Unexpected. Determined. Euphoric…Lana Jane’s running story
In this inspiring interview, Lana Jane shares her running story, having been inspired to fund raise for Parkinson’s Disease.
What did you do with your time before running?
I always liked to keep fit. Having trained as a dancer from a young age, through to University (I did a Dance performance degree), my focus was always on fitness for health rather than just to look good. Mainly I did strength and core work, and particularly enjoyed classes involving weights and TRX. Running was something I shied away from, and certainly not something I was ever keen on doing
What made you decide on a marathon as your first running event?
My Uncle was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease a number of years ago. Having watched his rapid decline and the effect it has had on the family, I always felt helpless, which is very difficult when you are so close to someone suffering. He was very fortunate to receive a Deep Brain stimulation operation in 2011, which has certainly improved his quality of life tremendously, but still the disease is debilitating. I wanted to personally do something to help find a cure for this awful disease. I was so bad at running, 10 minutes was a stretch for me, and this was common knowledge amongst all my peers and family. One thing I knew people would donate towards would be me running a Marathon, particularly one as iconic as London. I entered VLM2014 in the April of 2013. In the October I discovered I had a place. I don’t know if I believe in fate, but given how difficult it is to get a place, I like to think it happened for a reason.
Family & friends are clearly important to you – how has your Uncle inspired you?
My Uncle is, and always has been, an incredible man. Growing up he was the life and soul of the party. Generous, kind, funny, you could not ask for a better Uncle, or person to look up to. He is my Dad’s best friend and therefore I was very fortunate growing up with him as such a huge part of my life. The effect this disease has on someone is impossible to describe, it would take hours, and there are so many side effects that many won’t be aware of. John has always maintained his sense of humour throughout his diagnoses and decline caused by the disease. He makes jokes about it, he will not be beaten by it, and his strength in the face of something he ultimately has no control over is impossible not to be inspired by.
I would love to say I would have the same attitude if faced with similar, but I truly think it takes a very rare character to deal with something like this the way he has. Whenever I feel I cannot be bothered to do a training session, I think of the fact he doesn’t get to make that decision. He never gets to choose whether to run or not, that decision was made for him, and this makes me so grateful for the simple fact I can do it whenever I want to.
Who or what else inspires you?
I am inspired by so many for so many reasons. My family have all got such strong morals and close bond that every day I want to do them proud. In running terms, I think its common to look up to faster and more experienced runners as I am always striving to do better, go further, run faster.
In truth, I think I am often more inspired by those people who take longer to cover the same distance and never give up. It’s hard to say that without sounding patronising, but I find it so inspiring watching those final runners who easily could have given up when they know they are at the back of the field of a big race, hardly anyone around to cheer them in. That takes true guts and commitment. A good friend I met on a running site was unfortunately plagued with injury last year and missed out on doing her first marathon (Brighton) in 2014. She completed it this year, basically two years of training to complete that one race. It was possibly my proudest moment, watching someone so determined to achieve their goal no matter what efforts it took.
Now you’ve just completed the London 2 Brighton Challenge 100km. How was it?
Tough! I went with a very different strategy to my usual ‘pace yourself and keep something in the tank’ on road marathons. My aim was to get as many miles under my belt whilst feeling good, knowing there would be low points further down the line.
The first 40km I got done in a relatively quick time and I felt amazing. Then my ITB issues flared up and to be honest it was touch and go for a while whether I would finish or not. I think a few friends who saw me on route expected me to have to drop given my awkward walk/shuffle. BUT, I was determined not to give in, and got a second wind when the knee eased off a bit.
The second half of my race was much slower – I could have pushed harder as fuelling had gone well and I otherwise felt strong, but I would then have risked pulling up entirely, and that was just not an option. The final hill over The Downs during the last 10km of the race was really tough. It’s a relentless climb and seems near impossible when you’ve already covered such a huge distance. You reach a checkpoint at the 88km mark and in front of you is this massive hill you’ve been heading towards for miles. But once you get to the top, the views are absolutely stunning and absolutely worth the pain.
Finishing was very emotional, I felt overwhelmed and I have to say I’m so proud of myself. This time two years ago I hadn’t even done my first race yet (British 10km in July in prep for London Marathon). To have completed 10 times that distance just doesn’t seem to have sunk in. It was the hardest thing I have ever done – but absolutely wonderful. I loved it!
Is most of your training goal or enjoyment driven?
