What is it like to run from one end of the UK to the other? This is what English ultramarathon runner Imo Boddy is set to discover this June when she undertakes the challenge of being the youngest woman to complete JOGLE (John o’ Groats to Land’s End).
Based in London, Imo is no stranger to endurance sports. Last April, she ran seven marathons in seven days to raise money for the mental health charity, Mind. So, why has she set her sights on this new challenge? We caught up with Imo about her training, mental preparation, and why she prefers true-crime podcasts on her runs.
Hi Imo! What inspired your passion for running when you were younger?
I’ve always played competitive sports, such as hockey and netball, which I represented in my region during my youth. I really enjoyed the focus of training hard, so I ended up going to a sports-focussed high school in Cumbria, UK, so I could concentrate on improving my performance.
While I wasn’t a big runner at this age, I did decide to do an Iron Man challenge in my last year of school, which involved a 6-mile swim, a 6-mile marathon, and a 30-mile bike ride. Through doing this, I realized how much I enjoyed running and decided to make it my focus.
You are planning to run the length of the UK (a distance of over 900 miles) over 22 days. What motivated you to try this challenge?
Last April, I ran seven marathons in seven days, which I found challenging but also relatively quick. I wanted to do something that would require me to really dig deep.
I did consider trying The Enduroman Arch 2 Arc challenge, regarded as the hardest triathlon in the world. It involves running 87 miles from Marble Arch in London, swimming the English Channel, and cycling 181 miles to Paris.
But when you channel so much time and energy into something, you have to love it, and I’ve realized that running is my passion, so I want to focus on that instead.
Why is JOGLE such an iconic challenge for you to undertake?
The JOGLE route is well known but more popular with cyclists to undertake than runners.
It starts in John o’ Groats, a village in the far north of Scotland, and ends at Land’s End in Cornwall, which is mainland Britain’s most south-westerly point. I’ll be running south from Scotland, but many people run or cycle the route in reverse (LEJOG) as the highland areas are incredibly windy. So, I will be taking on this most challenging aspect first.
Who currently holds the title you are planning to take?
The youngest woman to run JOGLE completely solo was Megan Al-Ghailani, who was 23 when she completed it in 2018. So, I’ve decided to take up this challenge in June, while I am 22, as my birthday is in August.
What does your training currently look like?
I currently average 100km (62 miles) a week. I also do strength training, such as compound movements, single-leg, and core work, twice a week, and see a physiotherapist once a week.
I naturally have a fast pace and have had to learn to walk/jog/run to maintain consistency in my pace for ultramarathons such as this.
How do you mentally prepare for an ultramarathon like this?
I have very supportive friends and family. My sister runs with me quite a lot which is a big source of moral support for me. I’m so used to doing ultramarathons that I often have to remind myself that this isn’t normal. Sometimes, it is tough, both physically and mentally, but I always remind myself that I have the capability to do this. It’s all about the mindset.
Do you find tracking your heart rate, rest, and recovery enhances your understanding of your fitness and training?
I’ve only recently begun tracking my training, and I’m really excited about it. I used to focus on speed when running marathons, but now I’m looking more at my heart rate and pace.
What do you listen to while you run?
I find music a bit repetitive for long runs, so I prefer to listen to a podcast or an audiobook. Listening to people chatting away is much more engaging for my mind.
My favorite podcast to listen to while running is an odd one. Banged Up is a true-crime podcast featuring the life stories of British prisoners. I find all these people, their different backgrounds, and journeys very engaging.
Is there a woman in running (or any other sport) that you particularly admire or look up to?
I look up to all athletes who can stick to a goal. People forget how much training is about sacrifice, about giving up on nights out, going to bed earlier. So, I admire anyone who does this too.
When I was younger, I used to train at the English Institute of Sport. Sometimes, Jessica Ennis (former British track and field athlete) trained there and I would get to watch her. Her journey has been big a big inspiration for me.
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