Sky's the limit for Colleen Mukuya after maiden marathon win at Milton Keynes
Run Anglia editor Mark Armstrong talks to Colleen Mukuya about her success at the Milton Keynes Marathon earlier this year and her plans for the future
Some people are born to run.
But whatever level of ability most runners at some stage give it their all in the search for improvement.
Colleen Mukuya only took up running seriously 18 months ago and she has made astonishing progress during that period.
A sporadic runner in her 20s she decided to take it a bit more seriously when she went under 20 minutes at a parkrun. It’s only since she made this decision she has realised just how good a runner she is.
Following a dedicated training programme has seen the 33-year-old’s times continue to tumble at all distances but her victory at the Milton Keynes Marathon in April is undoubtedly her biggest achievement so far.
Anyone who has run a marathon will know the mind games at play when you tackle your first. The most prominent question of all that continually hounds your thoughts is: can my body really handle this?
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Colleen, or Nicole as she is known to her close friends, asked her body that question earlier this year and it came back with a resounding yes.
To tackle your first marathon and go under three hours is some achievement and it’s a testament to the hard work the nurse from Caister has been willing to put in since taking up the sport.
This girl most definitely can.
“I had been training over the winter with a group of men who were all training for London and two of them in the group were looking to go under three hours and I was keeping up with them in training. I just thought ‘if they can do it, why can’t I?’”
Whatever training you do it is normally those last six miles of the 26 (and a bit) that makes or breaks a marathon. How you’ve run those 20 will determine how those final six miles feel.
Colleen admitted to feeling tempted to push it a little bit harder in those early miles but the words of her coach, Robert Chenery, continually bounced around her head.
“Rob said that no matter how good you feel in the first 20 miles do not push it,” she added. “I was tempted a couple of times because my legs felt good but I stuck to his advice luckily.
“The worst I felt was actually in the first few miles when my legs felt really heavy. I really didn’t know what was going on at the time. I had followed a taper plan, which I had stuck to, and my legs just felt like lead. I wondered what was going on.
“I just thought if I feel like this after the first few miles what on earth am I going to feel like at the end?
“Luckily, that leggy feeling went after a few miles and I’ve since learned that it was just how much stored glycogen I had in my legs and once that started to be used I felt good again.”
It was only at the halfway point that Colleen realised just how well the race was going for her.
“They had a group of marshals out in front of me that kept speaking to me and I really didn’t know why! Then it dawned on me that I was the first female but I just stuck to the plan in my head and it was just a great feeling when I crossed the line.”
Her success in Milton Keynes has changed Colleen’s mindset on races and she admits to battling a fear of failing to live up to people’s expectations of her.
“I must admit that I do feel that pressure in races and that has had an impact,” she said. “I get stressed out about it when people see me on the start line and start asking me what time I’m looking to do.
“I’m getting a bit better with it as the more races you do the more you get used to it but whenever I turn up for a race now people expect me to win it.
“I think that’s part of the reason I did so well at Milton Keynes – no-one really knew who I was and that took a bit of the pressure off for me.”
Colleen hopes to do another marathon in the future but is focusing on her speed work for the rest of the year.
As a mother to three young daughters, (Allyna, Olivia and Izzy) she never uses a lack of time as an excuse not to get her training in and if you see a woman tearing her way down the promenade at Gorleston parkrun then it will probably be Colleen…
“I try to get the miles in whatever way I can but it’s really hard sometimes,” said Colleen, who can still go under 20 minutes at a parkrun even running with a buggy. “When I was doing the long runs (for the marathon) I would meet up with my group at 7am so we could get the run done as early as possible and get it out the way.
“But I try to run with my youngest, Izzy, in the buggy and she loves it. She’s used to me doing around 10 miles with her and she really enjoys being outdoors. I like to encourage anyone to buggy run if they can.”