Q&A: Dame Kelly Holmes

The double Olympic gold medalist speaks marathons, mental strength and why she’ll always run

Dame Kelly Holmes interview

What made you want to run the Virgin Money London Marathon?
I wanted to do my last big charity push. I’ve been working with charities for years, starting my own [Dame Kelly Holmes Trust] nine years ago, but I now feel like I need to focus on some new challenges. The biggest reason for picking London was the atmosphere. Last year, I went around supporting a couple of friends. It was incredible. I don’t think you get too many opportunities in life to feel the real warmth and connection people have on that day.

How’s the training going?
It’s been tough! The biggest challenge is, biomechanically, I’m finding it difficult to adapt my style of running. When I was competing, I was a forefoot runner – I ran up on my toes with a loping stride. Now I’m finding that the longer runs are having a real impact on my lower back and putting pressure on my glutes. So I’m doing yoga to try to relieve some of the tension, but it’s been a been a big struggle for my body to adapt to marathon training.

Having spent your life as an elite athlete, have you found it hard to prepare in a more relaxed fashion?
No – I’ve totally switched off from being an athlete these days in terms of my mindset. In fact, I’ve probably been a bit too relaxed! I’m so busy with all the other things I do that I’m having to fit it in around other things. But then that’s the reality for the thousands of other runners taking part: you fit in marathon training around your normal life. I just need  to get there – and get through it – in one piece.

How important is mental strength when it comes to running?
You can be incredibly talented and train hard, but it’s the mindset that really sets people apart. I’ve had ups and downs in my career. One side of it was very emotional – the mindset that led me to have depression and self-harm, which is why one of the charities I’m running for is MIND – but I also taught myself the mentality to be at my best when it matters most. I think the ability to alter your mindset comes with experience and knowledge.

Do you think you’ll always run?
I think so. I’ve been retired 11 years, believe it or not, and I now use running to maintain fitness and get some head space. I was doing duathlons a few years ago, and I enjoyed that as it was a mixture of events and wasn’t too pressured. Now that I’ve got into parkrun, I don’t think I’ll be able to get out of running, which is fine by me.

How has your relationship with running changed since you retired?
I’m more relaxed. I no longer feel that there’s an expectation I’m going to win everything I take part in. I’ll always give my best – I’m a 100% type of person – but it’s just not my lifestyle anymore. What has inspired me is taking part in parkrun, connecting with people and finding out about the reasons they’re running. If I’m able to inspire other people to be the best they can be, that gives me a real buzz.

Holmes is running for the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, MIND, Myeloma UK, the Pickering Trust and Hospice in the Weald.


Rick Pearson

Written by Rick Pearson | 237 articles | View profile

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