After crawling across the London Marathon finish line to a 2:33 PB, the England international marathoner tells AW about her mental strength, training and future plans

When asked about the biggest lessons she has learned in her running career so far, Hayley Carruthers replies: “That ultimately nothing beats hard work and that the sport will reward persistence and resilience.”

Her own resilience and persistence was proved at the recent Virgin Money London Marathon, when Carruthers crawled across the finish line after collapsing just metres from it. Swinging her leg across the timing mat, the Birchfield athlete clocked a PB of 2:33:59.

The 26-year-old NHS radiographer has come a long way since starting out in the sport just three years ago (she ran 3:22:58 on her marathon debut in Manchester). Having had time to reflect on London, she shared some insight into her performance, mental strength, training and future plans.

Athletics Weekly: The past week must have felt like a bit of a whirlwind. Now you’ve had time to reflect on your run in London, how are you feeling?

Hayley Carruthers: I suppose it is mixed emotions. The disappointment from the outcome is still there as we really, really wanted to qualify for Doha (World Championships) and so it is bound to hurt for a while. On the other hand, people have been so lovely and supportive that it’s been hard to feel too sorry for myself.

AW: We know mental strength is something you’ve worked on and we featured some advice from your coach Dan Robinson before the race. How important is mental strength and using that strength alongside listening to your body? Is that what you had to do in London?

HC: We always talk about having a toolkit of mental strategies available. It allows me to feel more relaxed that I have something else I can turn to in the difficult moments. I think by the end on Sunday I was looking around in the bottom of the bag! Seriously though, I was having to employ those strategies from around 10km onwards. It helped because I was able to focus on dealing with the here and now rather than contemplating having 20 miles to go feeling like that!

AW: Can you give some insight into your training set-up and diary in the lead-up to London?

HC: Dan is my coach and also, despite being middle-aged, he can still do the sessions with me which is great. Up until the autumn I was coached remotely by someone else which worked well at the time. Since I have started working with Dan though I have really felt the benefit of building up a close relationship where we speak all the time. He knows when I am tired or stressed and can adapt the training accordingly. I am sure this has helped to avoid injury and illness.

A typical training week might be:

Monday: AM – 30min easy, PM – 45min easy / gym

Tuesday: AM – 40min easy, PM – track – 4 x (5x400m)

Wednesday: AM – 30min easy, PM – 60min easy

Thursday: AM – rest, PM – 4x10min threshold / S&C session

Friday: Rest day

Saturday: AM – parkrun and 6x2min off 60sec

Sunday: AM – 2 miles easy, 4×4 miles at marathon effort with a 1 mile float

AW: Is it hard to combine your running with your full-time job as an NHS radiographer?

HC: I think for the most part it has worked pretty easily up to this point. The fact that I am new to running has meant that we have built up the volume quite gradually and so the job hasn’t been too much of a problem in that respect. Maybe in the future that will change as I get stronger and we can progress the training further. I am conscious that in this build-up, recovery became more of an issue as the intensity increased.

AW: What are your next goals – both long and short term?

HC: In the short term I am having a much needed rest before racing the Vitality London 10,000 at the end of the month. It will be good to race in London again and hopefully finish a race vertical. I will then try and get as fit as possible to run well at Highgate (Night of the 10,000m PBs) in the summer. It is already an iconic event and I can’t wait to race there. Longer term we will look at an autumn marathon but I don’t want to think about that too much just yet.

AW: You must have received many messages since last Sunday – are there any which have meant that bit more to you?

HC: It’s hard to pick out individual messages because they’ve all been so positive. Some teachers have been in touch saying that they have used the footage in school assemblies or with their junior cross-country teams. That’s very gratifying and if there is a positive message associated with what happened I feel very fortunate.

AW: What are the biggest lessons you have learned in your running career so far?

HC: That ultimately nothing beats hard work and that the sport will reward persistence and resilience. Absorbing disappointments is just part of it but that makes successes all the more satisfying.

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