Cucumber's thrilled to have Amelia Watts, top flight trainer, talk about how she motivates herself to run 100 mile races, and why she was driven to create an all natural, healthy sports food.
From a very early age I have always loved running. Many of my happiest early memories are of running around the school playing fields. It was not just the freedom, the exploration, the wind in your hair that I enjoyed, it was also the sense of being good at something. Being a dyslexic child in the days when dyslexia was poorly understood meant that everyday at school was a challenge. But then when I ran, life’s stresses just seemed to dull into the background, disappearing further and further behind me. The more I ran the more my confidence grew, opening horizons in front of me that I previously didn’t think possible.
As life went on, I ran further and further, from 5k to 10k, to half marathons and marathons. My journey into ultra running began when someone close to me flippantly declared one day that I would never be able to run the Marathon Des Sables, a 250k self-sufficient race through the Sahara Desert. This was the wrong thing to say, you can tell me that I won't be able to do many things in life but you do not tell me that I cannot run. The red flag had been waved in front of this bull.
A year later after many hours of blood, sweat and tears of training, I stood on the MdS start line along with 1000 other competitors from around the world, luckily completely unaware of what challenges were in front of me. In my ignorance, I thought the hardest part of the race would be the miles that had to be completed each day and yet as it turned out this was the easy part. It was the 50 degree Celsius heat, the sleeping in communal tents with a cacophony of deafening snores and the food! The Marathon Des Sables is a self-sufficient race, one where you have to carry all of the food you are going to eat over the seven days. Conventional sports food wisdom told me that I should pack high calorie to weight ratio food, ensuring rucksack weight was kept to a minimum. So my bag was filled with sports gels, bars, nuts and salami, providing the perfect blend of sugary, bland, sweaty fare. By day three, I was giving away my gels, as I just could not stomach any more sugar, all I was craving was some proper nutritious food. With an empty digestive system I ran towards the finishing line, proudly crossing as the fifth placed women.
Back home, reflecting on the race, there simply had to be a better way to fuel for endurance events. I started to research into the nutritional requirements for optimal endurance performance. After all, I was putting my body under extreme duress, so giving it some TLC seemed well worth it. What the Marathon des Sables taught me was that fuelling is not just about calories, nor is it simply about sugar. It’s about re-stocking the body with the nutrients and energy that you use along the way. It is about consuming proper food!
So, with my partner we started to create our own recipes. Nice savoury dishes made from all natural ingredients, ingredients that the digestive system recognises. A healthy sports food that not only tastes good, but also provides all of the nutrients and energy the body needs. By gently blending the recipes we were able to create a fuel that was easy to eat and digest on the move.
Since then, I have been successfully fuelling myself through a number of other ultra marathons including the 100 mile Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, the 72 mile Laverado and the 72 mile Trans Gran Canarias. As other fellow runners saw my innovative homemade fuels, interest spread and enquires into where they could be purchased grew. Finally, in 2017 Longhaul Endurance was launched.
My grandmother once gave me a wonderful piece of advice, ‘find something you love and then find someone to pay you to do it’. Throughout my life I have tried to follow her guidance working as a personal fitness trainer, nutrition consultant and now with Longhaul Endurance.
One thing I am confident of, is that no matter what challenges life throws my way, I know I can overcome them or at least work through them by simply placing one foot in front of the other again and again and again.