@pesky_squirrel on her love of… well anything active
Our next runner interview features Sarah Morton. Her love of activity and experiences knows no bounds. Hopefully you’ll be infected by her enthusiasm 🙂
Sarah, can you tell us about your love of the outdoors?
I just love being outside really! I find sitting about really boring, even if I’m busy and have things to do, I find I start to get twitchy and need to get outside to energise myself and clear my head – it just makes me feel so much better. Over time though it’s evolved into something much more than just a love of being outdoors – I’ve seen such an abundance of wildlife, sunsets, landscapes, history – I’d never have experienced those things from an armchair. I’ve come to realise that life is about experiences, and my ‘fix’ comes from the outdoors. Many of the people I’ve met along the way have influenced my love of the outdoors, and I love the lifestyle that comes with it.
What part does running play in this?
That’s kind of hard for me to define, because I do lots of other things, like climbing, skiing, biking, sometimes walking, and like those things, running is just a part of my life. That said, I do a lot more running that any of the other things these days, and it’s allowed me to explore many corners of the globe that I’ve travelled to – there aren’t many things you can do alone, anywhere, just by slipping on a pair of running shoes, and I suppose that is one of the best things about running – you can enjoy the outdoors, at whatever level you are capable of, anywhere.
You’ve taken on some real challenges lately, including planning for the incredible Breo Hero 700 mile challenge! How would you describe such experiences?
The 700 miler, Running North, is actually on hold for the moment – during the Coast to Coast (which was 200 miles or so…), Laraine and I realised lots of things, and the main one was that we just weren’t ready for such a big undertaking – what really swung it was the realisation that Scotland isn’t all sunsets, wildlife and scenery, even in summer, it’s a really harsh environment. So, to better prepare ourselves, we’re running a series of long-distance routes to allow us to hone vital elements like kit, clothing, what we eat and what we use for sleeping! Aside from that Laraine ended up with extreme plantar fasciitis in both feet, and I was offered a full-time research post, so logistically, it would have been put on hold anyway.
How seriously do you take nutrition?
Because I do so much yoga, I’ve become a true advocate of being balanced, and I definitely take a balanced approach toward what I eat – every day I load up with fruit and veg in the form of green smoothies and salads, and eat very little refined or processed food – I guess most people would say I’m a super healthy eater, and I do notice a difference if I’ve had to eat food that I view as not so nutrient dense. For example, if I’ve been on the hill for a couple of days and had to carry all my food, it’s generally dried or there’s lots of sugar and salt added, and that sort of food makes me lethargic. I make a lot of my own food from scratch when I can – houmous, pates, birchers etc are good for packing lots of good stuff in. But, I generally have a bit of a naughty, mischievous nature and this definitely applies to what I eat – I love sweeties, cheeses and craft beers – however, I do believe the good balances out the treats! I drink gallons of water, and Yogi teas are a favourite, but I have to admit, without a good strong espresso first thing, very little happens!
What running fuel tips would you pass, particularly for long days in the hills?
I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask for a solid answer on this, because I tend to go for long periods on the hill without refuelling, and instead load up before, when I get home, on rest days etc. There’s different schools of thought on what the best approach is – some think it’s better to train the body to operate on little food, and other believe in eating as often as possible. For me, I struggle with eating while doing intense activity, but I think 100 calorie boosts are good and easy for the body to manage while on the go. With hydration, again, I am not so good, and probably could learn a better approach – I think this could be down to spending so much time running in the Alps, where I carried nothing more than ID and a few quid, because it was always possible to get a sip of water from one of the many, many water troughs that are dotted all along Alpine trails – I even had a sip of glacier water once! In Scotland, I do carry a small bottle of water in my waist pack, but could definitely carry more. I like the Nakd bars and nibbles – they are light to carry and offer a good, nutrient dense, energy boost. I think it’s wise to always carry some food and water for any runs over 10km, especially so if going into the hills. However, fuel is such a personal thing, trial and error is the key to learning what works, as every runner is completely different.
What is your favourite pre-run and post-run fuel?
Before a run, I just try to eat as much as I can but allow myself plenty of time, say a couple of hours, to digest. I now have a good idea of what my body needs, but that’s just come with experience. I generally eat a lot of fruit, veg and proteins before running – sometimes I have carbs, but usually, these are reserved for treat/rest days! I’m a caffeine fiend, and struggle to operate until I’ve had a good strong espresso, followed by a green tea! Oh – loads of water also!
Post run – I eat what my body tells me it wants, but my favourite thing after a long day on the hill is a gourmet burger with a craft beer! Even better – in the sun!
Where does your boundless enthusiasm come from?
Coffee! Just kidding. It’s just the way I am – I probably have too much energy, and am easily bored, but it feeds my thirst for knowledge and I love that I am one of those people who always wants more, wants to learn more and wants to experience more. I would hate to be a couch potato! That said, there’s plenty of times I’ve totally burnt myself out, and spent a few days in bed catching up on sleep. As I get older, I’m learning we all have limits!
How did your support from @Breofficial @sealskinz and @SkiAscent come about?
With all these things, social media plays a big part and that’s effectively the common dominator for all the companies and brands I’ve worked with – it can be hard to maintain a social media presence, and mine definitely ebbs and flows! But that’s really where all these connections come from, and most people I know who work with brands have built their relationships in the same way. I’ve been involved with Breo for a long time now, and I hope I continue to be for a long time to come – they have been a great company to work with, and I’ve really enjoyed being part of what they do. Sealskinz has been a more recent connection, and that came via one of the media representatives who I’d spent a bit of time with a few years ago doing some Gore Tex things. SkiAscent – I helped set up the company, but for various reasons, I’m no longer involved. I suppose that’s the downside of these things, not every connection you make will be the right one for you, and when it becomes a full-time job in itself, it can loose it’s gloss! For the most part though, I’ve been really lucky and I work with other companies and brands too who allow me to dip in and out of things, as and when I have the time.
