Meet the RfL Runners & Riders: Emma Watts

1. Tell us a bit about yourselves, where you’re from etc. And tell us about your history of running and cycling.

I was born in Southend on Sea, Essex, but I've been happy to call London my home for the past 3 years. I was never a sporty child, and my love of running came from quite a dark place! In November 2013 I had a serious brain injury. 5 months into my recovery and I woke up with a sudden urge to run. I went out and spent £80 on running gear that day thinking to myself "This is stupid, I'll go once and never use this stuff again". A few days later I signed up for my first 10km race. I had just over 3 weeks to train. Naturally everyone said that wasn't long enough, but I'm pretty headstrong and set about following the NHS couch to 5k series. When race day came I was super excited and although I wanted to be sick around the 9km mark I finished in 1hr 4min. After that I was hooked and running became the biggest tool in my recovery and finding myself again. From then onwards I signed up to more and more events and found a community of people that I really felt a sense og belonging with.

2. What you’re taking on is probably one of the most difficult things you’ll have ever done. The kind of thing most people think is crazy. So what made you want to sign up?

I want to challenge myself on a new level. I want to push myself to the absolute limit and find out what my body can do!

3. If we don’t let it stop us from starting in the first place, healthy fear can be a really good thing. What are you most afraid of on the upcoming route?

I'm really scared of not being able to finish the whole 210 mile stretch. The most I have run in one day is 33 miles and I've never tried going back out to do it for a second day.

4. Beyond the benefits for your physical health, are there any deeper motivations you have for doing these things?

Running is like meditation for me. It's the only thing that calms me down and helps me to clear my head. I also love seeing the progress I make along the way. As I reach new longest distances and faster PBs. It gives me a kick.

5. How do you train? Is it mostly a solo thing, one person alone in the elements, or do you prefer being in company?

Running on my own is my absolute favourite thing (for the reasons above) and it was the only way I would run for a long time. These days I keep a healthy mixture of social runs and solo runs to work at things my own pace. It's great to share the love of running with others.

6. Can you think of any happy or sad or motivating thoughts that get your through the particularly hard times, that drive you on when you’re on the brink?

Usually I try to remember how far I've come. That I've done this before and I can do it again. I remind myself that I am not a quitter and I can't let myself start quitting now.

7. Once people discover it, running and cycling can become a completely indispensable part of their lives. Can you imagine your life without it?

I could never give up running. I get overemotional! The only thing that has ever come close to giving me the same feeling is boxing and that's a whole lot more expensive! If I had to quit I'd probably spend way to much time and money on drinking and eating.

8. Some of you are taking on the whole challenge, all the way through to London. Others are just doing either the running or cycling legs. Why have you chosen one or the other?

I'm only taking part for the running. I do cycle to commute and the odd ride for fun, but I just don't enjoy it anywhere near as much. I am also quite a timid cyclist. You can't trust a machine as well as you can your legs and a fall of a bike seems a lot more painful/dangerous than a trip whilst running.

9. Are any of you attempting this feat with someone else in mind? Are you any of you running or cycling for someone else perhaps?

I'm just running this one for myself.

10. Lastly, apart from the finish-line, what are you most looking forward to?

Where to begin! I've never been to Bosnia or Croatia so I'm really excited to see both of those. I'm looking forward to being out on the street running with a great group of people every day. To the evening's spent together talking about what we've achieved and things that have happened over the course of the day. The sense of unity, camaraderie and team spirit. I'm excited about the whole experience!