Joanna running in the Lake District © Berghaus
1) For many years you have concentrated on road running - marathons and ultras mainly - with enormous success. First, can you explain your decision take part in such a grueling off road race?
After an inauspicious start to 2014 (being tripped and trampled in the first few metres of a marathon and so breaking a rib and my nose), the latter part of the year involved some amazing experiences, representing Scotland and GB on the roads over various distances (marathon, 50k, and 100k). This meant that I had to pack a lot of time-oriented road running into a short space of time, and so by the end of the year, I felt mentally, physically and emotionally drained from it all......and reluctant to spend 2015 chasing similar goals. I wanted to return to running for the pure love of it, and spend time with like-minded people in the beautiful outdoors. You came to my rescue my suggesting the Dragon's Back Race, and so, when I looked into it further, it seemed to tick all the right boxes. It was a run when times don't matter (as long as you make the cut offs), in beautiful scenery, and you get to spend several days just running, eating, sleeping and chatting to others - what better way of getting my mojo back?
2) Secondly, how do you think your road speed and endurance will effect your approach to the race?
I'm no speed demon over short distances, but I have endurance - and my ability to eat and to recover relatively quickly means that I am suited to longer events. I know I'm not the best mountain runner around (being famous for my girlie arms on downhills), but a bit of road speed and leg strength uphills should compensate for that to some extent (I hope). My approach to the event will be first and foremost to enjoy the whole experience, rather than see it as a race, as then whatever happens I won't be disappointed! I'm really looking forward to seeing a new part of the country (having only ever raced twice in Wales before) and meeting many new people and hopefully learning from everyone. I will make sure that I get some off-road/hill running in as specific preparation, but in trying to fit training in around my work, I know that a lot of my running has to be done on the roads near where I live.
3) Like many competitors, I understand that you have some nervousness about the navigation required for the race. What is going to be your approach?
Many people (myself included) worry about the navigation on an event such as this, so I think my approach will be to take the time to be confident of my map reading and route choices each day. This time isn't wasted time, as undoubtably more time would be lost by going the wrong way or being DQ'd for missing a checkpoint. I'm more of a map and compass girl than a technology/GPS girl, but I'm always up for learning new skills.
4) You are not without off road experience having won the multi-day Atacama Crossing in 2010 and completed various mountain marathons. What are your preparations for the race?
Having run mountain marathons and the Atacama Crossing, I love the "simplicity" of such events (for the competitors that is)... you just keep going from when you cross that start line until you get to that day's finish line.
5) Post race eating seems like your preferred reward method! What will you be looking forward to at the end of the race?
I confess that one of the big draws of the event is the food every night at camp… how often do you get unlimited good vegetarian food cooked for you? And cake? Heaven! Though I admit some fermented fruit juice may be consumed at the end.....