Interview with Cat Simpson

Last updated: 26-Oct-18

By Susie Chan

Ultra runner Cat Simpson has gone from strength to strength, after breaking the course record for the 145 mile Grand Union Canal Race, she recently broke the three hour marathon time and was the only female in the GB Spartathlon team.

She finished 5th in this gruelling race in hazardous weather, becoming the second fastest ever British female.

We caught up with her after her superb performance.

Q. Congratulations on the race! You did really well. Did you always have a plan to run that fast and aim for that time? Or did you have to adapt as the race went on?

A. Thank you! Based on my time at GUCR I hoped to be able to run Spartathlon in around 30 hours. Breaking 30 was the dream but based on previous experience, I found that after about 120-130 miles my legs fell apart and my stomach was awful from about 70 miles.

But I had a theory, based on my previous experiences of running 100 milers, that the first one was excruciating painful and a learning experience, and the subsequent ones then gave me an opportunity to tweak things (like nutrition) and were much more bearable.

I certainly found Spartathlon more comfortable in the latter stages. The second day of any race is definitely something I still dread though, when the tiredness and hallucinations set in.

Q. You recently went sub three hours in a marathon, was that part of the Spartathon training? What sort of weekly mileage did you peak at?

A. I ran Tallinn Marathon three weeks before Spartathlon which served as my last long run before tapering, and I peaked at just over 100 miles in a week, but only ran a handful of 100 mile weeks.

I was very fortunate to have about a month and a half off working, in between finishing studying to be a nurse and starting my first job, so was able to dedicate a little bit of time solely to training. I think to really hit the big mileage weeks you need to have no job. Or no friends. Or both. (I’m kidding, you just need good discipline and time management.)

I was much better at doing some strength and conditioning stuff, and a bit of stretching this time around to sort out the inevitable niggles and kinks.

Q. After such a successful race, what’s next for you? Next big race goal?

A. I’ve always wanted to have a crack at a 24 hour race, but at present (less than a week after Spartathlon) the prospect of running that far again fills me with terror. Give it a week though – us ultra runners are a bit simple and have a very short memory span…

Q. You were part of Team GB at Spartathlon, but were the only female. Any advice to women out there who have ambitions at taking on a race like this? 

A. I was the only female out of around 25 men. I’ve got a keen interest in raising female participation in endurance sport, and am involved in a London-based group called WMN RUN, whose goal is to encourage more female participation.

I wish I had a definitive answer for why numbers are lower, but I suspect it’s multifactorial. Women have only been allowed to enter long distance events since the 1960s, so I think we’re still playing catch up.

I personally think the sharp end of the female field is really exciting at the moment; that was shown recently in the UTMB races when British women raced at the same level as their male counterparts, however there did seem to be less coverage of this.

When I read things in the running press like ‘the best ever British performance’, or ‘first British winner since…’, then realise they’re only talking about the male entrants, it does make me cringe. But there are loads of great female role models out there pushing the boundaries of endurance running and I’m really proud to be involved in this sport at the moment.

"The second day of any race is definitely something I still dread though, when the tiredness and hallucinations set in"

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Like what you read?

Click here to sign up for more

Related news

Nutrition Highs

Last updated: 02-Mar-16 Written by Sports Dietitian Rin Cobb You’re struggling to think, can’t quite catch your breath and you have the beginnings of a

Read More »

Latest news

Global - Virtual

Elevation

A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for

For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Elevation

An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for

Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Brutal

Elevation

Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude)

Suitable for

Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Expert

Elevation

Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat)

Suitable for

Experienced runners who have completed at least 4 ultras in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.

Advanced

Elevation

Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.

Intermediate

Elevation

Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed at least one ultra in last 6 months or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.

Beginner

Elevation

Very little change < 500 metres

Suitable for

First ultra event. Runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running (>26 miles) in the last 6 months.