She has three World Records, has run through the jungles of Peru and the deserts of Namibia. Her first Ultra Marathon sign-up was the Marathon Des Sables, and she was the first female to have completed a Double Comrades – 180km (112 miles). This lady is unstoppable.
At 51 years old, Mimi Anderson is certainly no typical 50-something woman.
Training three runs a week with a pack (two back to back long runs and a midweek mid-length run of about 15 miles) as well as other sessions without a pack, she certainly packs in the miles. That mileage has got to take it’s toll, and fitting in such high mileage must be a challenge. But Mimi credits Nordic Oil for reducing her muscles’ soreness after long hard training sessions, meaning she can get out the following day and train again without suffering.
In this Q&A with Mimi we talk tyre dragging, hallucinations, Spartathlon, Soreen and the magical properties of Nordic Oil. Mimi also gives us her nanna’s best advice, and her top 5 training tips for tackling the ultra distance.
Nordic Oil have also kindly offered a competition prize for a randomly selected reader who correctly answers the question in the link at the bottom of this post. The winner will receive a bottle of High Grade Omega 3 Oil, a pot of Omega 3 Capsules and a pot of Capsules with added Vitamin D… worth nearly £40! Please see the bottom of this post for Terms. **Competition now closed**
Interested? You should be!
What inspired you to take up running?
I took up running quite by a mistake. I didn’t particularly like the shape of my legs and a friend told me the quickest and best way to change them was to run so that’s exactly what I did!
How did you discover ultra-running?
Once I was able to run 10 miles I took part in a few races up to and including the half marathon distance, so you can imagine my surprise one day when one of my running partners came into the gym, handed me a magazine and told me she had found our next race. I glanced at the article and written across the page in huge letters was Marathon des Sables, 250km Self Sufficiency Staged race over 7 days in the Sahara Desert. I couldn’t believe that people actually ran these distances and in such hot conditions, that was it, I had to give it a go and see if I was capable of taking on such an amazing challenge.
I will imagine situations that could happen during a race, then work out a strategy on how I will mentally deal with it.
How do you prepare yourself, both physically and mentally, for the amazing feats you put yourself through?
Physically I put in a lot of hard training. I’m not a great believer that you have to run huge distances and do lots of races, but I make sure that I my training is of good quality and relevant to the race I’m preparing for. Training for a race in the Arctic for example where I had to pull a sled I spent hours running round my local forest dragging a tyre. As well as simulating pulling the sled it also strengthened my legs. For staged races I tend to do three runs a week with my pack, two long ones which are back to back and a midweek mid-length run of about 15 miles as well as other sessions without my pack. When I’m training for races such as the Spartathlon or Badwater I would do a lot of road running to get my body used to the hard tarmac surfaces. I also try and get to the gym twice a week for some cross training/core work.
To prepare myself mentally I read articles, look at photographs and talk to other people who have either done the race I’m training for or something similar; this helps to build a picture in my mind of what the course will look like and what to expect. I will also imagine situations that could happen during a race, then work out a strategy on how I will mentally deal with it. The two things that work best for me are firstly having a picture in my mind of the finish line with my family standing behind it cheering me on and secondly if I’m having a really bad time I think of all those people who think I’m going to fail, that always gets me moving again.
Since taking Nordic Oil I have noticed that my muscles soreness is reduced after a long hard training session.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Initially I had a bit of criticism because I had a young family and would leave them behind for 10 days or so at a time (always looked after by their father and my mother) but 14 years ago there were very few women who took part in ultras and even fewer with families, it seemed to be almost considered a no go area. Now thankfully there are hundreds of women around the world who take part in the sport which is wonderful to see.
I think my main adversity has been my issue with food. Although I recovered from anorexia before I started running and I eat sensibly because I need to live, sometimes the little green monster makes an appearance and I have a moment of panic. It doesn’t last for long and I would never go back to how I was, that was a living hell, but sometimes just for a nano second my old me creeps back.
I think my proudest moment was finishing 3rd Female in the Spartathlon in 2011.
What’s your funniest memory from your racing career?
There has been many a funny moment while out running but one of them has to be during my World Record attempt in Ireland last September. At the end of the 2nd day at about 3.45 am I came into the campervan for my 2 hour break (90 sleep the rest eating). Before I was allowed to sleep I would wash/eat then lie down in my bunk while Becky (one of my crew) massaged my legs.
While I was having the backs of my legs massaged I felt very concerned because there were loads of worms in front of me and to make it worse they were wiggling about. I told Becky there were worms in the Bunk and we would have to get rid of them, she had no idea what I was talking about and however much I tried to describe them she still wasn’t able to see them. It turned out that what I was looking at were the patterns on the carpet above my head! The following day I saw mozzarella going down the centre of a little road – it turned out to be grass! amazing what happens to you when you’re tired.
