If you need additional assistance reading our website please use our accessibility tool.


Alice Townend, a consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon explains how she turned her life around through running to inspire others to the same.

Wednesday, 22 September, 2021
Alice Townend, a consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon explains how she turned her life around through running to inspire others to the same.

Before she started running she hated exercise and described herself as ‘unfit and overweight’.  Two things motivated her, firstly she wanted to lose weight and secondly she didn’t want to be an unfit overweight middle aged mum who couldn’t keep up with my family doing activities they loved.


All it  took was one step to change her life, and she’s gone on to run hundreds of miles and finish marathons and ultra marathons.


She says:  “I decided on running to get fit mainly because it was one of the most efficient ways to burn calories in the least amount of time.  I wasn’t expecting to actually enjoy it!


This year I’m doing the Kielder Marathon. I actually did the 10K event at Kielder 2 years ago – it was my second 10K race at the time.  It’s fair to say that I didn’t appreciate the “Britain’s most beautiful” strapline at the time, as the hills nearly broke me, but I was proud to finish in what was a personal best for me at the time.


Since then I’ve found that I’m much more motivated by trail running, and by pushing for distance rather than speed, so even though I know the marathon course is far more challenging than the 10K one I’m up for the challenge and might even appreciate the beauty this time!


This will be my first official marathon.  Just over a year ago in July 2020 I did my first marathon, on my own, just to prove I could.  I had been training for York marathon which was cancelled like most other races last year, and decided that if I couldn’t run an official race I’d just have to do it myself.  Since then I’ve completed another solo marathon, as well as a solo 50k ultra and Ultra North (55k ultra).


For me the ultimate goals is to finish!  I had a DNF ( did not finish) in The Wall Ultra in June 2021 due to what can be politely termed “digestive issues”, and this will be my longest race since then.


While getting to that finish line, I intend to enjoy the scenery, take some pictures and chat to other people.  I don’t care about a particular time or position, that’s not what motivates me.  When I get to the finish line I’ll celebrate with pizza, cake and a gin.


The thing I’m most looking forward to running at Kielder is taking on a tough challenge, and encouraging others to get to that finish line with me.


What’s helped me prepare for races is finding a training plan that works for me and I enjoy.  Different things work for different people.  Lots of people swear by regimented programmes and if that works for you there are plenty out there.  For me, that becomes oppressive and stops my enjoyment, so my training plan can be termed “wing it”, while making sure not to build up my weekly mileage too quickly.

“Wing it” for me means about 80% long slow runs (which are the kind I like best) with the rest being a mix of tempo, intervals and fartlek (all different ways to push for speed which I like less but I know helps!)


It’s important to get used to eating while you run, if you’re out for several hours you’ll probably need more than a couple of gels, and it helps to get used to what you can eat on the move.


It can help to run with others, either in real life or virtually.  I have a fabulous group of like-minded runners in my phone in the form of an online running group who encourage and support me.  There are lots of similar groups out there, both online and in real life – find one where you feel at home and join!


So if you’re thinking about entering Kielder or another race- do it.  Seriously, if I can go from being lazy, exercise-hating and unfit to an ultra runner in less than 3 years then (subject to being generally healthy and not injured) anyone can do it.  You just have to want to, and if you’re thinking about it you probably w