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Non’s Great North Adventure

October 17th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Non Gwyn is a 27 year old teacher from Anglesey who this year has begun competing in half  marathons. She began with a little race in the North called The Great North Run and is  absolutely loving her new passion. Muscle and Movement Health took the time to ask her  about her running, her training and how she has worked with the clinic and training studio  to help her with her sport.

Hi Non, tell us a how you got into running in the first place…..it was actually by walking first wasn’t it? I’d always wanted to run and had done a few Race for Life’s but always gave up afterwards.

This year I signed myself up to do the Moonwalk with a group of girls from work. For those who don’t know the Moonwalk is a 26.2 mile power walk that’s done over night. I completed that in 5:33:37 in May and realized that with a little effort I could turn the power walking into running, and decided to sign up for the Great North Run & Royal Parks Half Marathons in September and October.
What led you to contact Phil Brown at Muscle and Movement Health?

Whilst training for the Moonwalk I found myself with pain in my left knee, my legs ached and felt heavy and my feet where really sore from blisters. I spoke to a friend who’d done a lot of training over the years and she recommended I go for a sports massage straight after the event. That’s when I came across Phil Brown at Muscle and Movement and Health.
Did you find the treatment you were given helped your training and competing?

I walked into the treatment room after the Moonwalk not being able to bend my left knee and could hardly put any weight on my feet as they were stiff and sore. I walked out ready for my first run.
Had you ever received any sports massage or soft tissue therapy before?

I had never received any sports massage or soft tissue therapy before and realized there and then how beneficial it was going to be to my training.

You and Phil Brown have started developing some complementary training strategies to improve your running times and keep you fit for running. Can you tell us what you were doing and how you feel this training made a difference?

I have stuck to three runs a week since starting training with Phil and have been doing some strength and stability work which includes………as well as explosive training which includes squats, running a 100 meters and then lunges.  When I added the Strength and Stability work into my routine I found within a couple of weeks I could utilize certain muscle groups like the hamstrings and glutes to power myself up hills much quicker.  Then after introducing the explosive training I found I had that extra bit of energy at the end of a run to finish strong or to push to the top of the hill stronger.
So – The Great North Run! How was it?? An exciting day yes?

Yes! Amazing! One of the best experiences of my life. The whole event was just fantastic and I’m definitely going back next year! The course itself took you from Gateshead in the City of Newcatsle all the way to South Sheilds, I didn’t see a part of road or flyover with out people cheering and showing their support. The atmosphere was fantastic and being part of such an event with proper athletes starting the race off and 54,000 runners all up for the same challenge was over whelming and by the end of the race I was an emotional wreck finishing in 1:53:35. 

How did the run turn out for you…? Was the experience similar to what you had discussed with Phil at the studio? Did you have an idea of what to expect or was it all a big surprise?

The run was fun, hard, easy and challenging all at the same time.  From discussing the race with Phil I went there with a plan of starting off slow and gradually picking up pace but I got lost in the atmosphere and completed the first mile at the fastest pace I’d ever ran a mile and as a result was tired by the end. Also in Newcastle I had a drop in energy levels and was so glad to come across the Bupa boost zone at 10 miles. Top tip always carry something like jelly babies with you during a race – I had never needed anything during training but you naturally push harder during a race and need to keep your sugar levels high to perform better. I was also quite shocked during the race to see people collapse around me and need proper medical attention because they were de-hydrated or had just pushed themselves to hard. I got quite un-nerved by this during the race and kept thinking is it going to happen to me? You just have to think about all the training you’ve done, that you are hydrated and that you can finish. Keep focused on your race and no one else is. Someone once told me “pain disappears with time but achievements last forever”. That’s one thing I tell myself when I hit a hard/dark patch when running and it always gets me through as it’s so true!


Do you have any advice for people training for their first competitive event?


Put in the hard work before the event so you can enjoy the day, don’t train too much 3 runs a week has been more than sufficient for me even though at times I would have loved to go out more. Your muscles need time to repair between runs and you’ll perform much better because of it. Also think of investing some money in a sports massage / soft tissue therapy during training, before and after a race. I can’t emphasize how much it’s helped me and I’m not just saying this because it’s an interview for Phil it really has! You walk into the studio with heavy tired legs and walk out feeling like you’ve been on a two week holiday to somewhere nice and hot. Think of it as an investment – you would never run in an old pair of trainers that have holes in them or in a ripped t-shirt would you?


How do you fit your training around the rest of your life? You are a teacher on Anglesey, so obviously really busy! Does training take up loads of time?

When I decided to start running I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t make up stupid excuses like “having no time to train” – I’ve made myself find time to train. If I know I can’t fit a run in after school I get up an hour earlier in the morning to do it then. No matter how tired you are going out you come back feeling 100% better, plus you then know your on track and don’t get fed up and angry as you’ve missed one of your training runs. Plus as I’ve only been doing three runs a week it hasn’t been taking up too much time, the more you run the faster you get so the good news is it takes up even less time unless you start contemplating a marathon like me! On average I spend an hour twice during the week training and then a long run at the weekend which I tend to do between 10-14 miles so two hours at the most. Obviously when I started my long run was 5 miles and it’s built up over time.


I believe you have just finished another half marathon in London? How do you feel your performance compared to The Great North Run?

My mission in London was to get a sub 1:50:00 time as the course was flat in comparison to Newcastle and I’d learnt from my mistakes in the first half. I set off on a 8:20 minute mile pace in London and kept a close eye on my Garmin watch all the way round to make sure I wasn’t picking up too much pace and also wasn’t slowing down. I carried jelly babies with me during the Royal Parks half and had one before each water stop so at approximately 5, 7.5, 9, 10.5 and 11. I also ditched the water bottle I’d carried round with me during all my training and the Great North Run as I felt it was weighing me down. It was my comfort blanket if you like during the first half but having let go of it now I’m so glad. If you go into the race fully hydrated you have plenty of adequate water stops on the way round. The combination of no water bottle and jelly babies helped me to no end during the second half. Keeping my sugar levels high meant I was more focused on the race, could push harder and felt stronger during the run itself. Also starting off steady and pushing towards the end was much better than crossing that line with nothing left in the tank. I completed the Royal Parks in 1:49:51 and felt fantastic! 

What are your plans for the next few months? How are you shaping your training?

I have another half in November and then one in March. Over the winter I’m going to keep my running to three times a week trying to increase the pace slowly and steadily. I’m also going to be working with Phil on building muscle so I have more power during longer runs and tweaking my diet so I get more sustainable energy for running from my food.

Many thanks for your time Non and good luck with your running!!

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