Sarah Williams: Hello and welcome to the Tough Girl podcast, which is all about motivating and inspiring you.
Hello, and welcome to the Tough Girl podcast.
Today I'm delighted to have Liz Yelling with us. She's a double Olympian and Commonwealth medalist, author of The Women's Guide to Running, and is currently working with her husband, Martin, at Yelling Performance, where she helps to coach complete novices to elite athletes.
Liz, welcome to the show.
Liz, have you always been a runner?
Liz Yelling: Yeah, from the age of 9, I started running. I think prior to that is, I just messed about and did various different sports. My mom used to run and I remember being dragged around the country, just watching her race, and she only used to do it for fitness really, and then I kind of kept asking my mom if I could go for runs with her. I don't know why, but it just grabbed me. I loved the feeling of just putting one foot in front of the other, and I loved the feeling of having kind of tested yourself, I think, physically, and I like that feeling. Yeah, running's always been something that I've connected with.
Sarah Williams: How did you progress? Did you start running at school and then move on to an athletics club? What was your journey? How did it all start?
Liz Yelling: I think when I was 9, my first ever cross-country, I'd just moved up to middle school, and we kind of all set off. None of us had ever done cross-country before, and it was around this little school, Alameda Middle School in Ampthill, and we all sprinted off like most kids do at the start. I remember at about 200 meters after the start, I looked around and I couldn't see anyone. I was like, "Oh, okay." Then, so I just kept running and I finished miles in front of anyone and that was the first time when I realized I had kind of a natural ability for it. Before then I was totally oblivious to any talent in the running department. That's when my mom thought, "All right, you need to ... Instead of coming running with me, you need to run with girls of your own age," and that's when I joined a running club in Bedford, England and met my coach, Alec Stanton, and Rosemary Stanton, who also coached Paula and he became my coach and coached me right up to the end of my career.
Sarah Williams: He obviously spotted your natural ability and hit home and to help you. Can you remember back to when your first race was?
Liz Yelling: My first big race was my first international. I was 14 when I qualified for the English school's international. It was like a home international against England, Scotland and Wales so that was my first best and I just scraped in the team with a sixth position and that was the last qualifying spot. I went to Berry Island and ran my first international race with a load of other kids and it was a real exciting experience because we were all on a bus without parents and put up in, I think it was a student accommodation at the time, and we were competing for our country so it was a real exciting time I remember it like it was yesterday. It was good fun.
Sarah Williams: That must have been a huge honor to be doing that. What distance were you running then?
Liz Yelling: It was probably two and a half or two and a half K or something. Quite shocked at the time but I don't remember the distance. I do remember my granddad, before the race, my granddad said he would give me five pounds for every place under twenty; twentieth. [laughter] I think I ended up coming in at ninth so I think I got about sixty-five pounds which was worth.....[laughter]
Sarah Williams: Representing your country at fourteen is absolutely fantastic and you obviously continued with your running and with your coaching.
Now what you have mainly been known for is your marathon running. I know you have a personal best of two hours and twenty-four minutes and thirty-three seconds.
I've ran London Marathon in four and a half hours or something. To even physically comprehend running at that speed is just absolutely insane. When did you first, sort of, try those longer distances?
Liz Yelling: As an endurance runner you kind of start with the eights and fifteens and over time you start to think, "well I'm not fast enough to do anything with that so we need to go up a distance." I kind of dabbled with 10K on the track and I was, I never really mastered 5K throughout my entire career. It was just something, physiologically, I didn't really suit. 10K I did quite well but I just didn't really enjoy it. Then going into the 2003 track season, I damaged my Achilles right at the end of cross-country season on some crazy race in Spain and it put me out for six weeks so it basically wrote off the track season.
The 2004 Olympics the following year was like, well I kind of....the track season, I need to do something and that is when I decided to focus on my first marathon. I set myself the challenge of running the Berlin Marathon. In 2003, with the sole purpose of qualifying for the Olympic games. I think the qualifying standard of time was 2.32 and I 2.30.58. That was my first marathon with backed Olympic qualifying time.
Sarah Williams: You must have been absolutely ecstatic when you got to the end and realized you qualified.
Liz Yelling: Yes, it was an unbelievable feeling although it's not over then because then you have to wait because they take the three fastest runners. I had to wait until the following spring because the selection was taking place after the London Marathon the following year. I actually paced the London Marathon that year because I didn't want to do another marathon so close to the Olympic games. That was the qualifying race for Athens and I had to sit back and make sure that only...I think Paula had been pre-selected...so I had to make sure two people didn't run faster than me otherwise I would have been pushed out. Fortunately I still had a position. No one ran faster than me so luckily I was able to get selected.
Sarah Williams: That's absolutely fantastic.