5 minutes with... Emma Clayton
England international mountain runner Emma Clayton is a bit of an all-rounder, she excels on the road and track, however the Scunthorpe athlete shows most talent on the fells. With a coach, a running dad and a supportive family, Emma has all of the ingredients to make it to the top…
EC: I first started running towards the end of year 8, sports day was coming up and I was really looking forward to it. My dad suggested that in order to gain an advantage over the other kids I should do a bit of training. We went down to our local track in Scunthorpe to do some running and whilst we were there a member of staff approached my dad and suggested that I come down to one of the training sessions the club run, as he thought I had a bit of natural talent.
I joined Scunthorpe and District AC, loved it from the start and have been a member ever since. Funnily enough I won my race at sports day, the man at the track must have been right. In the 8 or 9 years I have been running for Scunthorpe I have been fortunate to be surrounded by a team of good athletes and we have had quite a few successful years on the road in the Northern Road Relays.
During my time as a student at Leeds Metropolitan University, where I studied Sports Coaching, I represented the university athletics team at a number of British University Championships, including cross country, indoor and outdoor competitions. Whilst at university my coach was Andy Henderson, he puts up with a lot of my moaning and knows how to handle me which is possibly a reason why I have decided to base myself in Leeds since graduating so that I can continue to train with Andy.
I really believe that he has helped me to develop as an athlete both physically and mentally. I feel a stronger athlete than ever before and I solely put this down to the training that Andy makes me do, and the fact I like working on my guns in the gym.
To this date I have had numerous highlights that stand out the most; representing England as a junior at the World Championships in Turkey and as a senior at the Snowdon International and at the Slovenian Grand Prix. Coming 3rd in the English Fell Running Championships 2009 was also a great achievement along with being selected for the Yorkshire team and becoming Yorkshire Champion 2009. I was also delighted about running sub-10minutes over 3000m on the track for the first time.
MST: You are one of the younger fell racers out there, in a sport that has historically had participation from the older age groups and is generally male orientated. Do you feel like ‘one of the gang’?
EC: Fell running to me just seems like one big family, with the same people turning up to the same races it’s like a little community where everyone knows everyone. I have been around the fell running ‘community’ for quite a few years now and so it doesn’t really feel like I’m one of the younger ones. People seem to know who I am and recognise me when I turn up for races, which is nice especially when they say hello to me or cheer for me when I’m running. It doesn’t take long to notice that the best fell runners are those who have the most experience; I have been told that it takes 10 years or 10,000 hours of training to become an elite athlete. I have been doing fell running for around 7 years, so in 3 years time who knows?
MST: You are clearly a fan of compression socks – and can be easily spotted in race photo sets! Which brand do you use and do they offer a real advantage in the hills?
EC: At the moment I wear Nike compression socks. I started wearing them a year ago after my boyfriend, Ste, suggested I try them out, which I did. Since wearing them I have seemed to improve and suffer less from tight muscles following the longer races. It is also nice that they help to keep my legs warm when I am at the top of a hill/mountain in the middle of winter. I do find it funny when I take them off after a muddy race and I see the lower half of my legs being perfectly clean.
MST: Is kit therefore an important part of your racing / training?
EC: With the various types of racing I compete in kit is an extremely important part of racing. I currently have 8 pairs of footwear which covers all the different types of racing and training that I do and so this side of it does get expensive. I have had a lot of footwear in the past that have caused problems for my feet and so I tend to stick to the brands and styles that I become used to.
Away from footwear most of my kit consists of items that I have either won or been given. I’m not one of these people who is too concerned about what colours things are or if it matches, as long as I’m comfortable and isn’t too restricting then its fine.
MST: You teach by day, a challenging enough job in itself, how do you balance that and training to be one of the UK’s best female mountain runners?
EC: Fitting training into my busy teaching schedule hasn’t been much of an issue so far, although I do have to get up even earlier for my morning runs. I do have a lot of support around me; my mum and dad have been fantastic throughout my running career and travel with me all over the country to different competitions.
My dad runs in all fell races that I run and so it is always nice to do well for myself but also beat him in the process. Ste often tells me off and makes me go out running especially in the morning when it’s still dark and cold outside. My coach Andy arranges training around when I am racing, which is often different to the other athletes within the group. He is very athlete-centred and has been busy preparing a racing calendar for the upcoming season for track, road and fell.
MST: 2010 should be another great year of fell running in the UK. What are your goals both here and internationally?
EC: Hopefully 2010 will be even more successful than 2009. I am a very competitive person and don’t like to lose too often so setting goals is something that I do all the time. Myself and Andy have discussed goals that will require a lot of hard work but are also achievable, there is no point in setting goals for myself that are too easy to achieve as this would be of no real benefit.
For the season ahead I am aiming to break 9minutes 30seconds for 3k which would knock 22seconds from last year and sub-36 for10k which is also knocking 22 seconds off from 2009. The main goals I set for myself are for fell and mountain running, these include at least matching my final standings for 2009 in the English and British Championships; 3rd in the English Championships, 4th in the British Championships and 1st u23 in both categories.
I am looking to compete in more of the European Grand Prix races over the year as it provides more experience than solely racing in the UK. I would love to get another England vest and represent England in Snowdon as I did in 2009. Last year I was a reserve for the Commonwealth Championships and so I would like to go one better and be in the team in 2010. I would love, although this would be extremely tough, to get a GB vest and compete in the European Championships. It would be a dream come true to compete for GB and there a lot of other great runners out there and so I understand I will need to progress in my running in order to achieve this.
MST: You’re having a dinner party, no expense spared, who’s coming and why?
EC: Joss Naylor would be top of the list, I would love to listen to the stories he undoubtedly has. Next on the list would be Gordon Ramsey and Michael McIntyre, I love watching his shows and just think he’s a bit of a legend. I think that if Michael McIntyre was at the dinner party I probably wouldn’t be able to eat as he would be making me laugh all night.
I took Ste to London for his birthday to watch him live and we didn’t stop laughing. After those three the next guests would be my mum and dad, it goes without saying that the support they have given me for the past 21 years is the reason I am the athlete and person I am today. Finally would be Ste, we do almost everything together and it would feel strange if he wasn’t there.