100 for Jan

JANUARY 2018: If you want to know anything about running a marathon, speak to Jan Lavis.

Not only a running coach, she has just completed her 100th marathon.

We first met when I was organising the pacers for the 2017 Brighton Marathon. I was short of a 5-hour pacer, and RunBrighton ambassador Brigitte Groves suggested I ask her mate and fellow coach. At that point, Jan had completed 76 marathons. It seemed she was always ‘marathon fit’. She jumped at the opportunity.

That was back in April. By the beginning of December, her marathon tally was up to 96. I asked Jan if she would be happy to speak at our ‘Prepare to Train’ seminar at the launch of our current winter season. She did, and it was music to my ears, listening to her reiterating the importance of not over-training and ensuring sessions are carried out at the appropriate pace.

I’ve seen too many runners effectively treating the long Sunday run as a race, only to end up breaking down with injury or being disappointed with their finish time on marathon day.

Four weeks on, 30 December 2017, Jan completed her 100th marathon.

Jan, how did your own running journey begin?

I was always very sporty at school (a very long time ago), but my proper running journey started around 1999. Soon after that, it was rudely interrupted by breast cancer and all the bells and whistles that go with that. I started running properly again, around 2001, and my first marathon was in 2003 at Beachy Head.

Gosh, a tough introduction to distance running, and you didn’t exactly pick an easy, flat marathon for your first!

What would you say is the single most enjoyable thing that you get from running?

Tricky to decide which single thing is the most enjoyable but, without doubt, high on the list is the sense of wellbeing and achievement that it brings. I would just like to say that running 100 marathons does not mean 100 joyous experiences. There have been many very messy moments, all of which have provided huge learning opportunities.

At what point did you decide to make 100 marathons a goal.

I’m quite goal-driven, but do need fresh and different challenges to keep me motivated. The ‘100’ goal didn’t occur to me until I had completed marathon no. 65, at Boston in 2016. My marathon journey up to that point had been quite varied and I felt I’d already achieved most of what I wanted to achieve.

2015 was my best running year, and my lifetime PBs, over all distances, from 5k to 100 miles, were achieved at the age of 51. This was thanks to my then coach, James Elson at Centurion Running. I learned such a lot from working with James and will always be grateful to him for what he helped me achieve.

My 100 marathons are actually made up of 25 road marathons, 25 ultra marathons and 50 trail Marathons. So, the ‘100’ goal was just something a bit different to focus on.

You must have travelled quite extensively to enter races. What’s the furthest you’ve been to compete?

That’s an easy one. My little brother, David, lives in Melbourne, Australia. In 2010, I had a flying, five-day visit to see him, and to run the Melbourne Marathon with him. This is a great event if you ever find yourself in Aussie land in October. It finishes with a lap of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The Aussies were very supportive of me running in Union Jack shorts and shirt.

And the best overall experience?

This has to be, without doubt, Barcelona Marathon in 2015. It was a family event that my husband, son, daughter, aforementioned little brother David and friend Hannah ran. We had a fab weekend away and all achieved PBs. Mine (3hrs32) qualified me to run Boston Marathon the following year.

I know many runners would have broken down with injury, attempting to tackle far fewer marathons than you’ve completed, Jan. How do you think it is that you’ve managed to keep going, covering so many miles in training and racing? I imagine strength & conditioning is a key part of your training.

There are several factors in remaining injury free, and strength & conditioning is definitely key. But I believe a significant proportion of it should be specific to your sport. In the case of us runners, we spend most of our time on one leg (or the other), and so I do a lot of exercises that involve weight bearing on one leg at a time. James Dunne at Kinetic Revolution has some great free resources on this subject.

Another key area on remaining injury-free, is consistency. No dramatics. Just run consistently all the time. Develop a routine of building, peaking, tapering, racing and recovering. I have a couple of clients who can only run twice a week but they run twice a week, all year round. Each run is planned, meaningful and is aimed at a specific goal. Be smart and patient with your training.

What made you get into coaching? Do you do this full-time now?

I still remember the moment, in 2008, when I opened the profession-promotion books in connection with my day job. I read the first page of the first book, then immediately closed it. I knew, instinctively, that if I was going to study, it would have to be for qualifications in something that I was passionate about, something that interested me and something that I loved. I closed the dull, promotion manual and started my 18-month journey to becoming a personal trainer. A few years later, I completed the UKA CIRF (Coach in Running Fitness) course, which complimented my PT qualification, perfectly, but focussed on running as opposed to general fitness. The rest is history. I am now able to combine my own running experience, with my qualifications and membership of two professional fitness industry bodies, to help others achieve their running goals. I now coach full time, and am thrilled to have established a professional working relationship with you at RunBrighton, Mike.

And now that you’ve reached the magic 100, what’s your next goal?

2015 saw me achieve my lifetime best times, at the age pf 51. My goal for 2018 is to match the age-grading percentages associated with those PB times. I know I will (probably) never better my PB times, but I can equal or better the age-grading score associated with them. This is far more important and something I always try to get people to focus on. Compare yourself with others of your age and gender!

And, finally, what would you list as the three most important points to get right when training for a marathon?

That’s a tricky one, because there are so many factors. But, probably, my top three tips would be:

  • Remember it’s all voluntary. If you don’t enjoy it – don’t do it.
  • If you’re going to do it, do it properly. Commit yourself, visualise the goal, and focus.
  • Train smartly, and in a way that’s right for you.

Jan, it was great to have you presenting at our recent seminar. I know a couple of our runners have subsequently arranged for you to coach them on a one-to-one basis. I look forward to you coming back to present again at some point.

Huge congratulations on completing your 100th marathon. That is such an awesome achievement!

And good luck with all those future age-graded performances.

For full details of Jan’s coaching services, check out https://jelfitness.com/

By Mike Bannister