"Mentally, I broke it into 10k chunks": Miranda Coombes on running a marathon - Women's Running

“Mentally, I broke it into 10k chunks”: Miranda Coombes on running a marathon

Author: Holly Taylor

Read Time:   |  February 2, 2022

Voucher Shares co-founder and mother of two Miranda shares her running journey, from casual runner to coastal marathoner

We love hearing real-life running stories, and business woman Miranda Coombes has been our latest source of training inspiration. Miranda set up Voucher Shares in 2019 with her friend and business partner, as she wanted to make change from the inside with an eco-focussed voucher codes site. She’s passionate about protecting the planet, and this has translated into a love for trail running, too. After taking on the Jurassic Coast marathon at the end of last year, we caught up with her to learn more about how she trains, what motivates her and how we can all shop more sustainably.

Have you always been a runner? When did you get the bug?

“It started in secondary school actually. I got quite competitive doing cross country athletics, and that’s where I realised that I was quite good at running. I did a half marathon when I was about 20 or 25, but then after I had kids I took a break.

“I decided after having my second it was probably time to get back into exercising. I started off doing some spin classes and I just gradually built up to running, but it was so hard. Whether you’re new to running or you’ve had a long break: it’s really hard for anyone and running isn’t easy. You’ve just got to build up slowly and stick at it. But then, once you get to a certain level, you can get out there and be able to kind of switch off a little bit when you’re running. That’s when it all makes it worthwhile.

“I’ve got two children who are pretty full on, and I work quite hard and my husband works quite hard. For me, running is my medicine. It’s what I need in my life to keep me sane and healthy and fit and do something for myself as well that keeps me focused. I live in the most beautiful countryside, too, which is just calling me to go out.”

You recently decided to take on your first marathon, right?

“Yes, it was my first ever marathon. I initially put in for the London Marathon when I was in my 20s, and I was pretty excited about it. But I got a really bad insect bite on my arm and I had to take antibiotics for months, so I had to take time off training and couldn’t do the marathon. So, it’s been on my list for, crikey, almost 20 years! It’s scary. Last year I just thought, well, I’m just gonna go for it. And I signed up for the Jurassic Coast marathon. I had a personal trainer who gave me an amazing plan. I was kind of confident I’d done all the training, and I was in as good shape as possible. And to be honest, I’m just so pleased to get to the start line uninjured and not having had COVID or anything.”

Thanks goodness! What was running along the Jurassic Coast like?

“It was point-to-point. So we drove to this car park – goodness, I think we got there at about seven in the morning. I must have left the house at about half five or something. We parked our car and got on a coach which drove about half an hour to a National Trust car park in the middle of nowhere. You could see the sea and just these rolling hills. It was a beautiful, beautiful location. We ran up and down the craziest hills. It took me about six hours! But it was really well organised, with lots of food and water stations.

“I came in the middle of the pack, and I was quite pleased with that. But yeah, it was it was an incredible route. It was much slippier than I imagined and the terrain was so uneven, like there were points where you literally had to climb down and climb up. I mean, it’s beautiful, but it’s just brutal. But it was such a good atmosphere. You know, everyone was in on such good form. It was really cold but sunny, so we had such great weather for it. And there were people running an ultra, too, so we cheered them on when they went round!”

How did you find the experience of running for six hours?

“I found it fine. You know, I got through it and I was just so pleased to have done it and felt quite lucky that I’ve been able to go out for six hours and finish it uninjured. I remember just kind of switching off and thinking how good it was just to be there. Not only am I getting fit and getting fresh air, but I’m also out on my own with no tech. I completely switched off. And it was like I was almost like in a meditative state. It’s so good for your mental health. Looking back, I’d do it again: it’s like having a child, I’ve almost forgotten the pain!”

You’ve run quite a few half marathons before. How did you make the leap to marathon distance?

“It’s an interesting one because, with my training, I only ever went up to a 33k run. But that’s the whole point: I thought if I did the distance beforehand I’d break myself. So my personal trainer suggested I prepared for it by, instead of doing really long runs, I would do shorter runs, and then come back and do an hour on my Peloton bike. And then I’d maybe do some core work later. And then the next day, I’d do you know, an hour’s run and come back to half an hour bike. So instead of doing it all in one day, I do like over two days, which apparently is really good for building up your stamina and for working your body when it’s tired. It was just about being clever with the training.

