for me it is all about 10K at the moment. It doesn’t eat up too much of your day and training is manageable when you have family commitments.

Would winning the Women’s Windsor 10K recently have anything to do with this?
Haha! It was an amazing day. It was the first time I had done the race and I was surprised how hilly it was. So I was even more surprised that I ran such a good time! I remember it felt like I was chasing the end forever, my mind was sprinting and my legs were trying to keep up. I was following the lead car throughout the race and thought to myself, ‘this is what it feels like to be Paula Radcliffe’!

Piece of kit you couldn’t do without?
At moment I love my adidas Adizero trainers which are black with bright orange laces. I am also a lover of active wear. I live in it! I try to wear normal clothes but always come back to my running gear. It means I can take off for a run (with the buggy) whenever I feel like it. It also means I don’t have to iron. I’d always rather be running than ironing!

Dream race?
To compete at the Olympics would be my dream.

Dream running buddy?
Haile Gebrselassie. I got to meet him once and he was so lovely and smiley. He makes you smile just looking at him and he also makes running look easy. I would love to tap into his knowledge and experience.

The future?
I feel that the potential for another marathon is all coiled up inside me, but I want to train hard and beat my own time. I have made a promise to myself to do that before I am 50. At the moment I am going to continue with parkrun, 10Ks and BMF and when my daughter goes to school, the real training will commence.

Top training tip?
Don’t over think things. There is so much info out there, online and in books and it can be overwhelming for someone starting out. You just need to get out there and get to know your body.

Top Racing Tip?
No matter what race you do on the last stretch try and overtake as many people as you can! It’s guaranteed to knock a few seconds off your time.