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An interview with Charlotte Clarke: taking on the challenge of ultramarathons

You may know Charlotte Clarke from her inspiring Instagram page (@charlotteclarkeuk) – she is an ultra-marathon runner from the UK who has undergone two heart surgeries, and now uses her platform to inspire 12,000+ others with their fitness journeys.   Charlotte created her page to encourage other people to be active, and to show that it is possible to overcome any obstacles you may be faced with to reach your fitness goals. In the run-up (excuse the pun!) to her ultra-marathon in September this year, we closely followed her journey online and were inspired by her positivity and determination. As she officially became an ultra-marathon runner on the 12th September, we were so inspired and knew we had to interview her to learn more about her journey.  Hey Charlotte - thank you for taking the time to talk to us! Can you tell us a little bit about your fitness journey, from the very beginning?  Hey! Thank you for having me, and yes, of course. I’ve always been very active! I grew up dancing, I was a runner at school, and I would do everything that I could do on sports day... I then decided to do a dance degree, went on to be a personal trainer, got my qualifications and then began to enter into bodybuilding competitions.  I later got back into running after I got my dog as it was something fun that we could do together - it was at this time when I realised I actually enjoyed running again. So yeah! I’ve always been very active, and now ultra running is my vice.  Sounds great! So why did you decide to get into ultra-running? Is there any specific reason, or did it happen naturally?  I decided that I wanted to raise some money for charity and figured I needed to push myself super out of my comfort zone to feel worthy of asking so many people to sponsor me. I know a lot of people choose to participate in standard marathons, but I decided to go the extra mile - quite literally! I decided to run a 50 km ultra-marathon with the idea only to do one, but now I’ve got the bug and have entered several more… That’s incredibly inspiring! It must take a lot of training… What does a typical week of training look like for you?  Primarily I run, and I run about four times a week. This usually consists of three shorter runs and then one longer run at the weekend. I also do bodyweight workouts at home, as well as mobility work. As I run so much, my body needs to be very strong, and running on its own just won’t cut it. That sounds like a good mix. What would you say is your most significant fitness achievement to date?  I would say my most significant fitness achievement is the 50 km run I did this weekend (12/09/2020). It was supposed to be part of an official run, but it got cancelled due to coronavirus. I decided I wanted to take it on anyway, so I did half of it alone and then had a couple of people joining me in various sections throughout the second half. This meant it wasn’t a closed route, so I had to cross roads, wait for traffic, set up my own aid stations, and plot out a route around my local area that could even facilitate a 50 km run! As I mentioned, I did the run for charity and raised over £1200.  That takes a lot of determination! Do you have any other big goals that you’d like to accomplish in the future?  Of course! I have three more 50 km runs between now (October) and April - one is even two days after my 30th birthday. After those, I’m taking on a 100 km run in July! Now, I know it’s not going to be a case of running at a constant five-minute kilometre pace for 100km, but it will be just such an accomplishment to complete it. My big, BIG goal is to complete the full 170 km UTMB! We can’t wait to see you achieve those goals. You must be exhausted after you finish a long run, how do you like to wind-down? Any recovery tips?  Yes, it’s definitely tiring! After long runs, it’s absolutely crucial to look after your body due to the huge strain that you’ve just put on it. To keep my body in tiptop condition, I always use my Body Bolt Percussion Massage Device to help my body recover quicker, to get the blood pumping round, and to keep my legs feeling nice and loose. I also use it pre-run to prepare my body for what it’s about to take on.  After a particularly long run, I also like to have a magnesium salt bath, stretch and rest for as long as my body feels like it needs to. I also make sure that I’m fuelling my body with plenty of food. A similar question, but what is your top tip for preventing sports injuries?  Hmm, my top tip for preventing injuries? I’ve got a few... First up, always remember to prepare your body for what it’s about to do! Secondly, I constantly use my Body Bolt Percussion Massage Device to prep my body before my runs. Finally, another critical thing is to make sure you are eating enough food. Your body needs fuel to perform well, to recover well and to keep you injury-free.  We know you love running, but do you have days where you don’t feel motivated to train? If so, how do you respond to that?  Of course! I have days where I don’t feel motivated, so I take each day as it comes because the lack of motivation may come from different places...  Sometimes I simply need to get myself out of the door, and then the run takes care of itself. Other days I’m not motivated because my body feels tired, so I will just take an extra rest day. If I’m feeling generally unmotivated, I often remind myself of why I am doing this, and that I should be grateful that my body can do everything I’m asking it to do. I then just go out and get it done. Always remember your why.  That’s excellent advice, thank you. Do you have any other advice for the people who want to start ultra-running, but perhaps aren’t very confident?  Yes, I’d say don’t put too much pressure on yourself. When I signed up for my 50km run, the furthest I had ever run was 18 km... If you can, hire a coach who will plan your runs for you, so you don’t have to think about that responsibility. You will probably feel like you already need to be able to run very far, but you don’t! Give yourself time. If you have never run more than 10 km, for example, don’t sign up for a 50 km taking place the following weekend. You know your body, so listen to it, believe that you will get there, and put the work in.  Lastly, what made you want to document your journey on your Instagram? I’ve been on Instagram for a while now, and I’ve always used it to share my fitness journey, so this ultra-marathon was no different. My Instagram has seen my dancing days, my bodybuilding days, my running with my dog days, and now my ultra-marathon journey.  My main reason now to document my journey is to encourage people to be active and show that it is possible to overcome your obstacles to get there. I have had two heart surgeries and now complete ultra-marathons, so I hope to inspire others to lead an active lifestyle in whatever way they can! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Charlotte. We wish you all the best for your future ultra-marathons, and can't wait to continue following your journey!  If you're interested in following Charlotte's journey yourself, follow her Instagram here.