Runner’s Story: Liz Tunna

Last updated: 07-Mar-16

Liz Tunna was feeling fat and run down, so she started running, lost 4 ½ stone, faced some related problems with eating but overcame them and forged ahead to running success. She is now a Guinness World Record Holder.

By Liz Tunna

I was a TEFL teacher, originally did a degree in English Lit and Drama, did a postgrad in Exercise and Nutrition Science and now I’m a trainee primary school teacher, who likes to run a lot. My pull towards running has been there since school.

However, this isn’t to say that I have been running ever since, because I haven’t. I became horrendously unhealthy during my teenage years and this spilled over into my university years.

In 2007, I decided I’d had enough of feeling fat and feeling pretty down about it, so I decided to take up running again and I used to run up and down the promenade in my university town of Aberystwyth. So that I had a bit of motivation, I decided to enter the Great North Run in 2008 and I remember absolutely loving the buzz of it all. By this point, I had lost around four and a half stone.

However, losing so much weight in such a short space of time was quite a shock to the system. Hearing compliments about how much weight you’ve lost and how much better you look is overwhelming and my ‘healthy’ weight loss quickly spiralled into hardly eating anything and making myself sick.

Somehow running helped me get better, because I had really started to enjoy it, but quickly came to realise that it would be impossible if my body didn’t have the nutrients to function. Clichéd or not, it was a sort of therapy for me and it allowed me to let go of the tight grip I had on a lot of negative emotions to do with weight and food.

Once I was on the path to making peace with food, I signed myself up for a few more half marathons and then I decided to sign myself up for Windermere Marathon in May 2009. I have always loved the Lake District and so I literally decided to Google ‘marathon’ and ‘Lake District’ and this is what I came across. This was a massive turning point for me, because Windermere is where I realised that the 100 Marathon club existed and that lots of extreme runners existed out there. Most of all, I was inspired by the ‘10 marathons in 10 days’ runners. In fact, I was so inspired that I decided to immediately go home and apply for the 10 in 10. However, I was turned down on lack of running experience. So, I decided to apply again in 2010 and I became a Brathay 10 in 10 runner in 2011.

On the back of the Windermere Marathon, I went on to do six more marathons in 2009 and in November 2009, I completed my first ultra – Beacons Ultra (45 miles). On 9th October 2011, I became the youngest woman to run 100 marathons, at the age of 24 years, 354 days and I later managed to register this with the Guinness World Records.

Before my first ultra, I didn’t worry myself too much, which is to say, I didn’t thoroughly research the course. I brought all the relevant safety gear and kit list with me, so I wasn’t reckless, but I just reasoned, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ It was fairly hilly and the trail and weather was tough in places, but the scenery was amazing and the organisers and fellow runners were so friendly. The sense of adventure was exhilarating. It may sound a bit airy-fairy, but, being surrounded by nature and knowing that you’re travelling somewhere using your own two feet and willpower is just awesome. Furthermore, I’m normally pretty girly and used to wearing makeup, but I really look forward to getting covered in mud during an ultra.

Approximately just over 60 of my 161 events of at least marathon distance are ultras. I’ve run many different ultra-distances from 50k to 145 miles and I’ve now completed the Grand Union Canal Race (145 miles) for my fourth consecutive year and the Liverpool to Leeds Race (130 miles) for my second year.

My biggest ultra running superpower is that I have a really good ability to see the bigger picture, look past most of the pain and visualise the finish line and a nice pint of (preferably) pale ale or Guinness. Never overthink things. I think if I’d have thought out half the things I’ve ended up entering, then maybe I would have talked myself out of it. And never let anyone else talk you out of anything, especially non-runners. A lot of people will never get why it is you’re running a really long way, but it doesn’t matter as long as you do.

I would describe myself as slightly disorganised, so I haven’t got a lot coming up, race-wise, just a few marathons, but I know there will be stuff – I just pencil it in as and when. I also don’t have a fixed training plan per se, but I mix up my running with lifting weights. Food wise, I liked avocados before they were trendy and I eat a lot of olives and too much pizza. I also really have a thing for Old Man Pubs and real ale. Lots of B Vitamins. And I like red wine, lots of iron…

"Somehow running helped me get better ... it was a sort of therapy for me"

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