Inspiring striding - Lee Heley

Posted by Peter Goldring on

Inspiring striding - Lee Heley

We have so much love for our happystride community ❤️ You guys are so inspiring and we want to get to know you a little better...and we know others would like to as well.

SO we bring you to....the next post in our blog series ..."Inspiring striding"!!! We have the AMAZING Lee Heley join us!🖊 

We are sooo pleased to have Lee as our guest! Lee only got into running 4 and half years ago and recently organised a backyard ultra! So if you want to know more about that and what his top tips are and greatest running achievement please read on.

Thanks so much Lee for joining in with our blog ❤️

How long have you been running for and how did you originally get into it?

I’m 50 and I’ve been running for four and a half years.

I made a New Year’s resolution in 2019 to start running. On 12 January I turned up at the brutal Hadleigh Parkrun, and was hooked on the run and then on all the Parkrun data. I was determined to get fit enough to overtake the mum pushing her baby in a buggy up the mile long hill at the end. I plotted my times on a spreadsheet, dropping from 33:34 in January to 26:17 by May.

In October 2019 I joined my local club Leigh-on-Sea Striders. I began with Monday’s social run, then the Wednesday speed session. The club opened up a whole new world. I heard about people who had run 100 miles, like this guy Pete Goldring who wore colourful running kit. I was convinced it was just rumour, that you couldn’t run that far.

In March 2020 the Government banned everything except daily running. I had just completed my first race and longest ever distance, the Dartford half marathon. Lockdown rules were hard, but they made me focus on my training, and the club became a social lifeline. 

Antony Leckerman - another new Strider - recommended I join him in the virtual London marathon. I downloaded a three and a half hour training plan from Runners World to give me grace for a sub-four hour time. Antony and I spent a hot lockdown summer 2020 training together up and down the seafront.  We completed the virtual in October on a loop through Southend, trying to hide from the tail end of storm Alex.  It took me 3:53:29 

I booked on 30 miles of the Winter Greenman Ultra around Bristol for March 2021 and bought the book Relentless Forward Progress. I trained over Hadleigh Downs for five months following the book’s 50 mile-a-week training plan. The Greenman Ultra got lockdown-cancelled, obviously. So I had to run my own 30 miles on race day over the Downs.

From then on, I’ve been into running.

Where is your favourite place to run?

The Pennines. Running there reminds me of the time I spent as a child following the backs of my family’s legs walking up the Quantocks, the Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire moors, Lake District, Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, Peak District, etc…

Leigh-on-Sea is in Essex, and generally flat, but I love a hidden track on the Hadleigh Downs that rises through a narrow V between Hadleigh Castle hill and farmland that is a perfect doppelgänger for the Pennines. 

Tell us a bit about your running experience? PBs, etc?

My main running talent is slogging through. I have run eight ultras up to 112 miles, in the Peak District, Bristol, into London from my house, and most recently I came 4th in the inaugural Essex Way Ultra in June - which I highly recommend.  Eighty two miles through beautiful farmland, with very friendly organisers.

I’ve run five marathons, including virtuals. I managed 3:19 at London last year. My 5km PB is 19:04. 

I am working to beat my 400m time when I ran for the school in about 61 seconds. I recently got under 65 seconds at Watford Open. 

I have achieved these times with Paul Whittaker’s coaching. Paul is about injury-free PBs, and specific training.

What are your top tips?

  1. Love running. It will bring you joy and happiness, and perhaps, like all love, a bit of pain too.
  1. Don’t hope or fear - plan. For every achievable running goal there is a plan, if you are prepared to execute it. Coaches are great to get the right plan.
  1. Make one decision to execute the whole plan. Then you do not need to decide each morning whether you’ll manage to follow the plan, you’ve already decided that you will.
  1. Break the race down. For example I ran the 82 mile Essex Way ultra in five blocks: 30 miles for fun, 20 miles as ‘the bridge’ to slog over, then it’s 10 miles / 10 miles / 12 miles, ticking them off to the finish. At the same time I ran the whole race in 20 x one-hour sections covering 4.2 miles each, through those five blocks - like a backyard ultra. The plan meant I felt in control.
  1. Weight lifting and form are more important than toenails for a runner. For a given level of fitness you get faster the stronger you are and the better form you have. Toenails come and go with the ultras.
  1. Love the non-runners in your life. They love you too, they care for you, depend on you, and they will still be there for you later, when you can’t run anymore.

Whats your greatest running achievement? 

Getting up tomorrow and doing what it says on my training plan. 

And the Spine Summer challenger. 112 miles from Edale to Hawes last summer. 16,000 feet, 34.5 hours. 22nd overall.

