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“Coach” or “Chief ass-kicker!” — Whatever her role, Gareth could not be in better hands

This is a series of post following Gareth Kilshaws preparations to run 127-miles for the RNLI. We know that behind every great man there is a great coach, a great plan, a great team and a truly great woman!

We’ll be covering all the details about Gareth’s lead-up to the run, his preparation, and his fundraising efforts. Watch this space!  

Nicola doesn’t want to call herself Gareth’s coach. She’d prefer “running buddy who adds structure to Gareth’s training.”

Gareth calls her his “chief ass-kicker.”

An ultra-runner herself, Nicola created a 12-week training plan for Gareth’s 127-mile challenge. 

Having run hundreds of miles together already - including four 100-mile GB Ultras in 2019 - she has a pretty good idea of how Gareth works. 

Or, in Gareth’s words, she knows when to talk and when to shut up. 

“We’ve got to know each other so well. We know when we can push each other and when we can’t. I had a good idea of where his strengths were and where he needed to work on things,” she says.

‘If I was a proper coach I’d have hammered it home to him that he does have to do every single run that I set him!”

The "Coach"

Like Gareth, Nicola entered the ultra-running scene only a few years ago. Running was instrumental in her recovery from anxiety and depression, and she found that the further she ran, the more fun she had. That means ultras were the obvious choice. 

Since her first marathon in 2016, Nicola has completed innumerable ultras, including the Race Across Scotland (officially 215 miles, but in reality closer to 230 miles). She’s also the only lady to have completed the GB Ultras 100-mile Grand Slam (4 x 100-mile races between May-October). This was also the first time she and Gareth decided to race together, with Carole crewing.

Every ultra is a chance to show yourself how strong and capable you are, says Nicola - even if you sometimes doubt that about yourself. 

“Running always gives me whatever it is I need. If I'm stressed, I can relax with a recovery run. If I'm frustrated, I can let it all out with a speed session,” she explains. 

She also says that Gareth has no excuse for not finishing his 127-mile odyssey. After all, it was all his own idea. 

“I think he’s really amazed at how kind and giving everyone has been. This run will be a way of saying thank you to everyone who does believe in him.”

Nicola, who is part of Gareth’s “bubble”,  will be running some sections of the course with him, particularly during the parts when he’s likely to need extra moral support.  

She warns that at about ninety miles into a run, ‘bad Gareth’ comes out.

“For about five minutes, he’s the most miserable man you’ve ever met,” she laughs. “Then he’s happy and joking again. We don’t know where this creature comes from!”

Around 2-3 am is also very tough, and a quitting point for many runners. 

“That’s when you feel like you've been running all night and there’s no sign of the sun coming up yet. It's the hardest part of any ultra,” she says. “But you’ve got to remember you’re only a couple of hours away from the sun coming up - and that’s the best part of any ultra.”

Coaching Gareth has inspired her to help other people discover running. She is currently completing her own training as a coach and plans to continue mentoring. 

Her plan is to get more people involved with running so they too can experience the joy it gives her. 

“The community spirit, the adventure, the beautiful places we are fortunate enough to run - everything! I love a challenge and ultras give you this in bucket loads. The challenge is equally as mental as it is physical, so I believe I am doing something to make myself feel stronger. You've got no choice but to adapt to unexpected circumstances, dig deep when you feel you can't carry on, and beat the demons telling you you can't do it.”

You don’t have to be an ultra-runner to feel that joy, she says. A 5k race is just as big a challenge to a new runner. 

“When Gareth is on that start line, he’s going to take a step and he’s just going to keep doing that until the end,” she says. “And that’s all you’ve got to do for a 5k - just take that first step and hope that this inspires a lot of people.”

There’s no doubt she and Gareth will continue their reign at GB Ultras - and she will continue to be his ‘running buddy’. 

“I will be his real coach one day. I’ll get the qualification, and then he can start paying me!

Read More

Training Plan – Designed by Nicola for her great friend

Recovery – Complementing the training plan and a busy life

Kit Selection – What will join Gareth on this 127 mile adventure?

Team – Nicola is the figure-head. Meet the rest of the team.

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