“I’ve felt sick after half marathons in the past because of the amount of physical exertion, and I thought it would be the same after the marathon, but I felt fine. I think that was because I’d prepared, and I really made sure I looked after myself on the way round didn’t get to a point where I felt really low and in need of energy.

“My mental tactics were very similar to how I’d run a half marathon. I break into quarters, so this time I just said to myself that once I’d done a 10k I’d done a chunk. Then I’d focus on my next step, until I’d done 30k or so and it was just a 10k to go!”

You’ve got a busy work life as well as a busy family life. How do you find the time to train?

“Today, for example, I’m going out with one of my friends from the village. I’ve got my running stuff on now ready to go! It’s a bit of a strategy: I’ll organise to go running with someone because I know that if we say we’re going to go running, we’ll go running. I’m never going to let anyone down, unless I’m ill or I’ve hurt myself. We have a commitment to each other and we’re not going to break that commitment.

“I’m quite good at organising my work day around running and the kids: it just kind of fits into my day. And also, it’s something that I feel like I have to do. I have to make time for it because it’s my medicine.”

You were raising money for the World Land Trust with your recent marathon. What inspired you to support this charity?

“So they were an obvious choice to me, really, because when we set up about Voucher Shares in 2019, we really wanted to work with a charity that supported the environment. There are so many charities to choose from, and plenty I feel really passionate about as well. But for me, the environment is an ongoing a passion of mine, ever since I was a teenager. And I do everything I can to recycle and teach my kids how to preserve our planet. My business partner and I looked at a few environmental charities, but as soon as we found that Sir David Attenborough is a patron of the World Land Trust it was obvious for me.

“The World Land Trust has what’s called an Action Fund, which will be used to identify areas of land, including rain forests. And any piece of land that is under threat and needs preserving, they use the fund to help preserve it. They’ll use people on the ground who actually live in that area to help protect it. So rather than just buying a bit of land somewhere, and just leaving it to, you know, get on with itself, they’ll employ local people who understand that environment to help build it the habitats up. It’s vital work to preserve habitats that need it. So, for us, we want to put our money where the world needs it most. And Sir David Attenborough is quoted as saying he can’t think of an environmental charity that’s more worthwhile.”

Voucher Shares sounds like a great way to save money while supporting sustainability initiatives. Have you always worked in eco-conscious environments?

“Not historically, no. I’ve been in digital marketing for over 20 years and I’ve always thought it’d be nice to get a job with the Soil Association or working for the Environment Agency, and I’d always look for jobs like that. But they’re few and far between, so when I did my own thing I really wanted to focus on the environment. I knew the voucher code space very well from previous jobs, and I could see an opportunity to get in amongst it and do something that’s environmental. I proposed the idea to my friend Tanya and here we are!”

Why should we be choosing Voucher Shares over other voucher code websites?

“Often, companies say they give 50% of profit, and after that the shareholders have take their large annual salaries. For us, 5% of all revenue that we make goes to world Land Trust, which is really quite a lot. We want to get bigger and bigger so that we can give more and more to them. We’re really developing into our brand and our ethos. We’re also promoting sustainable shopping: we’ve got some great blog posts on our site to help people think about the environment while shopping. Start thinking about materials: try bamboo rather than synthetics. Where are things coming from? Put pressure on the people that you’re buying stuff from to harness more sustainable practices when they’re producing things.

“I know what we’re doing kind of goes against the grain, because we’re trying to sell to someone while saying ‘don’t buy too much’! But we want to change the game from the inside. We’re going: ‘Hey, if you shop with us, we’ll give 5% of revenue to World Land Trust, and if you shop with anyone else, you won’t necessarily be giving anything back’.”

Written by

Holly Taylor

Holly Taylor

Holly Taylor is the digital editor of Women’s Running and co-host of the Women’s Running podcast, where she shares her running journey as well as the inspiring stories of women runners all over the country. She’s never been the sporty type, but running is the first time she’s felt real joy in getting active. She loves talking about running with a community of inclusive and supportive runners, and Women's Running is the perfect space for this. She's currently aiming for a half marathon PB!

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