Meet our cover star: Emma Holmes - Women's Running UK

Meet our cover star: Emma Holmes

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  April 27, 2016

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At Women’s Running, we’re proud of the fact that we use real runners on our covers. But when model and marathon runner Emma Holmes wrote to us to point out that models are real women, too, we invited her to star on our June cover – and to tell us what she loves about our sport. With three marathons and an ultra on her running CV, Emma also volunteers as a Run Leader around her hometown of Sevenoaks, Kent. We caught up with her the day after she’d run the Lydd 20 to find out more about her running, and how she mixes modelling and marathons.

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My husband ran the marathon in 2012 and we had a bit of banter – would I ever start running? I said no, and then that night I signed up to a back-to-running beginners’ course. It was one minute run, two minutes walk, and it went from there; I did a 10K first and then a half-marathon, and I thought it would be the only one. I went into the London Marathon ballot and didn’t get a place but thought maybe I should do the longer distances – and that’s what I’ve come to love, the endurance side.

I started modelling after I was in New York in the toilets of a café and someone followed me in and asked if I was a model. I was 19. She was with a New York agency, Elite, and they had a London office so I sent my pictures down to them. But my modeling didn’t start then – I went to university and then took it up full time when I finished my degree at 21.  found running really hard at first. I had no stamina. But I followed this plan that built us up to 5K or 10K and found that, with perseverance, you can build up to a certain distance – but I still was what my husband called a jogger, not a runner.

I’m 39 now and I feel that I’m the fittest I’ve ever been. I work out six times a week, doing four runs and three classes. I do Body Attack, spinning and a class called Total Body Workout. My favourite is Body Attack, which actually doesn’t work well for running because you have to do high kicks, which works the hamstrings differently to running, so I take it very easy but it’s great fun – like going to a disco!

I love longer races because they’re more sociable. I’ve got a lot of friends now who are ultramarathon runners and trail marathon runners so you run together and have a chat. You go slower which is quite nice! There’s just less pressure, which is lovely. It shouldn’t always be about PBs and constantly chasing times.I’m part of a running group called MOJO. My running coach, who took me from a complete beginner up to marathons, didn’t want to do all the long-distance stuff because she’s not training for a marathon herself, so she approached my friend Emily and me to see if we would consider being running coaches. So we went on the Leader in Running Fitness course with Run England, and we’ve also done a first aid in running course so we’re all trained. We took over the long runs up to about 10 miles from last September, and then in January we took on the marathon course. There’s a group of us each year in MOJO who want to run a marathon and our coach writes the plan, and then Em and I just choose the route each week, keep the pace steady, give the girls advice, look after the ones who struggle, and try to calm down those at the front so they don’t go too fast.

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It’s brilliant to give something back. That’s why I like running with others, I’ve paced friends to PBs in half-marathons, and I ran the Lydd 20 with a friend because I’m quite good at pacing the longer runs; I don’t go off too quickly. I love seeing other people achieve their goals – for these girls to run their first marathon is amazing and it is giving something back. Somebody taught me how to run a marathon and I’m sort of doing the same now.

Running has taught me that your body can achieve whatever your mind wants it to and I think that’s true for all of the distances. Before you run a 10K race, your mind says “OK, this is a 10K race” and you cross the line and can’t take another step, but when you do a half-marathon it’s the same principle. And it’s taught me to respect each of the distances, I’ve worked out I’m more of an endurance runner. I don’t like the 5K and 10Ks, I like going longer and slower. It’s also taught me that, even at 39, you can still be really fit and enjoy running and doing well at it.

There are models who are real runners and real people too! Everyone has a stigma that all models don’t eat or drink, they literally starve themselves and that’s not the case at all. We are real people, we do have families, we exercise, we eat well, it’s not always the glamorous industry that it’s claimed to be. I’ve never been on a diet – I guess I’m lucky – but apart from when I had my children, I’ve always been this weight. But now I’m more muscular and toned; I’m stronger and fitter.

This year, I’ve got the London Marathon and then on 29 May I’m doing the High Weald 50K. After that, I’ll be doing more fun running. My next race in September is the Bacchus Half Marathon which is the wine drinking one! I’ve done it for the last two years, it’s brilliant. It takes the pressure off time which is great – unless I get my Good For Age time [for London]. At the moment my marathon PB is 3:53, I’m aiming for 3:45 and if I get sub 3:45 it would be Good For Age. Training is going the right way.

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NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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