As Covid-19 hits the nation, we are limited in what we can do physically, one activity we can do is go out and run.
However, you may not do it to the intensity of Beth Rainbow, who is an extremely determined ultra-runner.
I caught up with her to talk about the amazing races that she has taken part in, and what goals she has in store.
Have you always been sporty?
Not at all, I used to dance from the age of 2-18 years in ballet, tap and modern but never went for a sports team at school. Always loved the standard PE rounders and netball but never did cross country or anything like that. I don’t regret it though as I don’t think I would still enjoy it as much as I do now!
When did you start running?
After I left school and dance classes stopped, I started to run in the summer for enjoyment and to get out in the sunshine. I immediately fell in love with running and completed my first half marathon in May 2018 and moved straight onto the full marathon in October.
Did you like to run when you were younger or did you catch the so-called ‘bug’?
I definitely caught the bug. Caught it after my first half and the thrill of the achievement. I will never forget running down the railway walk in the last 5 miles. I felt like I couldn’t control my legs and even managed a sprint at the end to finish in 1 hour 45 minute.
How did you start? Was it Parkrun or just a matter of going out on your own?
Started going out on my own. My parents like to run so that influenced me to go out and i just ran further and further each time I went out as I got fitter and faster.
Do you remember your first race – the Jersey Half marathon in May 2018 – how did you find that?
I will never forget it, I signed up with my friend Charlotte and we decided to just go for it. I had no idea what specific training was needed or how to fuel, I don’t even think I ate breakfast before the race (which I would never do now!) and I carried my iphone in my hand. I loved the feeling during the race with other runners around me and the feeling at the finish line was amazing. I looked for other races straight away and signed up for the Trail Monkey El Classico half marathon (a trail race) the following August.
First marathon in the October – how proud were you of doing that?
Wow, that is still one of my biggest achievements to date. I had no idea what I was doing, just signed up and ran as much as I could for training and went for it on the day. Again, I still had no idea about pre-race fueling or using gels during the race. I was doing amazingly considering this lack of knowledge but found out how important all of this was as I hit the avenue and immediately hit the wall. I had no energy or feeling in my legs at all for the last 3 miles and limped to the finish line.
You decided to go into ultra running – tell us more about that?
After the marathon and hitting the wall badly, I took 2 months out to just take it easy and let my body recover. After deciding I needed to build back some muscle, I went back to a Kettlercise class run by Leanne Rive, who is a well known and experienced ultra runner. She was heading to Arundel for a long weekend to run the South Downs as training for her upcoming summer of ultra races and asked if I wanted to come along for some fun. It sounded amazing and I couldn’t turn it down. After a long weekend in the UK running 70 miles in 3 days, I signed up straight away to my first ultra, the Trail Monkey Double Top, a 40 mile trail run on the North Coast. From there I got the ultra bug and loved pushing myself to see how far I could go.
You did 70 miles in Arundel – what was that experience like?
That was an amazing experience, and especially going with Leanne as I learnt so much. She taught me about pacing for an ultra and how to fuel properly to ensure you can go all day. On the Friday we were out for 8 hours and ran 40 miles, the most I had ever run in one day. I could barely walk the next day but we still went out for another 20 miles and a further 10 miles on the Sunday before returning home. The most important thing I took from the weekend with Leanne was that your body can literally do anything you set your mind too. Even though my legs were so stiff and in pain, with the right fuelling and hydration they just kept going and going.
You then did a 40 miler on the north coast in Jersey where you finished as 3rd women – how competitive do you get?
I don’t really get competitive at all, I am very much for running my own race and if that places, that’s great. I just want to go out and have fun and finish the race knowing I couldn’t have given anything more! Finishing 3rd woman that day and finishing strong (nice jump over the finish line) was the best feeling and got me excited for the future races and what I can achieve next time. I am also aware that ultra runners seem to get better with age so I have a lot of time on my side!
You did all around the island next and were the 2nd women to finish! Does adrenaline get you through?
The adrenaline is real! After I would say about 20 miles, everything is a mental game, if you tell yourself you can finish – you will and vice versa. The trick with these ultras is you get out what you put in and that means food – I recently read an article where an ultra runner referred to it as “an eating competition rather than running” and they are absolutely right! Lots of high carb/sugar snacks and you can go on forever!