Having started out very much hating every second of running, I was purely focused on the goal ahead – raise as much money for charity and get through the marathon. In the process I fell in love with running, and got a little race addicted. I think this is common when you first start improving, or certainly seems to be the case with the people I speak to. I find races are good as it gives me a goal, and something to strive towards. My training is always more diverse with the need for sprint intervals, hill repeats etc. But I am definitely more focused on enjoyment now, and a huge run in a park with no real idea of how far I am going to run or for how long is a great way to explore beautiful places. There is so much to see, and running is a great way of doing that.
So you’re not one for @stravawankers then? 🙂
Hahahaha! I think I have managed to avoid that tag. To be honest, it’s easy to get carried away with obsessing over pace, and beating segments etc. Because my training has been so focused and tailored to my goals, I haven’t been able to get distracted by those things thankfully – I can appreciate why people do. I also think whilst I would never even consider logging a walk around a shopping centre for instance, if it makes people more aware of their fitness and health, then that’s only a good thing. But no, I certainly wont be logging myself mowing the lawn any time soon!
How do you get through the emotional and physical battles on such endurance events?
The mental side is the biggest challenge. I know I have the fitness for it now. The work for races tends to come before, and as long as I work hard and eat right, the only worry is injury. Seeing a physio regularly has been a great way of keeping my body at its best. I do rehab exercises before I am even injured, because I know my weak areas and don’t want to find a problem too late and be out for weeks trying to fix it.
But mentally it is tougher. It is also tougher the longer you are out there for. Sprinting a 10km tends to hurt from start to end, but you know its over relatively quickly. An endurance event tends to just slowly get tougher, and so much time in your own head, you do end up questioning everything. It’s a constant battle of ‘can I do this, I could just stop, ouch is that a niggle or a real injury, my goodness I can’t do it, what was I thinking’. I think I put too much pressure on myself sometimes because I am raising money for charity for this event, which means I always panic that I will let people down, and that can easily put you in a negative state of mind. But equally it’s an extra push when I am suffering and considering giving up. That combined with the knowledge that every time I have thought I won’t make it, I have, I think mentally I am stubborn enough to make it. There’s a lot to be said for being stubborn (a family trait I have picked up!)
Haha! You’re clearly driven by challenges – what others are on your bucket list?
My bucket list tends to have two new things added every time I tick one off! There are a few races I am desperate to do – Comrades, Marathon Des Sables, New York Marathon, Race to the Stones. There are so many beautiful places to run now I am keen to explore a bit more. I also have a Skydive to do soon – this is something I am so excited about. To be honest if someone came to me with a challenge I would probably say yes before even considering what it was – I love testing myself. Any ideas?
That is some bucket list Lana! What lessons would you pass on to fellow runners?
Don’t go too fast when you start – it’s so easily done. Go slower and cover more distance then slowly build up pace. Also, it hurts. I know so many people who told me it wasn’t getting easier, even though their stats showed they’d gone faster or further. It doesn’t get easier, you just get faster I think is the saying. Also switch it up a bit. Always going out and covering the same route and same distance at the same pace gets monotonous. Explore new places, add in hills, do some sprint sections. All of this helps improve your running, but even if you’re not looking to improve, it keeps it exciting and interesting.
What’s the best running advice you’ve ever been given?
Turn off your watch. I went through a stage where I hit a rut and panicked every time my pace wasn’t quite the same as normal. This also happened during a race recently, and the second I stopped looking at pace I felt far calmer. My second half without the watch ended up exactly the same pace as my first half with the watch – it showed me you must trust your body, don’t rely on technology as it can get the better of you!
Very true. What has the running community given you?
Without it I don’t know if I would have made it to my first marathon. The support and advice is incredible, and chatting with such a diverse selection of people, all different levels of achievements and goals, makes it much easier to be confident in yourself and your own abilities. I honestly feel a sense of belonging within the community, but it also gives me accountability knowing others look up to me (regardless of whether I believe they should or not) – I can now give newcomers the advice and support I was given when I started.
What would you say to anyone thinking about taking up jogging/running?
DO it. You probably won’t like it at first, I didn’t. But stick with it and you will find a new joy, a new way to explore, and a great way to keep fit. You’ll also find an amazing community to be a part of!
In three words, describe your running story.
Unexpected. Determined. Euphoric.
Lana thank you so much for sharing your story. What you’ve achieved so far is incredible and shows how we can surpass our expectations when we have a cause. Can’t wait to hear how you get on with your skydive! #ThisGirlCan
p.s. Lana’s favourite post-run food is not as healthy as her usual clean diet. But then that’s the beauty of running 🙂
If you’re inspired by Lana’s story and want to get more active, visit BBC ‘Get Involved’