Ultra running has given Norwich Road Runner Mandy Foyster a different type of challenge
Norwich Road Runner Mandy Foyster speaks to Mark Armstrong about the joy of ultra running and how she would love for more runners to give it a try
Ultra running holds a mystical allure for many.
For a lot of people it’s the next step after you have pushed yourself in a marathon.
Many runners want to see how much faster they can go but it’s often how far you can go that’s the next barometer of achievement.
50K, 100K, 100 miles – what can your body cope with?
Finding out just that little bit more about yourself is what keeps a lot of runners going.
Mandy Foyster has focused on her ultra running in the last few years and you won’t find many people that had a better grounding to take it up.
Mandy has raised thousands of pounds for charity during her running career, tackling challenges that would make most mere mortals crumble into submission.
It wasn’t enough to merely run the London Marathon in 2011. She decided to run from Norfolk before taking her place on the start line.
In 2013 she undertook her own ‘fun’ triathlon. This entailed running the London Marathon, cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats before finally snorkelling around a pond in Horsham St Faith.
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She’s slept in bus shelters during some of her challenges and even spent a night in a shed with lambs (with the farmer’s permission) during a cycling challenge that saw her also scale the Three Peaks.
She’s woken up because water has started coming into her dinghy during a challenge that saw her row through the Broads and she’s used to regularly waking up with her hair frozen solid.
But as long as Mandy can get back out in the countryside then there isn’t much that gets her down.
“I started running when I was 17 and it really helped me with a few mental health problems I was having at the time,” she said.
“It then just went on from there and after running a few London Marathons (getting a Good for Age place) I wanted to do something a bit different.
“That’s when I started the challenges really.”
This is a women with a fearsome determination to complete whatever she sets her mind too…with a heart of gold to match.
But after completing a challenge, which saw her undertake a 1,500-mile cycle ride taking in the three peaks, for her 50th birthday she decided to throw herself into the world of ultra running.
She completed the Peddars Way Ultra (46 miles) last year as third female (first in her age category) before taking on the Norfolk 100km (third in age category) and the Suffolk Ultra as part of the Coastal Trail Series, where once again she came first in her age category.
“I think all the challenges have helped me do the ultras – I’m used to being out in the elements all day,” said the Norwich Road Runner.
“I’m used to exercising 15/16 hours a day but I think I’m a very average runner.
“There are a lot of runners round here that are better than me.”
Despite her modesty she has continued to make progress this year with arguably her biggest achievement so far coming in the Thames Path 100 when she completed the 100 miles in 24-46:11 to come first in her age category.
Mandy also set a new personal best at the Norfolk 100km, coming home in 12 hours, 33 minutes.
She is now hoping to encourage others to take up ultra running, setting up the NUTS (Norfolk Ultra Training Support) group on Facebook.
“I would really like others to give it a go as there isn’t anything to fear with it,” she said.
“Last year I took on a small group of people that wanted to run the Marriotts Way Ultra and they all completed it.
“I’m still learning about this and I’ve set up a Facebook group, NUTS, for people to have a forum where they can ask about ultra running. It’s a place where people can ask questions and share information.”
So what does ultra running give you that the more traditional distances don’t?
“I just think this country is beautiful and I can’t think of a better way to explore it than ultra running,” she added. “You get to see things that you never normally would. It’s taught me to work through my problems on my own. I’ve had to learn to dig deep in some very low times but sometimes you just have to find a way to carry on.”