Disney half marathon – did you dress up!
Of course! For the disney half marathon, my whole family dressed up as the Incredibles and it was one of the best races ever. Thousands of runners all dressed up and running through the park with the amazing support of all of the Disney characters and staff and was amazing! It was my sister’s first half and my parents’ first one in a while and they smashed it, I was super proud of them.
Who has been your inspiration from the professional running world?
All the local runners and community inspire me every day and their determination and love for running makes it so amazing, especially at the moment with all the race cancellations – the running community has never been stronger. For a professional runner, it has to be Courtney Dauwalter, she is incredible and beats a lot of the men in the major ultra races.
Another fun one was Christmas Day parkrun – how good are parkruns for the community!
Got to love the parkruns, they are just so much fun and great for the community with 5km being the perfect distance for beginners and experienced runners looking for a fast PB. I need to get back and do a few more when they are back up and running! They are so well run and have really inspired a lot of people to take up running who might otherwise not have done so.
Talk to us about the pilgrims challenge – 66 miles!
This was my first double day race, 33 miles on the Saturday – sleepover in a school (or my case hotel) – 33 miles the exact way back on the Sunday. This was along the North Downs Way and was an absolute adventure. I basically spent the two days eating jam sandwiches with a bit of running in between haha! The event was again really well organised and the course well marked out. I was equally delighted and surprised to finish 3rd woman in a very strong field.
Is it tough to do it over two days? Is recovery key so muscles are ready for the next day?
Yes it’s super tough to do a double day. As soon as I finished the first day I put myself into recovery mode: lots of sitting down with my feet up for circulation, lots of stretching, recovery fuel and hydration, a good evening meal and early to bed for a good night’s sleep. A lot of runners opted for the leg massage on offer but as I hadn’t really done this before I decided to give it a miss. My recovery worked well and my legs felt great next day and only started to feel heavy and tired in the last 5 miles.
Sahara desert 6 day challenge – what kind of experience would that have been – how gutted are you that it is cancelled due to the corona pandemic!
I was so excited and have dedicated my training for the last 6 months to this one event but of course I understand why it had to be postponed along with every other major race on the running calendar. I will be doing it in the future though 100%! So all of my lightweight equipment and backpack has been put on hold until the event comes around again, probably in 2021 for me.
What kind of training do you do for such events and how hard is it when the training is halted like it has been!
I am very lucky to have an amazing coach, Sarah Place, who helps with my weekly training plan and knows exactly what workouts are best for each goal I have. For the Marathon des sables I was doing up to 60 mile weeks with weighted backpack runs as well as hill repeats to improve my stamina. Not as much speed work, more long, easy endurance runs. When the race was initially postponed I was obviously devastated and felt quite low for a few days but the great thing about running is that it provides an immediate lift to your mood so it only took a few long runs for me to get over the disappointment and to look forward to future events and races.
You’ve done races with your dad too – how special is that?
My dad is the most supportive of my running, and is the best crew for races too. Crews are people at water stations specifically for you and get things you might want at checkpoints ready. He also comes along to all my races in the UK for support which I really love and appreciate.
Did he inspire you to start running or visa Versa?
Both! My mum and dad have always run and inspired me to start running. I did run with them initially on their long weekend runs but very quickly started running by myself at my own pace and distance. My dad has run many marathons before, including the New York marathon which is definitely on my list. We have made a deal that we will do at least one marathon together in the near future!
What future goals do you have? Any races in the pipeline?
At the moment with Marathon des Sables postponed, I am keen to get more speed in my legs and am working with my coach to get a sub 20 min 5km. I also have a place for the Chicago marathon in October which I am hoping to get a PB at. Next year, I hope to complete MDS in April and finally complete my first multi day ultra. I would love to get to America’s west coast for some of the trails out there in Colorado and Utah. But at the moment with everything going on, I am running for myself with no wider goals but to just enjoy myself.
It was great to catch up with Beth, and as someone who is keen on their running myself it was very interesting to hear about her experiences.
Check out Beth’s running blog: bethrainbowrunning.com.