Anita Howell Profile
Why did you start running?
At school I was a sprint runner, and my distances were the 100m and 4x100m relay. I ran for the County, which was always a thrill, especially when I got to leave school early and miss lessons! I began running longer distances when I was in my 20s following a decade of smoking and drinking. I was just a plodder and would normally take my dog with me or when my daughter was born in 1998, I would run with her in a buggy around the park. I didn’t have a lot of motivation to be fair, and I was carrying a lot of baby weight which made running even more difficult. I ran initially to lose weight and to get out of the house for a change of scenery. From then, I dipped in and out of running for about 20 years when I wasn’t dancing and performing on stage. I began to run again more seriously about six years ago, again to maintain a healthy weight and fitness, as well as for the feeling of freedom. It allows me time to think, clear my mind, mull over a dilemma, or just listen to a podcast or music and enjoy the moment.
What/who motivates you to run?
Since changing my eating habits about 3 years ago (low carb, then mostly vegan), I have been self motivated to continue my journey of exercise to feel strong physically and mentally and to stay fit. I like to run alone, and I procrastinate at times about leaving the house especially when it is cold and wet. However, I have never regretted getting out there and the buzz from a great run or training for a 10k or half marathon is motivation enough for me.
What is a typical training week?
I rarely have a strict plan. I just decide how I feel on the day and off I go. What I love about running is that I can decide I want to run and be ready and out the door in just a few minutes. I exercise six days per week, and almost always choose Monday as my rest day. I try to run at least 3 times per week, normally straight after work and the days in between I use an online app called Davina OYG which has 100s of workouts. On those days, I mix it up with weights/strength, dance, step, boxing, or aerobics.
Road or Trail?
I used to live in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere and my choices were country roads with no pavements and fast cars, or through fields and tracks. In the summer I didn’t mind the tracks and the hills as I loved the isolation, and the sound of the birds was just bliss. However, in the winter getting my trainers filthy in the mud was never fun and I couldn’t run in the dark on the road as there were no streetlights. It meant I had to run on a treadmill in the garage. Last year I moved house and I can run in all directions, staying on pavements that are well lit all year round. I pass many people with dogs, and I smile at them all and this is by far my preference now.
Top 5 songs on my playlist?
Duran Duran – Electric Barbarella
Cliff Richard – Wired For Sound (don’t judge me!)
Rascal Flats – Life Is A Highway
Robyn – Dancing On My Own
Madonna – Holiday
Do you run alone or with a group?
I mostly run alone as I like the solitude. I like to listen to podcasts or an audiobook especially when my run feels tough, or my legs are heavy. On a Sunday morning I will run with my friend when I am not at the coast. She is a reluctant runner but does it when I encourage her, and I am happy to run and chat as it is more of a social event since we go for coffee and a chin wag afterwards.
What is your greatest running achievement so far?
I know running is only one part of a triathlon, and in 2011 I was a much stronger swimmer and cyclist, when I took part in my first and only Triathlon in London. We spent the weekend in the caravan and after the triathlon on the Saturday we went sightseeing around London. This was my first race of any kind as an adult, and I caught the bug!
What was your last race?
At the time of writing this, it was completing my first Half marathon last October which was amazing. I ran at Silverstone racetrack and just loved it and was thrilled with my 2:12 finish time. If you had asked me a couple of years ago whether I thought it was possible, I would have laughed and said, not a chance!
What are your future running goals?
I have entered the ballot for a place in the London Marathon. If I don’t get a place (which is likely I won’t), I’ll find another marathon to run as it’s on my bucket list to run one before I turn 50 in December this year so I’m desperate to tick it off. After completing the London Triathlon and raising a lot of money for a local charity, I would like to do this event again.
What’s on your bucket list?
When I visited the National Running Show in January, I met the amazing Kevin Webber who convinced me that I had it in me to complete an ultra and I am not one to back away from a challenge! It has been added to my list of future goals.
What advice would you give someone who is just starting to run?
Invest in a decent pair of trainers because your feet are important and need to be looked after. Join a local group if you need the motivation, use the couch to 5k app to structure your training, or find a friend to run with so you can chat and enjoy a coffee after. Take it slowly, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy just looking around at your surroundings as we can miss this when life gets too busy.
What do you like to do when you’re not running?
I like to read, binge watch tv shows, eat out, get takeout coffee. I also like to walk and sometimes just get into my PJs after work and do absolutely nothing except look at posts of others’ runs on Facebook.
What would you name the autobiography of your running life?
Will run for cake!