Keeping an eye on the Marathon – Catching up with Welsh endurance athlete Clara Evans

Clara training in Iten Kenya – Photo Credit Sean Tilden

We took the time to speak to Welsh international endurance athlete Clara Evans about life during lockdown and plans for the future. Cardiff AAC athlete Clara has seen a rapid improvement over the last couple of years and has run 16.02 for 5k, 33.07 for 10k, 72.29 for the half marathon and 2.46.03 for the marathon. She is currently ranked 10th in the UK for half marathon in 2020.  Clara manages to train and compete at this high level alongside working full time as a transport planner.

Thank you for speaking to us. First of all how are you adapting to the COVID-19 lockdown?

For me there have been a couple of changes to my everyday life, initially working from home and then being furloughed. This has left me with lots of time for gardening and focusing on my training especially all the bits like stretching, strengthening and core which is usually the first thing I neglect when I have very little time around my full time job.

I’ve been doing weekly quizzes over zoom with my family and face timing them regularly which probably means I’m actually spending more time socialising with them than I did before. I’m hoping that stuff like the virtual quiz becomes a mainstay of our culture post Covid!

Before the COVID-19 lockdown you were in amazing form having run a 72.29 PB at the Barcelona Half Marathon and 73.14 at the Vitality Big Half Marathon in London. It must be frustrating for racing to come to a stop so abruptly. What were your main goals for the year?

At the start of the year my main goal/focus was to try and qualify for the half marathon in the European Championships and then just build going into next year when I planned to run a marathon.

I haven’t really found it frustrating not to race as I enjoy training and it’s nice to have a period to build a good solid base for when racing starts again.

How have you adapted your training during COVID-19? It must be helpful; being able to run with your partner Paul, a 29.38 10k athlete during this time. Did you run lot together before?

I found a good routine early on in lockdown with training with Paul, so this has helped me keep the social aspect of running and doing sessions with someone. I’m lucky that I have a 800m loop right outside my house so most of my sessions have been done on there, and as someone who’s not a massive fan of track I don’t really miss it too much.

I’ve also been running a lot with my dog, particularly when we were only allowed out once per day, and I also had to invest in a treadmill to allow me to continue doubling all the way through the lockdown whilst still doing my bit to stay safe and protect the NHS.

Training in Iten Kenya prior to the lockdown – Photo Credit Sean Tilden

How are you coping with the uncertainty about when races will restart?

I am not finding this too difficult, ultimately we are all in the same boat on this issue and no one has an advantage over anyone else. When races resume I’m sure lots of people will be blowing off the cobwebs and trying to find out exactly how their training has been going.

With distance running, you can just keep topping up aerobically and then once racing looks more likely, start adding the specificity to tackling that event (whatever it may be).

You concentrated on the shorter stuff last year achieving brilliant PBs over 5k, 10k and half marathon. Will you go back to the marathon once all this is over and what do you think you can achieve over the marathon distance?

My plan was to spend the year focusing on the 10k and the half marathon but I’ve always had one eye on the marathon as I feel like it is the distance that I am best suited to. Usually my favourite run of the week is the long run so I’ve always wanted to step back up but I’ve just done everything I can to ensure that I’ve got the speed there first to change my perception of difficulty on the marathon paces. I’m still playing things by ear a little bit just like everyone else but I expect that I will be back racing marathons again in 2021 and my main ambition will be looking to run a qualifier for the Commonwealth Games Marathon in Birmingham in 2022 once the selection standards are out.

How did you enjoy talking some time off work to train full time in Iten, Kenya and Albuquerque, New Mexico, America?

These experiences were both amazing. In America, lots of the top distance runners in Wales were there and it was incredible to spend time around people who had the same level of commitment to their training that I try to have. It was the first time I had ever been to the states as well, so I’ve always wanted to experience it and this trip was as much for me about the touristy stuff like the Grand Canyon as it was about getting a solid few weeks of training at altitude.

Training in Albuquerque. Photo Credit – Kris Jones

Iten in Kenya is probably one of the best places I’ve ever been. It is truly inspiring and humbling to be there amongst such a large contingent of phenomenal athletes. The local people are so hospitable and the culture to running makes it feel like it’s the most natural thing to do. Also on the camp there were so many truly inspiring athletes like Paralympian Derek Rae, and I feel like the people I met out there will inspire me to work as hard as I possibly can for my goals.

Training in Iten, Kenya with Paralympian Derek Rae – Photo Credit – Sean Tilden

In a non-Covid world, if you could choose one race to take part in right now which race would you chose and why?

Vitality London 10000 which should have been the day I am writing this! [Clara finished 5th in the Vitality London 10000 in 2019 in a time of 33.20.] For me, the best races are where all of the top British runners all come together in the same race. I love to try and rub shoulders with the best of the British female runners that I seek to emulate. I am the sort of person that would rather finish way down the field in a loaded race but run a fast time than place well in a small local race with no competition.

Thank you Clara. We look forward to seeing you racing in the near future and seeing what you can achieve over the marathon distance in due course!

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