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  • Sign up to Ultra Events well in advance as they quickly sell out

  • Anything is possible, you’d be amazed at what your body can do

  • Force yourself to run, even if you don’t feel like it, you’ll feel better afterwards

  • Don’t get too caught up on speed, some of my slowest runs were my best

  • Don’t be worried about walking on long runs, it can help stimulate other muscles

  • Take on board advice from runners who have experience of ultras and long distances

Nina Lambrou

Written by Simon Linklater

Posted Friday 28th June 2019

Courage is a powerful word and a strong attribute to have as an individual. But often finding that courage from within, especially in times of despair, can be incredibly challenging.

Running can give you courage. 

Don’t take my word for it. Read the story of Nina, for whom running gave her the confidence to be brave and make one of the toughest decisions of her life.

Nina was born and raised in Sweden with a Swedish mother and a Greek father. It wasn’t until she was 24 that she ventured to the UK to study.

A brave decision in it’s own right. After meeting her partner and starting a family in London, she moved down to Hastings in 2005 for the benefit of her children.

With 3 boys to look after, Nina was a housewife, whilst helping out with the family business. On the surface life was grand. A big house, financial security and 3 beautiful children. But Nina was deeply unhappy. She felt trapped. For years she was very low and even had trouble sleeping.

In late 2014 she took up running. At first it was just to get fitter. She remembers doing her first park run the following year and feeling absolutely petrified on the start line. But as she continued to run she began to feel stronger in both her body and mind. It was only then she found the courage to walk away from her relationship.

The welfare of her boys was her number one priority and for a year she doubted her decision. She had to move into much smaller accommodation and find herself a job to support her children. Nina had the help of some very good friends, but also at times when she was feeling low, she’d go for a run and this helped reassure her that she’d done the right thing.

Nina was introduced to Hastings Runners in 2015 and at the time was doubting her ability, asking questions like “I’m not a runner” and “I can’t join a running club”. Oh how times have changed.

It didn’t take her long to settle in, but was quiet at first, settling at the back and listening to other runners chat among themselves. It quickly became evident that no one was judging her and she found the running club to be inclusive, and welcoming to all abilities.

At Park Run she met her good running friend Anthony who introduced her to the delights of off road running. She still recalls him suggesting an 8 mile run on a Sunday morning which Nina didn’t think was possible, but his words of encouragement gave her the belief she could do it, and 8 miles actually turned into 12  (pretty standard for anyone who’s done a Sunday off road with Anthony).

Nina soon preferred trail running and loved the tranquility that came with spending time in the countryside and out in nature.

As Nina’s self confidence and running improved, she began to set herself tougher challenges. She was enjoying the long runs and in particular heading out on the trails. The distances soon began to increase and it wasn’t long before Nina & her friend Anthony were entering 50 milers (nutters).

But Nina still wasn’t satisfied, she wanted a tougher challenge, the ultimate challenge. In her mind that was completing a 100 miler and in 2018 she entered the Cinque Ports 100, a route starting in her home town of Hastings and finishing in the port of Dover.

Nina trained extremely hard for the event but 2 weeks prior suffered a knee injury. She was devastated. But again that courage she now had within didn’t stop her from attempting the race, but the injury was too much and Nina was forced to stop after 65 miles.

For us mere mortals that’s still an amazing achievement, but Nina was gutted. She felt like a failure. Determined not to be beaten she entered the SDW100 in December, giving herself plenty of time to train for the event in June.

With 3 children including Jens who is just 6 and working 24 hours a week, finding the time to train for a 100 mile race was tough. Nina would get up at 5am on weekdays to complete 10 mile runs. Then at the weekend she had the support of a good friend, who would look after Jens, whilst Nina and Anthony headed out for their long runs. In preparation they did a couple of 35 mile training runs across the South Downs, adding a 10 or 20 mile run the following day to get used to running on tired legs.

As the race drew closer Nina spent some time on the SDW100 facebook page, reading stories from other runners and absorbing as much advice as possible, something she believes was very helpful in her preparations. She’d talked about the challenge with her boys and Jens was looking forward to getting his hands on the buckle, which is awarded to those that complete the 100 miles within the cut off time.

Her boys were a huge inspiration. Jens had joined her for an 8km run and at times was in tears, but he wouldn’t give up. Having spent so much time away from him in training, Nina refused to consider failure as an option, knowing he would be disappointed at not receiving his buckle.

During the toughest times out on the South Downs, when darkness set in, her feet were covered in blisters, her brain telling her to stop, Nina was thinking of her boys and how she wanted to make them proud. Not once during the race did she consider stopping and the mental picture of crossing the line and receiving that buckle kept her pushing on through the pain barrier. Having Anthony alongside her, even during long spells of quiet reflection, when neither of them would chat, was a massive boost too.

With the finishing line drawing closer the two of them picked up their pace and almost sprinted the last 2km, passing as many as 20 runners on their way to the end. 27 hours after they had left Winchester, Nina & Anthony crossed the finish line in Eastbourne, bruised, battered, exhausted, but not defeated. Nina was euphoric and described the sensation as “Absolutely Amazing”.

Having taken 10 minutes to rest, Nina simply couldn’t move and her arranged transport had to come right to the finish to almost lift her into the car.

Her son Jens received his buckle and Nina recalls over hearing her 15 year old talking to friends and saying “My mum’s a nutcase”.

Nina has been able to show her 3 boys that she’s not just boring mum who does the cooking & cleaning, but a strong, independent woman, capable of achieving amazing feats of endurance. All this has stemmed from finding that courage from within, which running gave her.

Nina hopes to continue running long distances but training for a 100 miler is very intense and she wants to spend more time with her boys before tackling another. She has entered a few 50 mile races, but they’re pretty easy right 😉

Her immediate goal is to work on her form and eradicate her heel striking. She’s also working on her core strength, introducing weights at home.

If you are struggling with your self esteem or confidence. If fear is holding you back, then hopefully Nina’s story can give you that inspiration to get out and run. No matter how slow you run, how far you go, it can help clear the mind, recharge the batteries and make you feel great again.

Be Like Nina

#BeARunnuR

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