Georgia Campbell has made big strides on the North of England running scene and credits a 58:36 10 mile PB last year to a significant rise in mileage – notably, 110m a week.
Jarrow & Hebburn’s Campbell works full time in a support role at Teesside University University’s Sport and Exercise department, which sees her travelling up to 90 minutes a day from her home in Seaham, with an extra 20 miles to travel on session days.
Here we look at how and why she chooses to run so many miles when marathons are not currently on her radar, how she fuels her mammoth schedule, and how big a part her coach and training partners have played in her success so far.
Fast Running: Tell us about your breakthrough 10 miler last year in Portsmouth?
Georgia Campbell: Although I ran my current personal best soon afterwards at the Brampton 10, last year’s Great South Run was a fantastic experience for me, and my first opportunity to race as part of an elite field away from home.
This was the first time I broke 60 minutes for the classic distance, despite the shocking weather conditions in Portsmouth!
It signalled a bit of a change in mindset for me – I went off hard and executed the race plan I’d discussed with my coach beforehand, and was rewarded with a big PB. I think I’ve raced a lot more confidently since.
FR: As these performances were achieved on the back of big mileage weeks, tell us how and why you have ended up running so many miles?
GC: I’ve started hitting 100-110 miles a week this winter. Last year I was maxing out in the mid-90s, so it’s really been a bit of an experiment to see if I can handle the extra mileage and continue to improve.
Before I moved to my current coach I was doing some ultra running, and I was involved in long-distance triathlons before that, so I’ve got a lot of years of miles in my legs building up to this.
When I first started training with Barry (Forster, who also coaches Georgia’s club-mate and 17:20 5k/35:56 10k athlete, Alex Sneddon) we experimented with reducing my mileage to try and work on my speed, but I actually got worse for a while!
So we guessed I might do well off mileage and have been building ever since.
FR: You mentioned recently on Twitter that you’d lost a significant amount of weight since the last time you’d tackled the English national cross country championships (she placed 137th in 2015 – this year she finished 53rd) – why was this?
GC: Since I’ve upped the miles and become more conscious of what I’m eating, I’ve gradually lost two stone. I didn’t intend to lose weight, there was no dieting involved, but even though I’ve dropped the pounds, I’m still considered ‘big’ for a distance runner! It’s mad.
I have a background in Biomedical research, and my MSc sports project looked at how hormone changes throughout the menstrual cycle affect female endurance performance.
I’m very keen to continue this work – it’s fantastic the amount of recent attention that has come on RED-S (the updated take on the female athlete triad) following Bobby Clay’s brave public discussion about the long-term damage she did to her health at such a young age.
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I think it’s an important responsibility for the research community to do more to understand the female body and how we can best interact in a healthy way with high-level sport.
FR: Tell us about an average day in your life, and how you fit all your miles in around a full-time job?
GC: Most days, I drive to Middlesbrough early in the morning for my pre-run work, get my hours in, and either set off early enough to beat the rush hour traffic to make it to a session, or do my second run in Middlesbrough before driving home on an easier day.
I’m lucky that my job is a little flexible on hours as long as all timetabled teaching and research activities are supported – and my work colleagues are very supportive of my ‘crazy’ training schedule.
FR: What does a typical week’s training look like?
GC: I usually won’t do more than 3-4 weeks of big miles in a block, and drop to between 50-70, depending on whether I need a recovery week or I’m coming down to be a bit fresher for a race.
I’ll try to keep a bit of intensity in to stop myself feeling ‘flat’ on race day, but drop a lot of the volume.
Monday: AM – easy 8M
PM – 10M tempo if feeling good, relaxed pace if tired
Tuesday: AM – easy 8
PM – Pilates
Wednesday: AM – Yoga
PM – track, main session of the week
Thursday: AM – easy 8M
PM – tempo/hills/off-road with some local fell running friends
Friday: Easy day, two x 6M
Saturday: AM – session, usually off-road or hills
PM – easy 6M
Sunday: Long run, 16-20M
PM – gym session, including run specific bodyweight exercises and weights
Both of my main sessions a week are with Barry and my training group, they’re the highlight of my week! My Sunday long run will usually be with at least some of the group, though I often have to peel off for some extra miles.
I’m really close with my training partners, and we’re all in touch most days. It’s brilliant to have such close friends who understand the work you’re putting in, and are there to help you when the going gets tough.
Cross country is where my heart is, and I love to run on the fells.
However, I think that I’m actually performing better on the roads these days! I train across all surfaces – lots of road miles, with some recovery runs on the trails, a track session and an off-road or grass session each week.
FR: How do you fuel for all of your miles and extra sessions?
GC: I’ve always been a good eater, and I love to cook, so I’m lucky not to have any fuelling problems. I make sure to spend some time on a weekend doing meal prep so I always have a good lunch to take to work, which makes a big difference I think.
I often like lunch to be my biggest meal of the day, as it’s ideal to refuel between sessions on double days, and I often don’t get my evening meal until quite late by the time I’ve finished work and completed a second training session.
I was fully vegetarian for about 15 years but reintroduced fish to my diet a couple of years ago along with taking iron supplements after having some persistent issues with low-level anaemia.
I don’t take any other supplements, apart from the occasional Vitamin C boost if I’m feeling a bit run down. I experimented with a low carb/high fat diet a few years back, but it played havoc with my energy levels and I lost my period, so that is an experiment I won’t be revisiting – pass the pasta!
My current favourite meals include pan-fried gnocchi with butternut squash, red onions, spinach and crispy sage, with roasted salmon, or Thai green curry noodle, both with mixed vegetables and prawns.
FR: What are your short and long-term running goals this year?
GC: My goals are split across time and performance – I’ve had a pretty solid winter this year, so I’d like to bring down my road PBs from 5k (currently 17:28) to the half marathon (currently 82:57) over the summer.
I’d particularly like to run under 17min for 5k this year, and work on my 10M PB.
I’d love to finally pick up a Northern vest, so I can hopefully put in some performances that will allow for that representation opportunity. And I’ll be targeting a number of North East and Northern medals across road, cross country and relays.
The Inter Counties are my next goal – I’m a bit sad as it signals the end of the cross country season, but I’m always very proud to pull on a North East vest.
There are a lot of great girls in my area, so it always feels like an achievement just to make the team. One of my training partners is also getting her first chance to represent the North East, so it should be an exciting day out!
A third member of our training group was also selected but is sadly not available on the day – I hope this shows the quality of the girls I’m lucky enough to have as friends and training buddies, and I think it shows what a good job Barry does of managing a group of very diverse runners!
I’m hoping to improve on last year’s position here, on the same course in Loughborough, and it would be great to come away with a team medal! Then after a brief recovery period, it’ll be time to start prepping for the North East track champs in May.
Please note: Every runner/athlete is different, and as such, the training of a specific individual may not be suitable for others.