She knocked almost 14 minutes off her PB at the 2012 Virgin London Marathon. What's the secret of Nell's running success?
Nell McAndrew is 38 years old, and running faster and further than she has ever run before. But even she was surprised by the time she clocked in this year's Virgin London Marathon, crossing the finish line in an incredible 2hours 54minutes and 39seconds.
It still hasn't sunk in, Nell admits. 'A month later and I’m still riding on a high. Running a sub three-hour race was my goal all the way, but you always know you can’t be too confident as anything can happen on the way.
'It all came together for me on the day. I didn't even have a blister!'
Running has transformed Nell's life - and her body. Gone is the glamour model image, replaced by lean muscles built for power and speed.
Nell says, 'I don’t care now about curves, about looking nice for men. Women shouldn’t have to feel they’ve got to disappear as they get older. I am mentally stronger than I’ve ever been, and more focused.
'I get more hungry to go faster, and feel I’m getting strong as I get older. I’m 38 now and feel mentally stronger than I ever have. Running is something I do for myself, it’s my own achievement, and I love that feeling.
'I love the challenge of trying to go faster. I am getting faster and stronger – at this rate, by the age of 50 I could be on the Olympic team!'
So how did she manage to knock almost 14 minutes after her PB?
Nell says, 'Pre-marathon, my training became more focused, I started upping my mileage to an average 80 miles a week. That would consist of one long run a week, maybe 15-18 miles. I did have a problem with my Achilles tendon on one long run so I ended up having to catch the bus home. I also did lots of shorter runs: some days I’d do two 4/5/6 mile runs a day. Splitting them up like that means you don’t wear out your legs like on a long run.'
She says, 'Before the marathon, for 12 weeks it was just me and the road. I usually run in parks or on the road – I don’t tend to run in the gym unless I'm doing interval training on the treadmill. I think once you get used to running outside it’s always going to be more enjoyable.
'Aside from running, once a week I try and do some weights, work on my core: dips, pull-ups. It’s important to do that because otherwise the rest of your body can waste away a bit. And after a short run, I do a few press-ups, some tricep dips, lunges, stretches – to help my overall strength and stamina.
Like the rest of us, Nell finds her main challenge is finding the time to train. In the run-up to the 2012 London Marathon, she managed to fit in her training by neglecting housework, paperwork and administration.
'Normally I'm really houseproud - I love to keep my house neat and tidy - but while I was training, stuff just got shoved in cupboards. My son’s school kit was always ready, but everything else took a back seat to my training. '
She explains, 'I love running. I just really love running! For me, it's addictive. And knowing how much money I’ve raised is such a spur.'
'On marathon day I had a carb drink after breakfast and sipped another one during the race. I also carried a gel just in case but I didn't use it.
'I eat very well, always fresh foods; in my bag today, for example, I've got some nuts – almonds, cashews and walnuts - plus some sticks of celery and carrot.
'For breakfast, I eat natural Greek-style yoghurt sprinkled with oatmeal and topped with banana.
'I eat loads of vegetables. Not much meat, I just stopped buying it gradually, I suppose. I eat protein bars and shakes if I’m training,a nd I eat lots of mackerel – it's ever so cheap if you buy it tinned. It makes your breath smell but I don’t care about that sort of thing any more!'
Nell McAndrew is taking part in the Olympic Moments campaign to launch 'London 2012 – The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games', available on PS3 and Xbox 360 from 29 June, 2012.
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