Becky Shuttleworth Ultra Runner
In 2014, Becky reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in record time. The former sailing instructor talks to Sundried about extreme sports and ultra running.
Have you always been sporty?
I run, cycle, swim, play tennis etc. because I enjoy it. I grew up in the country, surrounded by fields, so spent a lot of time playing outside as a child. My wonderful mother ferried me to endless activities: gymnastics, horse riding, tennis, dance. I was ok at sport but never remarkably good, but I enjoyed being active.
When I was 18 I took a year out and went to Africa. With limited access to swimming pools or tennis courts, I started running. My first runs consisted of laps around our tiny back yard and then I graduated to exploring the surrounding areas. By the time I came home, I was hooked. I slowly extended my runs over time until a friend suggested I enter the Great North Run half marathon. In 2009 this became my first ever race.
From your first half marathon, you’ve gone onto partake in many more sporting events, which is your favourite?
Absolutely nothing beats leaving the roads, the cars and the crowds and heading out on a great trail running race. I have met some amazing people and made some great friends during trail races…an odd concept to a triathlete I’m sure, but during long running races, part of doing well has to be enjoying it and keeping each other mentally strong. And that’s true even at the top – Kilian Jornet is famous for waiting for the runner in second place so that he has company during a long race!
When are you next competing?
I have signed up to a 'secret marathon' which will happen at some undisclosed time in an undisclosed location this autumn. I like this concept as it appeals to my somewhat relaxed attitude to training schedules/carb loading/ race prep. You just turn up and get on with it. The Trans Gran Canaria Ultra Trail (125km and 8,000m ascent) in 2017 is the next race I'm really excited for though.
Talk us through your training regime.
This changes every week depending on how I feel, what my other plans are, and what I want to do. I have been a student for the last year so it’s been particularly changeable. I took advantage of not having to be in London and spent long weekends running in the Alps, the Lake District and Wales. Now I’m back in full-time employment it will look a little like this:
Running: most days, sometimes twice a day. Some days I will run 2 miles, other days 20. It really depends on where I need to get to and what else I'm doing. I will very rarely go three consecutive days without running though.
Cycling: both to get around and for pleasure, although I don't get out as much as I would like.
Swimming: I go through phases. When I do it, I will usually swim 50 - 75 laps of a 25m pool two or three times a week.
Tennis: usually at least once a week
Gym classes: somewhat sporadically I attend spin, high-intensity circuits, and a high energy dance class done in darkness with glow sticks - I'm embarrassed to admit I really enjoy that one.
How do you balance your training and a social life?
My friends are now used to me turning up to everything in my running kit. I also do less heavy drinking and more nice dinners out these days, that way I can socialise and still enjoy the next day...whatever that might bring.
What other extreme races have you completed?
I've had two big challenges since I ran up Mount Kilimanjaro: the North Down's Way 100 (104 miles of running with an elevation of 3026m) and Lavaredo Ultra Trail (75 miles with a 5805m+ climb).
The first almost broke me. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that if I finished, I would never have to run 100 miles again. It reminded me that I have so much still to learn about running, which in turn reminded me why I love running so much. You can always improve, you can always run further, faster, stronger. And I am, of course, currently researching my next 100-miler.
Lavaredo was a triumph of lessons learned. It was, dare I say it, easy. Eating made all the difference. (It turns out running an ultramarathon on fruit alone is not a very good idea!) Sticking with friends also made the miles fly by. I am planning on going back to Italy to run Lavaredo again in 2017 as this year we didn't race it so much as just complete it and I know I could shave a good few hours off my time.
Why work with Sundried?
Sundried have set themselves apart from other sports brands by committing to delivering to athletes for whom exercise is part of who they are; for people who run, cycle, climb, walk so that they can explore. This fits perfectly with my ethos. Additionally, the clothes are so beautifully made and ideal for supporting my activities. And, for the cherry on the top, they are all made from responsibly sourced material!