How do you find blogging?
I’ve always loved writing, and I actually took a minor in Journalism when I was doing my undergrad degree, but I lost touch with it for a while when I focused on being an ‘artist’, and screen printing, photography and design took over. Then I moved to Aviemore and took a temporary post with Wilderness Scotland – part of my role was to mange the blog, and I got some really great feedback for the blogs I was writing – I think one of my wild camping posts is still one of their most popular blogs! I realised that I enjoyed blogging, it was a lot less pressurised than I found traditional journalism to be, and the style fitted my approach to writing. I contributed to a few other blogs, and then started my own. Recently though, I’ve been eyeballs deep in writing my Ph.D thesis and academic research papers, so it’s been hard to keep up to date with my own blog – it’s probably become a bit of a photo blog to be honest, but I’m ok with that, and I always think it’s good to step away from things so you can find the joy in them once again.
Sarah’s blog is A Squirrel Goes Touring btw 🙂
You overcame Lyme Disease – could you tell us a little about your battle?
It’s very hard to communicate just how awful Lyme disease can become, there was a period of time, for me, when things got so bad I couldn’t get out of bed, and that was a really bad experience. I was also living on my own at that point, and it was quite scary not knowing if I would be able to get help if I needed it urgently. Prior to that I’d had quite a bad initial reaction to the tick bite, but it wasn’t until the bite flared up again and quite literally started growing out of my leg that I seen a doctor. I was lucky that I was living in an area where the doctors are familiar with Lyme, and are happy to treat it asap – I know that in some areas there are doctors who aren’t quite so clued up on, and perhaps aren’t even aware it exists.
Unfortunately though I got the antibiotics after the disease had started to get into my system. Of course, I didn’t know this and assumed the treatment would sort me out in a couple of weeks and I very foolishly keep active when I should have been resting. My early symptoms – fevers, racing heart, cold/flu and fatigue got so bad that I was ordered, by the doctor, to do nothing more than walk to my local corner store if it was critical for me to do so! At the same time, I started my Ph.D, so I couldn’t really sit around for long. Eventually my symptoms got so bad that I was having heart and muscle problems, I was always exhausted and stressed, but the worst thing was the brain fog – especially since I was doing research and really needed to be on the ball! Things came to a head after a trip to Vancouver, I wasn’t myself for the duration of my trip, but on the ten-hour flight home I had a really bad reaction to some blue cheese I’d eaten the nice previous, I don’t know if this was related to having Lyme or not, but it’s not something that had happened before. I literally thought I was going to die, it was awful – I don’t know how I got through boarder control at Heathrow and have no idea how I got through the flight back up to Scotland.
It took a couple of weeks to get over that, and I then went winter climbing in the Cairngorms for a couple of weeks. This was the last nail in the coffin and I was unable to get out of bed for about a month following. This made me realise I had to do something radical to get a normal life again. Antibiotics just weren’t working, and I was living in an area where the doctors just didn’t want to help – I was continuously told that I was stressed because I was doing a Ph.D, and that I should find ways to relax! As a yoga teacher, I was well aware of ways to manage stress, and I found this both frustrating and angering. Regardless, it was quite clear the doctors were not prepared to help me. So, I explored lots of things, and I found that diet and probiotics were the two things that started to made a difference. I started climbing again, and then running to get fit for climbing, I thought that running would send me on a downward spiral of exhaustion again, but it did the opposite and really seemed to help me get well again – perhaps it was all the sunshine! Now, I still have to be really careful that I don’t overdo, I get tried really easily, am susceptible to colds, and have lasting heart, lung and muscle problems, but a good diet and plenty of sleep seems to have been my saving grace!
That is some story Sarah and I can identify with a lot of it, having contracted Lymes myself.
Who and where do you draw your inspiration you?
Being in nature, of course. I also love the sun, snow, mountains, water – it’s usually quite hard to get all four at the same time! In terms of people, I think people who work hard to overcome hurdles, whatever they may be, are very inspirational – anyone with a positive, optimistic outlook on life I suppose. I really hate being around negativity, I find it drains me and zaps my energy, and I try to avoid neurotic people who should probably do a bit more yoga or something! I like to keep things simple and be happy with what I’ve got – I’m not interested in awards or achievements, and I draw inspiration from anyone or anything that has the same ethos as me.
What’s on your bucket list?
I don’t actually have one – my personality is such that I really am quite unpredictable and hard to pin down, I get an idea in my head and either go off and do it, or get bored waiting for it to happen! When I was younger, I was desperate to explore every corner of the globe, but that’s faded as I’ve gotten older. I’d love to spend a bit more time in Norway – my current dream is to buy a boat and live on it for a bit, touring the coastline and skiing further north of the country. I’d love to spend some time above the Arctic Circle, it’s an area that’s always fascinated me – I love the culture, the clothing (my first degree was in Textiles) and the people – I guess that would take in a lot of Siberia and Alaska as well.
Other than that, I’m very much enjoying being in the Highlands of Scotland at the moment and am struggling to find a reason to leave as there’s so much to do here – my next stop is Orkney. For the winter, I’m hoping to build on my very, very basic ski touring skills and spend lots of time in the Scottish hills on ski, doing a bit of hut-to-hut touring, bothy style!
Lastly, what is your running mantra?
I have a few:
– anything is better than nothing,
– just do it, and;
– good things happen when you wear the right shoes.
Fantastic stuff Sarah! Thank you so much for this interview. Your enthusiasm for life experiences is infectious believe me. Can’t wait to hear more about your future adventures 🙂 #ThisGirlCan