I’ve worked as a mountain guide for 25 years so I’m fairly active but I’ve never been into running. I guide in Scotland, the Faroe Islands, Africa and China over the summer, and I took up skiing in my 30s and in the winter I work as a ski guide in Morzine, France.
For the past 14 years I’ve spent every winter in the Alps, so running has never really been a part of my life at all.
Last May a friend of mine, Lisa, who is quite a big lady, wanted to run or walk a marathon, and we chose Valencia because it’s flat and we’d both been there and it’s a beautiful place to run.
Mentally preparing for my first marathon
Four of us decided we would do it together: me, Lisa, her 18-year-old son and her husband, who’s in his late-40s.
I’ve done lots of things that are physically really challenging: mountaineering and expeditions in the Arctic, but I had a block when it came to running.
During my training, I read Running Like a Girl by journalist Alexandra Heminsley, a true story of how she started running and eventually ran five marathons.
I limited myself to reading a chapter at a time, because I wanted to use it as an incentive. She had great stories about other women running marathons, and it was a very funny book with a lot of pathos too.
Once a week I’d read a chapter sitting on my own in a quiet restaurant, and I’d always end up snivelling because it was so affecting, the stories of the people who had got themselves through it mentally and physically.
At the end of the summer, I found out that the restaurant staff thought I’d been dumped because I’d been there on my own once a week, reading and tearful!
How I trained for my run
For the past 14 years I’ve spent winters in the Alps, so running’s never really been a part of my life
I was working in Scotland last year, so I was training in very beautiful places. Because it’s so light in the north of Scotland, in the summer I’d regularly wake up at 4am or 5am. Rather than lying half-awake, I would get up at 6am and go running.
I trained in the morning before taking my guests out mountain walking at 9am. I was training on my own, so that was psychologically quite hard.
And Lisa kept messaging me saying, ‘Angela if I’m my weight and I’m prepared to get round it by whatever means, then you have no excuses.’ That was a big incentive.
Then I found the Honeypot charity, which is for young carers, a cause that resonates with me. That was was pulled it all together and helped me commit to doing it.
Running the Valencia marathon
I ran the Valencia marathon in November 2014. We had great weather but we were probably the most ill-prepared group that had ever run a marathon.
I hadn’t run more than 12 miles in training, because I was locked in with work. I was guiding for three weeks in China on the Great Wall and I couldn’t train because I was setting off on hikes at 7am and Beijing isn’t the place to train for a marathon.
I did it in 5.5 hours, which was the time I hoped for. The three of us ran the first 20km together and that really was a great experience.
My ski pals have always called me Angelala, so I had this emblazoned across a T-shirt that I wore for the race.
The people of Valencia get right behind this marathon, so for five hours I was spurred on by spectators calling out “Angelala, go for it”. What I thought was going to be a nightmare for the last few hours was like being Beyoncé with crowds of fans supporting me!
My next challenge: the New York marathon
Before the race, I had no intention whatsoever of ever doing a marathon again. But now I’d quite like to do the New York marathon. And this time, because I know what’s coming, I will have definitely work out a proper training programme and stick to it.
When I’m working as a mountain guide I’m always within my comfort zone because it’s what I do all day, every day, so running a marathon is a massive challenge. I loved being able to go to Valencia to take it on.
The whole experience was incredibly positive and I don’t think I’ve ever felt better.