A few days ago marked exactly one year since I headed out for my first training run with Up & Running, an online coaching programme for aspiring runners. On a whim I had signed up for U&R’s first ever 5k programme. Little did I know back then how important U&R, and the fabulous women behind it – Julia Jones and Shauna Reid – would become for me. U&R re-ignited my long lost passion for running and has seen me running consistently, and loving it, for a whole year. Unbelievably, thanks to Julia and Shauna and the amazing community that they have created, I am now six weeks away from running my first half marathon. I am delighted, and incredibly honoured, that this dynamic duo agreed to be interviewed. It’s the perfect way to celebrate an amazing year of running!
Coach Julia, as she is known at U&R, (an American living in Italy) has been training runners for over ten years, has authored a bestselling book, and even has a running festival named after her! She has, herself, run an incredible 33 marathons and completed numerous triathlons as well as a half Ironman. Julia is everything a coach should be and more – inspiring, motivating, strict but caring, committed and dedicated. Oh and she really knows her stuff!
Community Director of U&R, Shauna, (an Australian living in Scotland) is known for her hugely popular health and wellness blog ‘The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl’ as well as her book of the same name. Shauna’s mission at U&R is to encourage, inspire and support each and every person who signs up. You couldn’t ask for a more helpful, encouraging, inspiring, warm and caring supporter. Somehow Shauna manages to make you feel as though you are the only person on the programme.
I recently watched a documentary about The Beatles during which Paul McCartney likened each Beatle to one corner of a square, each making a unique but essential contribution to the whole. It seems to me that Up & Running is much like a triangle with three such corners – Julia, Shauna and the community of fellow runners. Thank you Julia and Shauna and everyone at U&R!
What does happiness mean to you?
Shauna: Happiness is having a purpose, creating things, having meaningful work to do. It’s also feeling connected in my relationships and generally feeling foxy.
Julia: Feeling light with work done on time, moving my body in any way, knowing my children are healthy and happy, spending quality time with my husband, sunrise, creating something I’m proud of.
What and/or who inspires you?
Shauna: People with passions. Whether it’s my husband and his homebrewing obsession, or Julia and her running, or a chef geeking out about the perfect ingredients, or a busy mum writing at midnight when her kids have gone to bed, I find people identifying, exploring and carving out time for their interests to be the most inspiring and sexy thing in the world.
Julia: I get inspired by looking at what other people create, usually in an art form. I also get truly inspired by words (books lectures) and powerful nature like oceans and the immensity of mountains.
What would be your perfect day?
Shauna: It would start with a pile of French toast festooned with bacon and maple syrup. Then I’d look out the window to see oh my goodness, I seem to be in some amazing private retreat resorty kind of thing with a big clear lake and wildflowers and cheery birds. And I don’t have hayfever. I take a swim, then I get an amazing massage, then I head into town for an intimate-but-rockin’ Radiohead concert avec backstage pass, then I go out for a mind-blowingly tasty dinner. Then I am magically transported into an enormous bed with cosy sheets with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate. Hopefully my husband will be up for tagging along the whole day.
Julia: Early wake up, a walk on the beach and dip into the sea, a nice breakfast with a morning newspaper, four to six hours of intense working on any project in progress, a nap in the afternoon, tea, a run that lasts about an hour and a half, an evening spent with my family. (This is how a lot of my summer days play out so I feel pretty lucky!)
Do you have a favourite place or environment where you feel most at peace?
Shauna: Anywhere near water. Or in a library.
Julia: Any place in nature, Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods where I grew up, or Firenze in Italy. Any beach in the world.
If you are feeling stressed or anxious is there anything you do that you know will make you feel better?
Shauna: Either wrapping my hands around a hot cup of tea, or going to bed. A cup of tea in bed, even better.
Julia: When that happens I make a list for myself of all the things that need to be done to clear my mind. Sometimes it’s a long list but if I even get two or three items checked off I can feel myself calm down again.
What worries you most about the world?
Shauna: I worry about the environment. Wildlife, climate change and the amount of stuff we consume. On one hand I go around switching off lights and fishing people’s Starbucks cups out of the trash and putting them into the recycling bin (I’m known as the Recycling Fascist in the office). But on the other hand I travel quite a bit, which is a zillion times worse for the planet.
Julia: The environment and world pollution. Combine that with politics and ignorance it’s just a recipe for disaster.
What makes you most hopeful about the world?
Shauna: That there are brainy and/or creative folks out there actively trying to make things different.
Julia: That there are still people that think “differently”. Sometimes I even run into one or two!
What, if anything, would you like more of in your life?
Julia: I would love more time.
What, if anything, would you like less of in your life?
Shauna: Mundane administrative tasks.
Julia: Less laundry!
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Shauna: My grandmother once advised me, “Never marry a man with greyhounds”. I have no idea why she said that but it cracked me up as a ten year old. Seriously, I love what my kickboxing coach always said, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. I’ve learned that there’s a difference between pain and discomfort, and that you gotta ride through initial discomfort (for example, when doing something new, like running or writing a book) because that’s when real growth and groovy things start to happen.
Julia: I was working for Avon Running in Italy in 1999 and we were hosting the “World Championship” that year. Kathrine Switzer was the program director for Avon International and had come over to make sure everything went smoothly. I was really stressed out about how things were shaping up and I think I was freaking out a bit on race morning. I remember asking her something at breakfast and she looked me straight in my eyes and just said “Buck up, Julia”. It was very effective! Ever since then whenever I find myself whining on about something I just say that phrase to myself.
Shauna, what are you most drawn to in Julia?
Shauna: I love Julia’s attitude to life. She’s daring, open to new experiences and doesn’t worry about what others think. She is also a woman of her word – if she says she is going to do something, she just does it – no fuss, no excuses and no faffing around. As a result she has a had a rich and interesting life. She has a mysterious voodoo power to inspire the people around her to dig deep and make more of their own lives. I know I’ve been more bold and brave since we started working together, purely by osmosis.
Julia, what are you most drawn to in Shauna?
Julia: I think Shauna is just one of those people that has a natural charisma that draws you in. Being with her makes you just want to be with her even more. She’s brave and isn’t afraid to experiment. I also want her hair, love that colour!
Photograph: Shauna (left), Julia (right)