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Spotlight on... Esther Hardie

Where do you like to run and have you run anywhere particularly memorable?

Any new and pretty run is good with me. Bucklers Hard, Lyndhurst to Brockenhurst, out at Dibden – all places that you don’t do daily from the front door. I get very bored very quickly of the same old routes. The best place I have ever run and the most beautiful and memorable place still to me is the Derwent Valley Dams in Sheffield. You could be in the Pyrannies it is that beautiful. It took my breath away then and probably would now. You know the time of place where it just stopes you in your tracks and you feel like you have really made it? Also some great spots in North Yorkshire, but the Dams remains my favourite. I’m hoping to go again in July, will bore you with pics.

Do you have any pre-race routines or rituals?

Get anxious. Subsequently get drunk. Start the race feeling so awful about yourself and everything that you have to prove to everyone you are not a gigantic loser and run it the hardest you possibly can because failure will result in the world being right and you being an irresponsible twit. That’s one option. You might not want to print it but has been genuinely true of most races. Otherwise – eat an early dinner so when you wake up you feel light. Drink lots of water, get an early night and just know that you are going to do it and going to do it well. Have everything prepared – drinks, tops, sat nav set etc. Tell yourself you are going to smash it. (I’ve done this one once. Edinburgh. It worked). Set yourself things to think about when it starts to crunch – the happiest time of your life, feelings of great euphoria, and also have a mental list of people in your head that you pretend are at the finish line that you are running this for. To make them proud. And also – think of that one time when someone told you you couldn’t do it. Or shouldn’t do it. Or predicted a time way lower than what you think you can do. And run it to smash them out the park

How often do you train and what kind of sessions do you do outside of the club?

I like to get out at least 4 times a week, hopefully 2 of those with club. Lately though, I have been training for the Edinburgh Marathon, so it has been long runs and short tempo runs. I have been running to Brockenhurst and back through the forest and that is lovely, a run I really enjoy. It’s pretty, with mixed ground and terrain. For faster, tempo runs I go flat and short, Lyndhurst to Ashurst and back aiming for 7.15 min miling. For me, it’s all about finding new runs, in new places – the beach with sea wind, somewhere hilly if your last few runs have been flat. Running somewhere with a purpose helps to – I will run to the horse, or run to an ice cream van (history repeats ;)). I think running with new people also helps, as it forces you along. I have become much more complacent lately, when I was single and lived alone I was much stricter with my regime and got out much more often – I would really give myself a hard time if I hadn’t gone out almost every day, and would get up at 5 am if need be. If I was still like that now, I wonder where I could be, but honestly – having Anthony, the boys, the horse… I have tended to work around these things now, rather than make them work around my running.

Tell us a bit about your running history

I started running cross country in secondary school. I don’t actually remember being any good, but I remember the PE department bribing me to take part in County Championships and bigger runs against other schools so I must have been one of the better ones. They would buy me iced buns for a week for every run that I said I would take part it. I remember coming 7th out of 90 once aged about 12. Other than that, I had no concept of whether I was good or bad. I just knew I hated running but loved iced buns.


I got into horses, then I got into a very, very wild lifestyle (to quote Tiny Tempah). I ran on and off, but running only started again consistently when I moved to Sheffield in 2008. I was in a new city, with only a handful of friends, I had given up drinking, was eating healthy and it all sort of clicked into place. At that point though, and for many years thereafter, I never ran with a watch, never ran for time, never ran competitively and combined it with the gym and swimming. Distance was really the only thing I was aware of – should I do a quick 5 miles or long 11. I had only run competitively once as an adult in 2004 – the Great South. I was even aware of Park Runs but never bothered to go, running was just something I did, by myself, to kill time and allow for my consumption of Haribo. I also realised the older I got, that it did a lot for me mentally. Good stress reliever and a good time out from my busy (yet mostly unproductive) brain.

When and how did you come to join Totton Running Club?

I moved back to Southampton January 2015 from Middlesbrough, and after 6 years living up north. I grew up on the same street as Diana Davis, the club Secretary. She saw I had moved back down and contacted me to see if I was interested in joining TRC. I was working all over the country at the time, often only home for a couple of days a week, so kept stalling as thought it would be like a gym, where you had to attend at least a few times a week and pay a fee. I was also in a new home again, starting from scratch, which she may have known as she persisted and encouraged me to come for a run to see what it was like.

What is your running highlight or best achievement so far?

That has easily, and most surprisingly, got to be Edinburgh Marathon. I mean, can you BELIEVE IT???? Enough of people at club know me well enough to know by now that I spent most of April moving house and celebrating moving house, buying a horse – and celebrating buying a horse, most of May celebrating my birthday…I was absolutely in no fit shape to run that race. I dropped my training, drank like a fish, lived on kebabs – my best friend who is a 2.53 marathoner told me to drop out. In fact, asked me to call him immediately when I had finished when I said I wouldn’t  – I now know because he thought I wouldn’t make it. His words “at best I thought you’d burn out, at worst I expected you to be ambo’d out of there (ambulance)”. It all just came together. Mindset and true grit can be everything in a race.