What are you most proud of?
That is such a difficult question as I’m proud of everything I have achieved as I never in my wildest dreams thought I was capable of even running a mile when I first started running let alone 840 miles!
My John O’Groats to Lands End and my Malin Head to Mizen Head World Records are records that I’m very proud of and every time I talk about them the emotions of what I went through with my crew come flooding back, but I think my proudest moment was finishing 3rd Female in the Spartathlon in 2011. This was a race that I had put off entering as I didn’t consider myself fast enough or good enough so to finish on the Podium was for me a massive achievement.
Instead of saying “I can’t do this” ask yourself the question “Why can’t I do this?”
Having suffered with anorexia in the past, how important to you is a balanced diet?
I don’t actually think of food a great deal I suppose because I spent so many years obsessed by it and it doesn’t particularly interest me, but having said that I eat when I’m hungry and my diet tends to be a healthy one. The fact that I’m eating is what’s important to me.
How do you cope with fueling for the intense distances you cover?
Fueling for races is always a problem for me, not because I don’t want to eat but because I become totally uninterested in food. When I have a crew it’s much easier as they prepare my food and I will eat what I’m given from rice puddings, ready made custard and sandwiches cut up into small pieces to fruit – they monitor and balance my intake. Between seeing my crew I usually have wine gums in my pack and some nuts which will keep me going until I see them again. I try to eat proper food rather than gels which I just can’t stomach.
When racing on my own I use a product called Perpetuem which is a carbohydrate drink, this works well for me and isn’t sweet so works well in hot conditions as well. I will eat things like Soreen bars, bananas (if they have them at checkpoints) and I use Shot Bloks which are easy and convenient to use and don’t taste revolting.
Why do you take Nordic Oil? Do you find it helps you in your training and/or recovery?
I read an article about Omega 3 Oil being a good natural anti-inflammatory as well as all the other health benefits its gives, so began using Nordic Oil. Since taking Nordic Oil I have noticed that my muscles soreness is reduced after a long hard training session which enables me to go out the following day and train again without suffering from the day before.
How about for us non-ultra runners? Will Nordic Oil make a difference?
Nordic Oil has many benefits. Omega 3 Fatty Acids are essential for health and well being and Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) play an important role in sustaining the health, repair and regenerative capability of the cells of our body. The benefits are:
- Helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attacks and stroke
- Helps with the improvement of brain activity during ageing (essential for me as I’m 51!)
The anti-inflammatory benefits help with:
- Rheumatic ailments such as arthritis
It’s a no-brainer really, I would definitely recommend it.
I read in your recent race report that you feel the menopause may have affected your racing, have you found a way to get round this?
This is something that I’m still looking into but there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of information on endurance racing during the menopause. I have however found a marvellous lady through Facebook who lectures on the subject so am picking her brains.
What would you say to someone who says “I can’t…”
My grandmother always used to say “there is no such word as can’t” If you don’t at least try something you will never know if you can do it or not. Instead of saying “I can’t do this” ask yourself the question “Why can’t I do this” you will be amazed at what you are capable of achieving.
Mimi’s Top 5 Training Tips
Here are Mimi’s top tips for anyone thinking of tackling the ultra distance:
- The 50km distance is a good starting point as it’s just over the marathon distance.
- Try and find a race that is near to home so that your family/friends can come and support you.
- Give yourself enough time to train properly, that way you will enjoy it more.
- Build up the distances slowly and have a recovery week every 4th week.
- Enjoy, the Ultra world is a marvellous family.
Thank you to Mimi for taking the time to do this Q&A, and for being such an inspiring role model. I think you’ll all agree that she is a force to be reckoned with. As I type, she is taking part in the Desert Ultra, taking place in Namibia… while I sit on my bum in front of the computer drinking a cuppa! I’m not saying I’m going to try Ultra racing myself… but I’m definitely inspired to take my, comparatively short, running more seriously.
Nordic Oil Competition!
To enter the competition to win a bottle of High Grade Omega 3 Oil, a pot of Omega 3 Capsules and a pot of Capsules with added Vitamin D worth nearly £40, simply complete the entry form and answer the question via the button below. **Competition now closed**
Terms and Conditions
Fitcetera can only accept one entry person, and only one prize will be awarded. The correct entry, complete with contact details, will be randomly drawn on Wednesday 27th November. Entries close 10pm Tuesday 26th November. The competition winner decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. The prize is non-transferable and there will be no cash alternative. The promoter is Nordic Oil, Manor Village, Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland. http://www.nordicoil.co.uk/