Following her success in Chamonix Run247 sent a few questions to The North Face athlete Lizzy Hawker
You have now won The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® 5 times - Which was your favourite win and why?
For me each and every race stands alone, you learn so much in every race experience and take that with you to the next - so that they become stepping stones on a continuous journey …
Talking about the UTMB in particular, my first race in 2005 was special simply because it was a step into the unknown, my first mountain race ... I had no expectations of what I could or couldn't do, and my goal was simply to keep running until they told me to stop.
This year the race we ran was not the UTMB. For me this is an important point. I am proud that I was able to 'stay in the moment' and to try run the best race that I could (despite pain from some ongoing issues), but to me I won a 100km lower altitude trail race, not the UTMB. But, part of the challenge of ultra running is dealing with whatever the mountains, the environment, your body, your mind, throw at you. In this situation we were stood at the start of a completely different race, so it became ever more important just to try to stay in the moment.
But perhaps the most important point is that in the end it isn't just about the race. For me the motivation is very much within myself - to try to do the best I can in each moment. It is about the journey - physical, mental and spiritual - the preparation - the in between - the looking for the 'edge'.
Photos © The North Face®/ Alo Belluscio
There was a lot of excitement about weather conditions and route changes in the run up to this year's race, yet you appeared calm and collected throughout - do you ever get angry and why?
Getting angry in a situation like this just wastes energy .... In any endurance event part of the challenge is to be able to deal with whatever the mountains, the environment, your body, your mind, throw at you. In this situation we were stood at the start of a completely different race, so it became ever more important just to try to stay in the moment. Keeping that inner calm and equanimity is part of the challenge.
Your approach to running and the mountains seems to be very spiritual, but do you do 'structured' training? Any speedwork?
My approach might often seem to be spiritual, simply because I believe we are more than simply body or mind. But the spirit doesn't exist in isolation, so we also have to look after our physical body and mental strength. And no matter how strong you are mentally, if you are running the body also has to move, so physical training does of course have a huge importance!
My philosophy is that we are body, mind and soul – so each plays its part.
Regarding the physical training; I feel I benefit from periods of more structured training at certain times of the year (including speedwork), and then training more by feel during periods of intense racing etc.
Who has had the biggest influence on your running career?
I don't know that there is any one person; every one we meet has some influence on us, as we do on them. We don't live in isolation! Hence I would say that each person I have met (whether in person or not) has contributed to my experience in life, who I am, and hence my running career!
Photos © The North Face®/Manu Molle (left) & © The North Face®/ Alo Belluscio (right)
Who is your favourite female athlete and why?
I think it would have to be my good friend Chrissie Wellington for being an absolutely outstanding athlete, an example of dedication and hard work, and for inspiring so many people in so many ways, inside and outside of sport.
You seem to be drawn to 'big' countryside - the Swiss alps, the Himalayas, the polar regions - where does this love originate from and where do feel most at home?
The simple answer is that I feel at 'home' in mountains and wilderness areas, who knows why!
Photo © The North Face®/ Alo Belluscio
What are your biggest running dreams and ambitions? Do they involve records and wins or are they about adventure and exploration?
Both .... I have so many things I would love still to try involving races and potential 'records', but beyond that I just love moving fast in the mountains and making long mountain journeys. So my dreams go beyond the world of racing, and are also about adventure and exploration. There is an endless world to explore, so many journeys to make and mountains to climb.
Did you follow the London Olympics/Paralympcs this year and was there any new sport that caught your eye? Was there any one performance in particular that inspired you?
There were so, so many inspiring performances during both the London Olympics & Paralympics. It was incredible to follow .... Sadly as I don't have a television & coverage on the internet by the BBC was restricted to UK viewers only, the only event I could actually watch was Mo Farah's 5000m (I was in a hotel room in Zermatt the night before racing Sierre-Zinal). I have to say it gave me extra inspiration for my race! But, in all honesty I think the most inspiring thing is the legacy these Olympics & Paralympics have given us – showing the power of sport to be a catalyst for positive change and inspiration.
Photo (top right) © The North Face®/Chiara Dendena