An Interview with A World Record Holder! - The 'Running Granny'

How do you train, prepare and fuel to break a world record?

And how do you do that when you are 60 years old? You have a family. AND you are trying to change the eating and exercise habits of older people!

Angela White, AKA ‘The Running Granny’, recently ran more than 800 miles in just over 18 days, from John o’ Groats to Land’s End.

And she has set a world record in the process.

In this article ‘The Running Granny’ tells you:

  • About her incredible world record attempt - to be the oldest female to run from John o’ Groats to Land’s End

  • Her top tips for running

  • Her nutrition and kit recommendations


JamesRunsFar: Hi ‘Running Granny’. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. First, could you give us an overview of your running background, please.

RG: I started running seven years ago and shortly afterwards discovered the world of ultra running.

The more I did the more I found that whilst I may not be fast, I can just keep going.

I’m not hugely experienced but have done a few events - Howarth Hobble, Lakes in a Day, Tour de Helvellyn, Northern Traverse, Apocalypse and Escape from Meriden.

I am fascinated by how the body will perform to the demands you make of it and so keep pushing the boundaries to see what is possible.

Age is certainly not a barrier to setting a goal and working towards it.

Challenges are goals we don’t know are achievable. If we knew we could achieve them then they wouldn’t be a challenge.

Angela celebrating her magnificent run from John o’ Groats to Land’s End - More than 800 miles in 18 days. Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

Angela celebrating her magnificent run from John o’ Groats to Land’s End - More than 800 miles in 18 days. Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

Angela, AKA’ The Running Granny’ had a huge amount of support during her challenge. Which just goes to show how inspirational the run was. Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

Angela, AKA’ The Running Granny’ had a huge amount of support during her challenge. Which just goes to show how inspirational the run was. Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

JRF: You recently ran more than 800 miles in 18 days from John o Groats to Land’s End. Can you tell us a bit more about that. Including the record you were aiming for

RG: The intention of the JOGLE was not about what I was doing but about why I was doing it.

Four years ago I decided that I wanted to do something when I was 60 that would be meaningful for other people. It took many conversations with different people before I landed on the idea of a single challenge that might fit the bill.

It was two years ago when I decided the JOGLE would be a suitable challenge. I felt it would be fitting and symbolic because it is a linear route from the top of the country to the bottom and the issues I was raising awareness of affect every single citizen throughout the length of the UK.

I decided to attempt to set a World Record for the Oldest Female to travel JOGLE on foot.

I started training eighteen months prior although the question as to how to train for such an undertaking remains unanswered. Clearly my approach to my training was successful to some degree. But there are no texts or training plans to follow and I believe it is very much an individual thing.

The event unfolded somewhat differently from how I had imagined, mainly because I developed anterior tibial tenosynovitis (shin splints in lay terms) on day two.

This was a result from having to change my gait on day 1 to run into a strong and relentless headwind.

This was enormously disappointing because this was the one injury I knew I was at risk of getting, so I had worked hard to mitigate that throughout my training.

On the other hand, the fact that I decided to test the conventional wisdom and continue to run with these injuries was probably only possible due to the work I had done to strengthen those areas.

The injuries slowed me down and required a level of fluidity in physical and mental adaption as I went along each day.

The weather was highly variable and hostile at times. Brutal headwinds and rain in Scotland, unseasonably high temperatures for a few days through Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire and Shropshire and then back to rain, and wind, ending with a couple of hours running into a North Atlantic storm towards the finish at Land’s End.

Ultimately, the goal was achieved, 18 days, 10 hours and 3 minutes.

The total distance travelled 875 miles and the total ascent was 45,500 feet (one and a half Everests)

The ‘Running Granny’ at the start of her epic journey - The John o’ Groats landpost in Scotland - Photo by Joe Bowman

The ‘Running Granny’ at the start of her epic journey - The John o’ Groats landpost in Scotland - Photo by Joe Bowman

JRF: You were raising money and awareness for Going for Old. Can you tell us a bit more about that, please?

RG: Going for Old is a community interest company or social enterprise which aims to encourage, motivate and inspire people to make small changes to adopt healthy lifestyle choices. This will improve the quality of their physical and mental health throughout life.

With 70% of the whole NHS and care budgets being spent on treating people with what we call long term conditions, the NHS is becoming unsustainable in its ability to serve all our health and sickness needs.

The greatest growth in long term conditions is in things such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and lung disease, anxiety and depression – all of which are largely preventable with healthier lifestyles

The fastest increase in the growth of these conditions is in the younger generations.

Currently more than 10% of 5 year-olds and 20% of 11 year old children are classified as overweight or obese.

Being overweight increases the likelihood of developing other long term conditions. There are some areas where the numbers are even higher. For example Carlisle recently reported that 90% of all schoolchildren are either overweight or obese.

You can donate to Going for Old here, or using the button below

JRF: It was amazing to see you smiling in almost every picture! But what was your favourite part of your JOGLE challenge?

RG: The people around me gave me the greatest pleasure.

Firstly, my amazing and dedicated support crews who gave up their time and looked after my every need throughout the challenge – it simply would not have been possible without them and I cannot overestimate their part in the success of the mission.

