Hannah Rose Irwin
My second guest is the incredibly inspiring, British long distance runner and Olympian, Kate Reed! Kate came second at the 2006 World Cross Country Championships, second in the team event at the European Cross Country Championships in 2007, and proving her incredible strength and determination, came 28th in the 10,000m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics! What an achievement.
Recently Kate has been battling with bouts of ill- health and surgery, however her determination hasn't floundered, something she proved with a win in the Bath Half Marathon earlier in the year, in an incredible time of 72:44. Every race for Kate 'is a bonus' and she relishes 'standing on start lines and forgetting everything bad that's happened'.
Kate has an amazing story to tell, and I asked her a few questions that delved into this story. I hope you enjoy reading what Kate has to say.
Thank you Kate for taking the time to chat to me!
When you were younger, did you ever think you would become an Olympian?
I have always been crazy about sport and after watching the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 (I was 10 years old at that time) I was determined to get to an Olympic Games initially as a Badminton player. I had started Badminton when I was 6 years old and was playing 6 days a week by the time I was 14 representing my County (Avon) up and down the Country in tournaments almost every single weekend. However as fate would have it when I was 14 years old my school PE teachers persuaded me to attend an event over 6 weekends in Bristol hosted by the famous Local Olympian Nick Rose and a local Coach called Harry Clayton. They would go on to become my first coaches when I joined Bristol Athletic Club a couple of months after. On the very last weekend the club brought in a very special guest to talk to us...Jo Pavey arrived and did a question and answer session and I was so inspired by what I heard I knew I had to have a go at it myself (who would have guessed that 11 years later we’d be stood on the startline in the Beijing Olympics together). Very quickly my wish to become an Olympic Badminton player shifted to an Olympic Distance Runner! I was hooked and fell in love with everything about running! I loved being outside instead of stuck in a dimly lit and cold sports hall and I relished the opportunity of doing something different. It helped that at that point in time Bristol Athletic Club also recruited 15 equally talented young girls and it wasn’t long before we were dominating the Road Relay and Cross Country scenes winning every team medal available (we were the Aldershot of today!) It had the added advantage of pushing me to become a better athlete as I was determined to be the best in the club. I am an incredibly determined and stubborn person. I refuse to give up and hate losing so when a career’s advisor sat me down at school and asked me what I wanted to do in the future I said I wanted to go to the Olympics. She sat there and laughed at my answer and said “well we would all like to be like Linford Christie dear but I doubt you can do that as a job”-it was probably the best thing she could have said, I was more determined than ever and everyone who knew me knew it was what I intended to do. There is nothing more satisfying than being able to prove people wrong!
How do you make sure you eat enough, especially with a high mileage?
I only run around 50 miles a week but I cycle most days on a spin bike to supplement my training. I always have the same breakfast of gluten free toast with almond butter and jam followed by a cappuccino made with whole milk. I don’t tend to eat a lot during the day (I should know better at my age!) and quite often it’s food on the go as I train about 30-40 mins away from where I live (sometimes longer when traffic is bad) so I often take a cereal bar, a squeezy yoghurt or some cheese and apple chopped up. Quite often I’ll stop off in Waitrose on my way home and buy a pack of sliced ham or beef and a Kefir Yoghurt Drink and munch on that on the drive home (nothing like a big protein hit!) I always have a very healthy evening meal (always cooked from scratch and always gluten free) I try to eat red meat at least once a week to keep my iron levels up (I’m not a fan!) but I prefer chicken or fish. I cook with a lot of spices as I love flavour. Quite often I’ll have a slice of homemade quark cheesecake or some other culinary treat I’ve baked during the day. I’ve always loved cooking and particularly baking which became a saviour for me when I spent so long in and out of the sport battling ankle problems brought on by a post op infection in 2010. Getting in the kitchen and making something healthy and tasty got me through the darkest days and I was determined to make myself as healthy as possible to give myself the best chance of healing after the 12 ankle surgeries I’ve had to go through. I use a lot of supplements (all of them drinks so I get pretty full up on them!) I’m very lucky to be supported by the supplement company Revive Active who supply me with their incredible drinks, I also use Immunocal at night (a protein drink proven to enhance the immune system) which I feel helps me recover from training.
You seem to enjoy cooking a lot, what are some of your go to recipes pre and post training?
Some of my favourite meals have to be wild Alaskan Salmon Curry with spiced cauliflower and pilau rice or fresh tuna with sticky Thai rice and lots of fresh ginger, lime and coriander. I also love making caramelised onion and goats cheese tartlets and nothing beats a roast chicken dinner with stuffing of course! I love coming home after a Sunday long run to a slice of homemade Carrot Cake or a Beetroot Brownie and a coffee-always seems to hit the spot! I try to eat Organic as much as possible and keep food as real as possible. Don’t think I can remember the last time I consumed a ready meal (not that it’s easy to find a gluten free one anyway!) I have a strong belief that diet can heal the body in ways that aren’t yet fully understood. I think diet is a very individual thing and it’s about finding foods that allow us to perform at our best and it’s probably different for everyone. I’m really into boosting gut health so I try to consume a lot of prebiotic and probiotic foods.
Is positivity ever something you struggle with? Do you go through stages where you stages where you struggle to motivate yourself?
I’m very lucky that I’m an incredibly positive glass half full person. I feel very blessed that I’ve had the experiences that I’ve had in my life and I cherish all the special moments the sport has given me. I’ve never woken up and not wanted to run so when I couldn’t either due to illness or injury I found it very hard and had to find things to keep me busy and stop myself stressing. I have a supportive family and coach (Alan Storey) and a close network of friends who I’ve known since childhood so when things are tough they rally round and keep me positive. I’ve always believed that we should use the gifts we’ve been given to best effect so I have always given 100% in everything I’ve done anything else would be a disservice to ourselves and those who support us.
How do you cope mentally with injury?
I was always very lucky at avoiding injury as a young athlete and even now my issues have mainly been as a result of ill health rather than over training or unfortunate accidents. I was diagnosed with Spondyloarthritis in 2014 although I suspect I had struggled with this since my early 20’s. Sadly it runs in our family so it was probably inevitable I’d also suffer with the Condition. I went through a number of years of trying different immune suppressing drugs but all of them made me feel terrible and I couldn’t do the one thing I wanted to do which was run so I now rely on lots of physio, simple anti inflammatories and a healthy diet which seems to dull down most of the symptoms. It is hard to go through all the surgeries and comebacks but I’ve come so far since doctors resuscitated me on two occasions due to the pseudomonas infection and osteomyelitis in my heel in 2010 that it would be cowardly to give in to it now. Each race is a bonus for me now and I relish standing on start lines and forgetting everything bad that’s happened. There’s nothing like winning a race to bury all the struggles!
What would be your one bit of advice to young, upcoming athletes?
I think my advice to any young athletes coming into the sport would be to enjoy the journey and celebrate every success. I often wish I had taken more time to reflect positively on my wins rather than just focusing on the next race. I have been very driven throughout my career and I almost came to expect myself to win most races I entered, I didn’t feel comfortable celebrating each good performance I always just assumed there would be a bigger better one around the corner. As humans I think we always want more but that can put a lot of pressure on young athletes. The sport has to also be about forming friendships experiences and building self confidence that can be translated into other aspects of life. As with everything it’s about achieving a balance.