Amy White, 23, is a designer living in East London. She won the women’s Race to the King in 2017 in 8:29:28, and is coming back to run HEINEKEN Race to the Tower in 2018.
Have you always played sport?
I was lucky to have been brought up in a sporty family. All my childhood memories are of being outside; climbing mountains, playing cricket on the beach with my cousins, kayaking, swimming, cycling. The mindset of always being active is just natural now.
How did you get into running?
I’ve run ever since I can remember. When I was young my Dad used to take me on his runs in the forest and through the local trails, so back then it was to spend time with him. As I grew up it was to keep fit and healthy. I would say only in the past year or so has it been something I take seriously. Joining an athletics team (London City Athletics Club) and taking up structured training changed everything. Now running is just my way of life; I’m not me without it.
Why long distance?
My immediate answer would be the element of escapism. When you’re not racing you can just indulge in zoning out and getting into a rhythm where you don’t even have to think about anything at all. It’s a bit of a meditative act I guess. I choose long-distance races for the terrain; the trails, forests and mountains… I love the climbs, I tend to get bored on the flat.
What makes you so good at long distance? (Do you like other distances?)
I find this hard to answer. I guess one thing I would say is that I spend a lot of time on the mental side of it; I always run with gratitude. I’m so grateful to be able to do these races and push those limits. Run with a smile is a good tip!
In terms of other distances, I love the marathon for the speed and the training process as a whole. It’s full-on, focusing on shaving off crucial seconds but it’s still got that huge emphasis on endurance. I hate to admit that I’m starting to get curious about improving my 5k time too…
Where do you train?
Living in London I try to keep my training runs diverse. That includes track workouts, Greenwich and Richmond Park hills and long flat runs along Southbank. I don’t get to do it often but when I can, I go home to Oxford for some cross-country training. The South Downs are also a fantastic place to run. It’s totally possible to train for a trail ultra while living in the city. You just have to put the time into planning.
What does running do for you – what makes you run?
I think my motivation to run has changed so much over time. I feel like I’m in a place now where I’m confident in my abilities but also I love a challenge. I once told a friend that I need a race or running experience each year that ‘broke’ me so I can put myself back together and be stronger. I’m always looking for a goal that scares me. Also, I’m hugely motivated by who I run with. I’m surrounded by an incredible team with the athletics club who set equally tough ambitions… that’s massively inspiring and keeps you going on your own tough days.
What are your running plans this year?
So right now I’m in marathon training for London (aiming to go sub 3 hours this year). Then hitting the trails to tune up for HEINEKEN Race to The Tower, a little rest and then the Lakeland Ultra Trails in July. In September I’ll be taking on the Centurion Chiltern Wonderland 50 – home turf! Maybe I’ll squeeze in another ultra in the late winter but intersperse this with road leagues and cross-country with the athletics team. Ok… that now sounds pretty packed!
What does your training look like?
I run with my club on the track once or twice a week, in sessions structured by the coaches. These are designed to build up speed endurance, so they range from pyramid sessions to mile time trails. When we have events coming up like road league races or in the cross-country or marathon season, we train specifically for these events but everyone has different specialities in different disciplines.
We organise hill and trail sessions (some of which I lead) at the weekend and we compete in road leagues in spring and cross-country in winter. We also do a club trip once a year abroad, usually for a marathon that has other distance races so everyone can be involved. There’s a huge team spirit. In fact, I live with two of my teammates.
So my training right now looks like this (as I’m in prime weeks leading up to marathon training which starts the last weekend of January):
Monday – Steady run 4-6 miles
Tuesday – (AM) Swim (PM) Track Session
Wednesday – (AM) Controlled 6-mile run (PM) Strength session
Thursday – Track Session or tempo run for 30-50 minutes
Friday – Rest or light swim
Saturday – 5k warm-up, 5k race pace, 5k cool down or a hills session
Sunday – Long run – at the moment this is 10-15 miles. As I get further into marathon training it will be measured on time – up to three and a half hours at a very easy pace. This is just to get used to time on my feet and a bit of recovery. After this, I’ll go to the gym and do a strength session.
How did you find Race to the King and what are you expecting from Race to the Tower?
Race to the King was my first 50 miler, so, to be honest, I had no idea what to expect. I had been injured in the months leading up to it but I spent a lot of time cross-training and building up my mental game. By the time I got to the start line, I was just so grateful that my body was allowing me to run again! I can’t deny that I wanted that win so badly though. I didn’t know if it was possible but I dared myself to believe it.
I watch a lot of YouTube videos about Ultras! I’m fascinated by them and the people they attract, so that is a huge source of education. Bill Yang’s films are my favourite. There are also a couple of fantastic ultra runners in the athletics club so I have definitely relied on them for support, tips and inspiration. I still felt a bit blind going into it but I don’t think there’s much that can actually prepare you for the real thing.
Every trail race is different from the next so HEINEKEN Race to the Tower feels like a guessing game but I’m so excited for the experience that the Threshold team provide – the support and enthusiasm of the volunteers (and runners) is amazing. Also for the atmosphere at the start line – it’s an energy like no other!