Secondly, all the people that came out to cheer, walk or run with me at various stages along the way. They cannot know how much they helped distract me from the pain I was in at times.

Thirdly, whilst I have yet to catch up with social media surrounding the event, I was made aware of the hundreds of encouraging messages from followers which gave me a huge lift and a reason to keep making my ‘dot’ move in a southerly direction.

Thank you everyone.

JRF: And what was the most difficult part of your JOGLE run?

RG: It has to be the pain from my injuries.

There was a background threshold of pain that was with me from the first shin injury on day 2 which I could cope with. But as each day progressed so the volume of the pain increased and reached a rapid crescendo with no warning.

When that happened I struggled to mentally climb above it to dampen it down and to continue.

You learn a lot about yourself at these times, not least what your limits are.

The crew knew I was suffering and a couple of nights I agreed to stop early – mainly to appease their concerns.

The ‘Running Granny’ had to ensure her feet were in top condition for her JOGLE attempt. Which is a difficult thing to do when you’re running more than 800 miles in 18 days! Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

The ‘Running Granny’ had to ensure her feet were in top condition for her JOGLE attempt. Which is a difficult thing to do when you’re running more than 800 miles in 18 days! Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

It’s a major operation to take on a world record of this scale. The Running Granny had a support team and support vehicles to help her. Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

It’s a major operation to take on a world record of this scale. The Running Granny had a support team and support vehicles to help her. Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

JRF: What’s your proudest achievement?

RG: In life: Raising my three children

In running: that others tell me they are inspired by me and seek my advice on their own running goals.

JRF: What’s your favourite race?

RG: Lakes in a Day hosted by James Thurlow, race Director at Open Adventure.

This 50 mile race starts at Caldbeck in the north of Cumbria and finishes at Cartmel in the south. It showcases some of the best of what the Lake District has to offer.

The weather can be challenging and it is a good test of competitor’s skills and competence in the mountains. I’ve done it four times.

Sadly I shall miss it this year as I won’t be recovered from my JOGLE, as it is only two weeks from my finish.

Some of the route in JOGLE is pretty dangerous. Angela had to run beside, and sometimes, on, major roads… Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

Some of the route in JOGLE is pretty dangerous. Angela had to run beside, and sometimes, on, major roads… Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

… But she had lots of support to help her on the way. Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

… But she had lots of support to help her on the way. Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

JRF: What is your dream race or challenge, if money wasn’t a problem?

RG: There are challenges that I would love to be able to take on but I’m limited, not by money, but by a) some osteoarthritis in one of my knees which gets upset descending the fells at speed and b) difficulty with exposed areas such as ridges.

I’d love to be able to take on a Bob Graham, a Joss Naylor challenge, a UTMB or other mountain classic.

JRF: Who inspires you? Either running or non-running?

RG: I was inspired by a friend, Sandra whom I met when she was 67.

She had started running at the age of 62 herself. She was training to do the Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge and I started running and discovered the fells and ultra-running by joining her on her recce days.

When she completed her Joss at the age of 68 years, she was, at the time, the oldest female to do so.

JRF: What kit and nutrition do you use and recommend?

RG: I use a variety of different kit. I tend to buy in the sales so have a variety of manufacturers’ clothing.

I use VOOM nutrition for hydration and energy bars. I’ve suffered with serious GI problems in the past but since discovering this company and their products two years ago, running has been much more fun. Really easy to use, good taste and easy on the stomach.

For my JOGLE, I ate ‘normal’ food every day: porridge, bacon and egg sandwiches, home-cooked fish pie & cheese and potato pie. I also had a wide selection of treats available for snacking.

JRF: Could you tell us your top tips for running? And generally being healthy?

RG: The most important thing is to enjoy your sport whether running or any other.

Listen to your body, in particular when it’s telling you it’s not happy.

Include some cross training, if possible but if you only have time for one non-running session, make it yoga – excellent for developing strength, core and for deep stretching.

Take time to understand your own hydration needs – everyone is different. Weigh yourself before and after a run, particularly in warm weather, as you might be surprised just how much fluid you lose over just a short time e.g. an hour.

I could go on………………..

JRF: How do you fit training in around a busy life?

RG: I would never have been able to give the time to training before the children left home.

Now, I prioritise my training around other commitments. I’m flexible with the time of day I train so can be out early morning or late at night, if that is the best fit.

After completing this epic journey, The Running Granny says that she will focus on recovery and putting more time into the Going for Old enterprise. Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

After completing this epic journey, The Running Granny says that she will focus on recovery and putting more time into the Going for Old enterprise. Photo: Eddie Winthorpe, LRPS

JRF: What’s up next?

RG: I’ve not planned anything specific just yet as I don’t know what my recovery needs are going to be from the JOGLE. However, I’m keen to get back out on the fells and into the mountains after training for so long on the tarmac.

My main focus is to get the Going for Old social enterprise underway so we can encourage, motivate and inspire people to take small steps and adopt healthy lifestyle choices to improve their quality of life.

JRF: Where can people follow you?

RG: 

JRF: Thanks so much for taking the time to give us such great advice and insight. I hope your future races go well. And I look forward to following your journey.


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