What does your running schedule typically look like and how do you fit it into your life?

My coach plans my week. Currently for 400m

Monday: 20 mins mobility and core exercises

Tuesday: 5.40 am at the 5AMRC running club, 7 easy(ish) miles from the end of my road with friends, plus short all out hill sprints.

Weds: an hour’s weight lifting at 19:00 online with Laura, my PT. 

Thursday: 19:15  Paul Whittaker’s threshold session - usually 5 miles fast with recoveries to make it 7 miles overall. 

Friday: Day off

Saturday:  Morning warm up and then track sprints, reps of 200m, 100m, 50ms with warm up and cool down.  

Sunday:  morning 10 mile easy run along the seafront and an hour’s free-weight lifting in the gym with my wife Sam. 

Whats your dream race?

The full Summer Spine.

In the summer of 1984, aged 11, I walked the 268 mile Pennine Way with my dad. 

When I got into running I imagined I could run / hike the Pennine Way at 50 miles  a day in about 5-6 days. 

I googled it and it turned out the Spine Race already existed. I started with the Spine Sprint (48 miles), then the Challenger (112 miles). The full 268 mile route is still calling me.

But Fate got me into the London marathon on the ballot, so in 2024 I will be focusing on that, with a 400m side salad.

Whats your favourite running trainer and why?

It depends on the terrain: 

Road Training, most of my miles: Brooks Ghost. Comfy with a wide toe box.

Road racing - Vapor Flys, obviously, because they make you run faster.

Trail over rocks, as in the Spine Race - Akasha La Sportiva. They have the hardest foot-protecting plate in the sole.

Through mud, as in the Winter Greenman - Saucony peregrines. They have clever triangular tread that both grips and sheds mud.

Dry easy trails, as in the Essex Way in summer, Hoka One as they have a lot of comfy padding. Beware the rain turning the trail to mud, though. 

How do you like to celebrate after a race? 

I talk to friends and family about the race. I obsess on Strava about the race. I talk to running buddies about the race. I also put race photos on Instagram. So mainly, yeah… banging on about the race.

Who are your running inspirations and why?

The runners in Leigh on Sea Striders inspire me. There too many to list them all. People like Antony Leckerman, who persuaded me to run my first half and marathon, and introduced me to Happystrides shorts. Darren Lock, for his commitment to running at 5AM and getting the rest of us out too. The insane ultra runners - like Darren Summers completing the Summer Spine on a huge blister and Mati Matibini completing Lakeland 100m on a sprained ankle.  Dean Oval our club coach, who got us through lockdown with the club’s mad running challenges. And Jim Dodsworth, who mixes good humour with precision-chiselled splits. Jim has just started to offer coaching at 651 Running, and he will be brilliant at it. 

Whats your favourite happystride pattern and why?

I always get so much love for my Happystrides. Currently Wiggle and Wave are my favourite. I changed into them at 50 miles on the Essex Way (from Sprinkles of Joy) and the wild patterns gave me a lift and got the usual love from the volunteers at the aid stations.

If you could design the next pair of happystride shorts, what pattern would you choose and why?

I’m going with “Loop the Loop”, a spiral pattern like a stretched slinky spring, changing colour from dark blue to light blue, dark green to light green. The pattern represents the loops of a Backyard Ultra moving from day to night, through the blue sky and green trees. 

Finally, this year you organised a Backyard ultra, tell us a bit about it and any plans to organise another one?

I did! It was great fun-run with friends - rather than a formal race.

The Backyard format is a loop run on the hour every hour until there is only one runner left standing able to run. The loop is 4.167 mile long, so that 50 miles is completed in 12 hours, 100 miles in 24 hours.

Nine friends started the first loop from my house on a warm morning this June - everyone of us in Happystrides, I think. We went round Belfairs Woods. The race kept going for 13 hours and 54.167 miles. Jim Dodsworth kept impeccable timing. I revived myself from a bad time on Tailwind early on with some solid Gouda sandwiches and managed to knock out the final lap in 30:08. It was a great day, even though it is possible that the definition of running narcissism is winning your own Ultra.

We are going to organise the race again - from my house - on 25 May 2024. We’ll have a bit more fun in the garden next year too, with a ping ping tournament and DJ for those waiting for the runners. 

Everyone who helped to organise the event and turned up to run on the day inspires me. Not least Sam my wife and Jacob and Chloe, who helped with the event, and live with my running obsession everyday.

Wow, thank you so much Lee for joining us and answering our questions! Stay tuned for our next 'inspiring striding' blog in our series where we will have another inspiring guest!

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