Inside the mind of an ultra-runner

Nurse and ultra-runner Cat Simpson talks fitting running around work, training on feel and eating baby food.

Woman trail ultra running in mountains with backpack

The hardest race I’ve ever run was the 153-mile Spartathlon. 

It’s an event with so much history, following in the footsteps of the ancient Greek messenger Pheidippides who was sent from Athens to Sparta to seek help against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. The event has tough qualification standards, and the race itself involves running through the night and climbing a mountain at the 100-mile point, all against a tight time cut-off.

I’m still figuring out my nutrition for races.

It has been a huge process of trial and error. My staples are energy gels and baby food pouches, plus solid food like rice pudding and fruit like oranges and peaches. Sometimes I don’t know what I’ll fancy during a race and pack everything under the sun; Mars bars, caramel stroopwafels, chocolate milk and Pot Noodles.

My greatest achievement is winning the (145-mile) Grand Union Canal Race. 

I’d never run that far before or for longer than 24 hours, and on the second day I started to hallucinate and feel like I was having an out-of-body experience. So it was a huge relief to get to the finish. The race is along a canal towpath and I was nervous about falling in for the entire 145 miles!


I struggle with the cold.

I usually make the mistake of wearing too much to run in. I love Buffs, which have uses year round, and Injinji toesocks.

Running has taught me it’s okay to make lots of mistakes.

I think it’s an important part of the learning process as a runner. There’s definitely no shame in getting things wrong and learning what works best for you in terms of kit, training, nutrition and so on.

My favourite route is Richmond Park, where I live.

I love how it changes with the seasons. I also love the North Downs and South Downs Way when I’m heading out on longer runs.

For the most effective run, I like to make my sessions enjoyable.

I tend to do a lot of them based on feel. I don’t think I’d make it out the door if I had to do intervals every Tuesday morning. I’ve always runcommuted, which is a great way to fit training in around work.

You can follow Cat’s running on Instagram and Twitter.

Written by Women's Running Magazine | 1487 articles | View profile

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