Do you have any future running goals?

I have managed to get into the London Marathon as good for age. I felt insanely guilty – watching all the effort and fundraising people do to get in and simply because you get a good time somewhere else you get in first shot for a few quid. Not sure that system is quite right but hey… let’s see if I can do as well on a hillier course! Maybe I won’t live my life like an 18-30s holiday in the run up to this one and take my training much more seriously… OOOH! And I’m signed up for my first triathlon in July! Which is good because I actually LIKE swimming and cycling…

What's the most valuable piece of running advice you've ever been given?

Controversially, to go back to running trainers with no support. Start from scratch. That the different types of support and trainer are all gimmicks of a multimillion pound industry and can do more damage than good. I had been running injured for months and bought 3 pairs of trainers in as much time. I went back to a cheap pair of no support Nikes and in months things had settled down again. I haven’t gone back to support since. I was once told that tempo runs are the bread and butter of all training…I reckon that could be good advice but I haven’t consistently stuck to it or monitored it, though I always keep a speed session in every week – even when training for distance..

Which other club members do you most admire?

I would like to say I admire everyone that for one reason or another struggles with running yet still gets their trainers on and comes out every week. I really think it’s commendable. We all have a personal battle - we all have days when we feel too fat, too tired, the kids have been hectic – it’s so easy to just start buying into those excuses and I really admire everyone that despite those arguments, gets on and does it.

Secondly, I have to say at the moment Lara Bull. It has been a joy to watch someone have the courage to leave group 2 and move up to group 1. As a result, she has flourished. I think it is all too easy to get comfy in your ‘group’ and forget that really, run club could be a journey of progression, despite your fears and possible failings. She had all the same fears I would – ‘I’ll be the slowest’, ‘I’ll hold people back’ but she came up anyway and as far as I can see has never looked back. I admire that and wish that more strong group 2 runners would move on, same for the other groups also. Break out that comfort zone – you have a tonne of people supporting you!

What keeps you out of trouble Mon - Fri?

Hmmm, I wouldn’t say anything has ever managed to keep me out of trouble but Anthony and his boys have helped. I have a ready made family now, which has been a new and genuinely wonderful experience. Also Henry the horse keeps me grounded but it’s running that burns off a lot of my excess energy which helps!.

Do you have any running experiences you'd care to forget?

Typically, any run when my lungs have been bad and I haven’t quite realised or accepted it yet! Just before Christmas was bad and a recent RR10 was also quite bad – you know it’s bad when you feel like you are going to die at the first mile. It’s normally running that tells me how well I am, when bad, my time just starts to drop and drop and drop. You struggle to keep up with people you can normally beat. Just before Christmas Anthony was having to stop and wait for me on little 3 mile trots round the block ;). I dropped down to group 2 and struggled to keep up with them. It was the 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 session round Calmore Industrial Estate and I remember being thankful it was dark as I was nearly in tears. It was hilarious really, people could tell so kept making jokey comments like “what are you doing back here?!” – which really cheered me up, but it was also then I knew it wasn’t just in my head, the club could even see how poorly I was running so it was time to get checked out at the hospital. The one good thing was that Anthony had his moment of being better than me. Everyone needs their 5 minutes, eh (he’s gonna kill me).

You are living with Cystic Fibrosis, how does that affect your training?

I am lucky in that I have CF mildly. It is only when I get bugs in my lungs that things start to drop and it affects my running first and foremost. Otherwise, it doesn’t. Maybe as a result of my CF I am very determined. Almost to a dysfunctional level. I won’t quit and I won’t stop; I genuinely believe, and always have, that I am capable of doing what anyone else can. The CF clinic told me marathons weren’t really a good idea as it depletes the immune system and mine is already shot, but I have signed myself up for London – if I can do Edinburgh, I don’t see it being a problem! Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You get one shot at it and I intend to achieve as much as possible. Plus, running is actually the only thing that keeps me mildly on the straight and narrow!! Funny, I have always run because I like my food and drink, I never once thought about the wonders it did for my lungs until lately.

What is more satisfying - racing or training?

For me, racing. Definitely. I dread it – which is why it is so rewarding. I am quite competitive and something happens to me on race days. No matter how poorly I have trained, how bad I feel, how injured I am, I am often able to pull something out the bag on race days – it’s like I become a different person. And it surprises me every time. Yet I can sabotage a perfectly good training run by listening to all the nonsense in my head. “You’re tired, it’s raining, you should rest, you’re injured….” On race days, there is no time for that rubbish. You just have to crack on.

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