Welcome to a new collection of stories to showcase the unique and talented individuals who represent the trail running community.
Louise was an obvious choice for our first instalment, a resilient runner who we recently met after her first place finish at the CTS Suffolk Ultra Marathon.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us how you got into trail running?
I’m Anna Louise (although I usually go by the name “Louise”!). I am originally from Sweden but have spent the last 12-13 years abroad, mostly in Paris and for the past 3 years, London.
I have always been very active, doing horse riding for most of my life and running since a teenager. It wasn’t until I moved to Paris at the age of 18 that I started participating in races, mostly halves but also the Paris Marathon.
Shortly after finishing Paris I started having pain in various places, through several rounds of MRIs and scans I got the diagnosis of Osteoporosis which explained the stress fractures in the most random places across my body.
"My doctors told me I would have to scale back my running and I would be lucky to run a half marathon in the future".
Osteoporosis is a very rare disease for someone my age, it's usually due to the natural degeneration of the bones that comes with age. However, for a small portion of the population the condition arrives early and I was one of them.
My doctors told me I would have to scale back my running and I'd be lucky to run a half marathon in the future. Having just been bitten by the “marathon bug” this was obviously not what I wanted to hear! I am very stubborn by nature and decided to prove everyone wrong.
With some changes to my training and diet I slowly came back to shape and in January 2015 I was offered a charity place to run London Marathon for the National Osteoporosis Society. With a little more than 2 months of training I finished the marathon in 3h14, a relatively good time considering the limited time of training!
Having finished in the top 1% of women I had to ask myself where I wanted to take my running, did I want to start training seriously for a sub-3, or did I want a new challenge?
Coming from Scandinavia with easy access to the mountains and the wide spaces, the answer was straight forward: I was up for a new challenge and wanted to explore the world of trail and ultra running. With the exception for a few half marathons for fun, I have only run trail races since that day!
Tell us about your racing, and some of your achievements?
Considering my history of Osteoporosis, I have to be careful with my training load and not increase the distances too quickly. I’m currently running ultras in the 55 – 80km range which I find very enjoyable; they are long enough to give me a challenge, but short enough that I can work full-time, invest in my career and still have enough time for training.
In the last year I have placed 1st or 2nd female in several races across the UK and Europe.
What's race are you most proud of?
Although I have been on the podium for a few races, these are not the ones I am most proud of; anyone can win with the right training, preparation and mind-set.
Instead, it is "Race to the Stones 50km" in 2016 that I am the most proud of finishing. In May that year I had to undergo surgery for cervical cancer and was off training for more than six weeks. Long before being diagnosed, I had signed up for the 100km course and being realistic I understood that running 100km eight weeks after surgery would not be an option, I downgraded to the 50km and finished the race with my doctor’s approval.
It was a very emotional moment crossing the finish line that day and I was proud of myself and what my body was capable of.
How do you fit in your training while working and travelling?
I travel for work on a weekly basis but only across Europe so fortunately flight time is never longer than three hours.
I train every day of the week, usually swapping one run for a session on the Watt bike to work different muscle groups and also rest my bones. I am a strong believer in cross training and that it reduces the risk of injury.
When I am traveling, I adapt my training according to my flight schedule. If I have a morning flight, I train once I arrive, and vice versa. If I am short on time, I might split my training session in two and do something, for example run in the morning and strength training in the evening. I don’t require any luxury when traveling for business, but I do require one thing, a decent hotel gym with good opening hours! My long runs tend to be on the weekends only.
What are some of your favourite places to run?
I run everywhere I travel, even if that means on roads. There is no better way to explore a destination than running, since you manage to cover a much bigger area than walking in the same time! With that said, I love the nature and beautiful landscapes, one favourite place to run is in the mountains behind my family in law’s summer house in the South of France.
What are you plans for 2018?
I will do one or two shorter races (50 – 60k) in January/February, and then I have this idea that I should aim for that sub 3-hours marathon just for the sake of it, that will most likely be Paris marathon in April.
Later in the year I'm looking to do the Arctic Ultra in Lofoten, Norway. It is at the beginning of June so the midnight sun will be up all night.
Where in the UK should Runaway Adventures go next year?
The UK has so many beautiful places for running and must have Europe’s most developed network of public footpaths and Bridleways! I would love to see a weekend trip to the Lake District or Snowdonia and a trip abroad. Why not to my home countries of Sweden and Norway?
What running kit would you recommend?
A good pair of shoes (I wear Salomon), a rain proof jacket, a chafe-free sports bra for ladies plus a running bag with lots of different compartments, so that you can easily find what you are looking for whilst running!
I also recommend everyone to always bring an ID when going out running in case the worse would happen.
What's your routine, the night before and morning of a race?
I eat a light meal usually consisting of white fish and rice. I lay out my equipment and clothing and make sure I have everything I need. I pack my post-race bag with lots of warm clothing and flip-flops for my soar feet.
I am not fussy about going to bed early as I’ve learnt that one night with lack of sleep is not going to have an impact on my race form.
On the morning of the race I try to follow my usual morning routine as closely as possible; shower, coffee and then breakfast consisting of porridge made of oats, almond milk, banana and a vegan protein powder.
I am also very girlish in the sense that I like to look proper at least before the race. I do wash my hair in the morning and put on make-up. It might sound silly because after 7 hours of running there will not be a trace of my make-up left and my hair will resemble a bird’s nest, but this is part of my usual morning routine and following it takes the stress out from race day.
What would you say to a runner that hasn’t been trail running?
Don’t try to compare your time to a similar distance on the road! Even if the trail is flat, the uneven ground will slow you down, so just enjoy the beautiful surroundings and fresh air and put the time and PB pressure on the side.
Follow Louise on Instagram or see her on a Runaway social near you soon.