Zena Ellis

Stopsley Strider Club Member Profile 
This month’s club member is Zena Ellis, aged 35.

I teach art to post 16 students at North Herts College and GCSE to students at the Da Vinci Studio School in Letchworth.

Did you do sport at school? 
No, I used to dread PE lessons, especially cross country – we used to have to run around the golf course across Dunstable Downs, I hated it and would moan all the way around, that’s if I wasn’t hiding in a bush somewhere having a tantrum that I had to do it in the first place.

When did you start running & why? 
I ran a 10K in 2009 to see if I could but properly started running at the same time as I started my teacher training in September 2011 when I joined Striders. I wanted to run the Silverstone Half Marathon for the Willow Foundation in memory of my cousin Emily who first became poorly when she was training to become a teacher. During her cancer treatment she received a special day from the Willow Foundation to the British Grand Prix and coming from a family of motorsport fans it seemed like the perfect goal. I didn’t expect to enjoy running and have been hooked ever since.

What made you come to Stopsley Striders? 
I joined Striders because I knew that I would run well if I was around others and I wanted help to be able to run Silverstone Half. I didn’t expect to love it and still be a member 5 years on!

What is your favourite run/course? 
I love Silverstone Half because it is a significant race for me, as is the Willow 10K – this year it is on 2nd October if anyone would like to join me? I enjoy the Luton Half, the Alf Brown and I love running downStockingstone Hill!

What is your best run? 
Silverstone Half in 2012 I ran it with Kim Caddy and we got a time of 2:08:52, I’m not sure how I did it because I have not been anywhere near that time since.

What was your worst run?
I had a bad run at the MK20 last year during marathon training, I did a two mile warm up before the race and was running well (maybe a bit too quick) up until the 15 mile marker when I just involuntarily stopped and burst into tears. I don’t know what brought it on because I was feeling fine just moments before but I think I hit the infamous wall. I ran/walked the final 5 miles through tears and cursing behind my sunglasses. Although it was a ‘bad’ run I learnt a lot from it – mainly not to get too excited and go out too quick, 20 miles is a long way.

What was your most memorable run? 
I ran Paris Marathon last year, and thinking about it now still puts a big grin on my face. It was my first marathon and was incredible. I never thought I would ever be able to run a marathon and don’t think I was even convinced on the day, but my wonderful family and my friend Lena had travelled all the way to Paris to support me so I couldn’t let them down. 
I ran the whole thing, at some points I think I could have shuffled quicker than I was running but I ran it and I loved it. It was amazing on so many levels, to see all of the sights on the route, enjoy the sounds of Samba bands playing, absorb the great atmosphere, seeing my family at the end but most of all to have simply achieved it and become part of the ‘marathon club.’ It really is the most special of feelings; I was still on a high from it weeks later.

Do you like cross-country? 
It is not my favourite running experience, the team spirit of cross-country is amazing and the cakes at the end are always great and that is what makes me want to do it but I’m not a fan of getting cold and muddy.

Assuming you have spare time, what are your other hobbies/interests?
My job is pretty full on so I work long hours and spend a lot of my spare time prepping and planning lessons, I enjoy it though so try not to complain. I like art and carnival, so like visiting museums and art galleries and in the summer other carnivals. I am very lucky to have some amazing family and friends so I try and spend a lot of time with them too and obviously my house bunny Phil.

How many times a week do you run? 
I do 2 club nights a week and a parkrun; I need to start doing some long runs on a Sunday again with Luton Half just around the corner.

What is your average weekly mileage? 
At the moment, not enough!

Do you do speed work or specialist training?
I like to join Andy’s speedwork on a Thursday that is always great fun.

Do you follow a diet regime before competing? 
No not really, I naively thought that through marathon training I would lose weight. The opposite happened and I put on weight marathon training! I usually feel quite sick after a long run and can’t each much but it catches up with me the next day when I want to eat everything in sight.

What piece of your kit do you think is the most important? 
A good sports bra and pair of trainers, they are both as important as each other.

Who is your hero?
I think my running hero is Mo Farah, he is amazing and quite an inspiration to watch, I am looking forward to watching him compete again next week in Rio.

What do you like about the club?
I love the friendliness of our club and the great friends I have met through it, I also know I could never have achieved what I have done in my running without the support of Stopsley Striders – I have come a long way from the stroppy teenager who would avoid PE at any opportunity.

What would be your advice to a new club member?
Make it become a habit, come along to socials, join in with speedwork and embrace what the club has to offer. You can get what you want out of it and enjoy it.

What is your running song to get you over that line? 
I don’t often run with music but when I do I listen to some Caribbean soca tunes. I used to be involved in Luton carnival and still love it, the DJ from Rampage made me a soca playlist which is brilliant.

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