Q&A

MUL­TI­PLE RECORD- BREAK­ING UL­TRA RUN­NER, 55

Runner's World (UK) - - IN THIS ISSUE -

Record-break­ing ul­tra run­ner Mimi An­der­son

MIMI AN­DER­SON ran her first mile on a gym tread­mill at the age of 36, hav­ing bat­tled an eating dis­or­der for most of her adult life. Within two years she’d taken on the six-day Marathon des Sables – and the chal­lenges haven’t stopped com­ing. In Septem­ber, the mother of three em­barks on an at­tempt to break the women’s trans-amer­ica record.

WAS THERE AL­WAYS A RUN­NER IN YOU?

I don’t think there was. There was a sporty gene – my fa­ther rep­re­sented the army in athletics and biathlon – but I was never into run­ning at school. The only rea­son I took it up was be­cause some­one told me it would make my legs slim­mer!

HAS RUN­NING CHANGED YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD?

Anorexia never to­tally goes away. Af­ter a knee op­er­a­tion last year I put on a bit of weight and found my­self watch­ing my calo­rie in­take. But run­ning has played a role in help­ing me re-eval­u­ate my relationship with food – I have to eat in or­der to do what I love do­ing and I’m not fright­ened of food any­more.

WHY IS YOUR FIRST MILE STILL MEANINGFUL?

I’d lost so much con­fi­dence through anorexia, it was the most fan­tas­tic feel­ing in the world to set my­self a goal and achieve it. I had to work re­ally hard for it. So many peo­ple do marathons and other en­durance feats th­ese days, it’s easy to for­get that first mile­stone can be a real hal­lelu­jah mo­ment.

WHAT RUN­NING ACHIEVEMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

My John O’groats to Land’s End record [840 miles in 12 days, 15 hrs and 46 mins]. There was just so much emo­tion when I fin­ished, es­pe­cially as I’d tried and failed the year be­fore and felt I’d let ev­ery­one down. I will have held it for a decade next year – and ev­ery­thing’s moved on a lot since then in terms of nutrition, tech­nol­ogy and kit.

WHAT DRIVES YOU?

I’m not al­ways motivated by races. It’s about want­ing to find out what I am ca­pa­ble of. I’d still get up and run if I had noth­ing to train for, but hav­ing a goal means you have to do it to­day, not put it off un­til to­mor­row.

HOW DO YOU COPE WITH IN­JURY OR ILLNESS?

I get grumpy, but I’ve got bet­ter as I’ve got older. Now, If I’m told I can’t run, I won’t dis­obey, as I know that could put me back. I’m dili­gent with my re­hab ex­er­cises and cross-train­ing, too. I’d like to still be run­ning in my 60s and 70s, so that makes me more mind­ful about tak­ing care of my­self.

WHAT’S SO SPE­CIAL ABOUT UL­TRA RUN­NING?

It’s a fan­tas­tic com­mu­nity – like a big fam­ily of slightly bonkers, quite driven and very deter­mined peo­ple. In an ul­tra you can be feel­ing fan­tas­tic one minute and then be in floods of tears or throw­ing up the next. But there’s such a strong sup­port net­work, some­one will al­ways check you are OK.

ARE YOU CON­FI­DENT ABOUT YOUR UP­COM­ING RECORD AT­TEMPT?

You have two lit­tle peo­ple on your shoul­ders, chat­ting all the time. One says, ‘Why are you do­ing this?’ The other says, ‘If you don’t try, you’ll never know.’ It’s just a mat­ter

WHAT’S WITH ALL THE PINK OUTFITS? HOW HAS RUN­NING CHANGED YOU?

Fol­low Mimi’s ad­ven­tures at mar­vel­lous­mimi. com of lis­ten­ing to the right one. The women’s record has been held since 1979, when Mavis Hutchin­son ran it in 69 days. Two women tried to break it last year and didn’t man­age. My goal is 53 days. It was a very male-ori­ented world when I first started run­ning in 1999. I sought out girly stuff to wear and pink was the per­fect colour. When I did the Marathon des Sables, my friends Max­ine Ward and Louise Clamp and I crossed the fin­ish line in sparkly dresses we got from a char­ity shop. I find I’m be­ing out­pinked by other run­ners th­ese days! I’m a stronger and bet­ter per­son. I didn’t have much con­fi­dence in my­self for many years but run­ning has given me back my feel­ing of self worth. It was 17 years ago when I ran that first mile. I had no idea it would lead to where I am now.

HOT FAVOURITE Mimi An­der­son dur­ing the 220km, five- day Namib­ian Desert Chal­lenge

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