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Story added: 14th June 2019

Last year's female race winner Dani Nimmock talks training, work and representing her country

On progression…

“My running has really progressed over the last few years and I guess you could say that 2018 was a big breakthrough year for me. I knocked minutes off my personal bests in the 10k,10-mile, half marathon and marathon; and this alongside winning the Manchester Marathon, led to my first senior England selection at the Commonwealth Games Half Marathon and also the Frankfurt Marathon. But it’s not been an easy ride up to this point and it’s taken a lot of hard work, patience and dedication to keep plugging away training at an elite level whilst holding down a full-time career at an events company in London.

I think there are a number of factors that lead to this breakthrough but the key things were being able to train consistently and finding a good work / training / life balance. The first came down to not being injured; previously I seemed to always be getting injuries and niggles in the period when I graduated from university in 2011 and started working full-time and I think it’s because I tried to maintain the training regimen that I did as a student but it wasn’t possible to sustain that intensity of training and be healthy, alongside work stressors and all the jobs that come with being an adult that I didn’t have to worry about when I was a student athlete!

I wanted to support myself in London and establish my career so when the injuries kept coming running took a bit of a backseat but I did always try to keep fit and even dabbled in triathlon when I couldn’t run as much.

In 2016 I did the Stockholm Marathon and was on for 2:48 but I didn’t fuel or drink enough during the race and it was a hot day so at 15 miles I hit the wall and came in just under 3 hours hallucinating water falls! My husband who has a sports science degree and masters in physiology saw the state I was in and wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again so he started to coach me. A few months later, under his guidance I attempted the marathon again and did 2:48 and had a really positive experience, finishing strong with the last mile being my fastest split.

Because of the set-up we created it meant if I was tired or had a stressful day we would simply adjust that days training or move it to another day in the week and my husband did a great job of helping me with that and not letting me feel bad for missing a session. Ultimately this kept the injuries away and with consistent training I saw improvements that made me start to believe in myself and realise that I could have my career and try to be good at running too – it didn’t need to be a choice of one or the other and I embraced this and concentrated on what I could fit in and control not what I couldn’t.

On a whirlwind year

Being selected to run for England was always a dream goal and I never thought it would actually happen let alone be called up to run 3 times in one year. I’m really grateful of the experience the opportunity from England Athletics presented me because it’s definitely helped me develop as a senior athlete and make me realise that hard-work and dedication can pay off.

On representing your country

It’s exciting, especially when you get your first kit drop! Racing in your country’s vest is a really special moment and going away in a team environment is fun but took a bit of getting used to. Normally when I go to a race I have everything planned myself down to a tee (which I can’t help when I work in events management!) but the team manager sorted everything out from flights and accommodation to transport and where to eat and this meant that we, the athletes, only needed to focus on the race. I’ve been lucky to make some really great friends through the experience too including Tracy [Tracy Barlow – Run Norwich 2015 & 2016 winner] who I went to Girona with last summer to train with her as she prepared for the marathon at the European Champs.

On winning Manchester Marathon

Winning the Manchester Marathon has got to be the highpoint because the build-up was almost perfect and I really enjoyed the process but then to transform that into the result we wanted on the day and win was amazing. There can be so many variables on race day and despite months of training it can all come down to how your body and mind performs on the day. When everything you’ve worked so hard for culminates success on race day, it makes all those tiring runs, early mornings, sore legs and exhausted Sunday afternoons worthwhile!

On working for London Marathon

I feel very lucky to have a job that I love and work for a company whose drive is to inspire activity and raise as much money as possible for charity. I’ve always been in awe of the London Marathon, watching it on TV every year when I was growing up but working behind the scenes really opened my eyes to the huge operational task that it is.

In my role I organise the London Marathon Running Show and the RideLondon Cycling Show. I oversee the whole management of these events from creating the floorplan, working with brands on their exhibition space, planning the entertainment and designing the activation areas. It’s also really important to ensure it works efficiently for the thousands of participants who come to register and pick up their runner or rider pack for the Virgin Money London Marathon and Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100.

On balancing training and work

It’s not easy to balance my work and training. A friend pointed out that what I’m trying to do is effectively manage two careers at once that are both demanding with high-pressured goals. I have to be extremely organised and strict with 5am alarm calls to fit in morning runs, which is especially hard in the winter months. My company’s event portfolio including running, cycling and swimming events, which means there are several weekends taken up throughout the year and often weeks with very long hours.

office near London Bridge some mornings, which is 11 miles door to door but in the lead up to a marathon I’ve been known to extend this to 18 miles by running along the Thames and back. It’s a nice feeling sitting at your desk at 8.30 having breakfast and knowing you’ve already got  18 miles under your belt! I also have the flexibility of working from home a couple of days a week when possible but if an important meeting crops up or I’m on a deadline I have to improvise with the training plan and not worry about it.

My colleagues and boss are supportive of my running and we have great facilities at the office with stand-up desks, nearby gyms and an excellent staff wellbeing programme. This definitely helps because if I worked for a company that didn’t understand or appreciate running it would be difficult but then I probably wouldn’t work anywhere that didn’t get it!

On the future

I’m really looking forward to doing Run Norwich again and I’ve been selected to run for Great Britain at the IAU 50k World Championships, which are on the 1st of September in Brasov, Romania. It will be my debut appearance for Team GB and this is the main focus of my year but training for a 10k is good to do alongside the longer runs as it helps keep you in touch with faster pace work. I came 3rd at the England 10k Champs at Brighton this April and ran a P.B of 33:41. I took a bit of a season break in late April, early May because of my work responsibilities at the London Marathon Running Show but training has been going well since then whilst building up the mileage for the 50k race.

Racing over 50k is going to be a new challenge for me. It’s 5 miles further than a marathon and could be in very warm conditions. The GB women’s team is super strong with Olympian Aly Dixon stepping up to the distance, Helen Davies [Run Norwich 2016 – 3rd] who won Brighton Marathon this year, Julie Briscoe and Hannah Oldroyd so we will definitely be going for individual medals as well as team gold. I’m really looking forward to it and think it will help my development and stamina in the marathon, which I’ll return to next Spring as I work towards my aim to qualify for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

On setting a race record

It was amazing to win Run Norwich and return to Norfolk where I grew up and where my parents still live. The Norfolk running scene is really strong and the calibre of Run Norwich past winners is high so I approached the race like any other; I was nervous before the start but when the gun went I just did the best I could do. The course isn’t easy and there are a few hills but it was great to be rewarded with the win and a new course record was the icing on the cake. I’d love to break my course record this year and take the time under 35 minutes. All being well I think that will be possible but I’ll have to win first and beat the competition in order to do so!

On Run Norwich race day

The spectators are brilliant for support and the atmosphere especially around Castle Meadow and on the hill up to The Forum is fantastic. It really helps you give it that extra push when your legs and lungs are hurting. It made me feel proud running in my childhood city in the City of Norwich AC red and yellow stripes. The overall organisation and the Race Village where I met up with friends after the race for ice-cream, was excellent and all helped make it a great day!”

"It was amazing to win Run Norwich and return to Norfolk where I grew up"

Dani Nimmock

#RN18 winner

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