Member profile: Allison McArthur

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Introduce yourself

Hi, I’m Allison McArthur. I’m an English teacher and live in Perth, Scotland with my husband (Steven Bonthrone) and my 2 cats.

Why and when did you start running?

I wasn’t at all sporty growing up. I was involved in music and at that time you were either sporty and in a school team or musical and in the orchestra. These things rarely mixed and I was an orchestra girl!

By the time I finished university, I realised that I had to do more to keep myself fit and healthy so would go to the gym and do a bit of unstructured cardio on a reasonably regular basis. It wasn’t until 2005 and the death of my gran that the notion to run crossed my mind. I wanted to complete a charity 5k so roped in a PE teacher friend to help me get started. I found I enjoyed running and continued to run occasionally for another few years, but when I met Steve in 2008 things began to change.

I was in awe of the fact that he had completed multiple marathons, whereas I had never ventured beyond a slow 5k, but with Steve’s encouragement I began to take running more seriously. He helped me with my training and I suddenly found myself running on dark, winter evenings when before I had been very much a fair weather runner. In the spring of 2009 I ran my first 10k. Later that year I took on my first half marathon, which I ran in an absolute daze as Steve proposed the night before! In the spring of 2010 I ran my first ever marathon – Paris – and the rest, as they say, is history!

What does running do for you?

Running is my chance to clear my mind, to listen to my iPod, to mull over problems and to enjoy the fresh air. I’ve found that I do my best thinking when I’m running and often come back with new ideas for work, for my blog or for new challenges. Colleagues often tell me that they don’t know how I find the time to run, but I know exercise makes me much more productive and have come to rely on the time I set aside to work out to help me cope with the demands of other aspects of my life.

Running has given me the chance to meet new people both in real life and online, as well as offering the chance to visit new places. Steve and I often joke that the main reason we go somewhere new is because we have a race there!

Do you have any running goals?

In 2016 I’ll once more be running the Paris marathon and am keen to set a new PB. My best, also set in Paris, is 4:05:07 so I’d love to get that elusive sub-4 time. I’d also love to get my 10k time below 50 minutes as I’m tantalisingly close right now with a PB of 50:14!

Other than that, I want to keep running consistently and listen carefully to my body so I can stay injury-free as much as possible.

What’s your greatest running achievement?

A hard question as I believe every run and every race is an achievement, regardless of the outcome. Do I pick my first marathon, when I learned so much about what my body is capable of? Do I pick running the London marathon and being part of an iconic event? Do I pick setting my marathon PB, a time almost an hour faster than my debut on the same course? These are all achievements that mean a great deal to me, however I’m going to pick the 2015 Edinburgh Marathon Festival as my greatest achievement to date.

Inspired by Steve’s epic challenge of completing the 5k, 10k, half and full marathons in the same weekend in 2014, I decided I wanted to take on a multi-event challenge too. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible for me to replicate Steve’s challenge as the logistics would require completing the half marathon in around 1:30 – far too fast for me! – so I came up with my own alternative for 2015: on the Saturday I completed the 10k followed by the 5k (there was about an hour in between finishing one and starting the next), then on the Sunday I completed the half marathon, changed my kit and walked back out along the course to the final relay changeover point. I had entered a team in the 4-person Hairy Haggis Team Relay and I ran the final leg (just over 4 miles). This meant I was involved in all 4 races and crossed 4 finishing lines. It was the most incredible weekend and although my legs were weary by the time I came to the final race, I had a fantastic time, raising valuable funds for Macmillan Cancer Support along the way.

What has been most helpful to you?

Being married to a Personal Trainer is definitely an advantage as all my training plans are completely bespoke. Although Steve and I rarely run together due to our different paces, I do have training sessions with him 2-3 times a week to work on specific areas that will benefit my running.

This year I also discovered parkrun, which is not only the most wonderful, inclusive “family” of runners, but has also taught me a great deal about pushing hard and racing 5k. If you’d told me at the start of the year that I would run a sub-24 5k, I’d have thought you were off your head!

Finally, writing my blog is incredibly helpful as it keeps me accountable. My blog can act like a training/racing diary, but it also allows me to connect with other like-minded people (much as I do in groups such as DYRT) to discuss training and support one another.

Would you like to contribute your own DYRT member profile or other running related article? Please email ewan@dyrt.io! It would be great to hear from you.