Ellie Greenwood is a tactician of trail and ultrarunning, and she put on nothing less than a master class in her win of the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships. In the following interview, Ellie talks about how she felt throughout the race, how she handled the second half of the race while she was in the lead, and what she’s going to do next.
For the whole story on the 100k world championships, be sure to check out our results article.
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Ellie Greenwood 2014 IAU 100k World Champion Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Ellie Greenwood after her win at the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships. Congratulations, Ellie!
Ellie Greenwood: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: I know this is your second win, but you’ve got to be pretty psyched about your performance out there today.
Greenwood: No, totally. I’m not knocking and I can’t remember the competition when I won in 2010, but definitely the competition today was really good. Of course, I thought I would hopefully be in contention to win, but I didn’t know. I knew there were plenty of other women who could potentially run faster than me. Yeah, I’m very happy.
iRunFar: You pretty much just ran off the front.
Greenwood: For the first little while, a Norwegian woman ran out ahead. Amy Sproston and I were together for a little while and there were two Croatian women right in back of us for the first few loops. I did do the first few kilometers a bit too fast, but then I was like, Okay, knock it back. Then actually one of our G.B. crew was like, “Don’t you go any faster.” I thought, Yeah, maybe… it’s hard because you think, Oh well, if I knock back the pace I might lose positions. But then it’s, Yeah, maybe that’s sensible. So, I have no idea… sorry it’s the middle of the night… [iRunFar: It’s 3:40 a.m.] I have no idea when I took the lead or who I even went past to take the lead.
iRunFar: It could have been one of a couple people. Amy Sproston was…
Greenwood: It would have been the Norwegian woman.
iRunFar: It wasn’t the Norwegian woman.
Greenwood: I don’t know. I then took the lead, but I felt fairly comfortable. At that point, there was a Japanese woman in second. Jo Zakrzewski and Jo Meek from G.B. were quite close behind.
iRunFar: There were five to seven women within two minutes for a very long time.
Greenwood: Yeah, and I think the good thing was that I was quite relaxed about having them quite close behind me. I wasn’t like, Oh, my goodness. I was just thinking about what I was doing. Sort of half way through the loop there’s a road portion where you went slightly on an uphill and the literally did a 180 and came slightly back downhill so you could very much see where people were. That didn’t really bother me too much, so that was good. Even though I was in the lead but had people close behind me, I just sort of carried on doing what I was doing.
iRunFar: This is your third time at world 100k’s, is that typical to have… because that same thing happened for the men, there were just a bunch of people pretty close together, even if one guy was off the front, that just stuck together for a long time and then people just blow up a little bit?
Greenwood: Yeah. I think it’s the temptation because obviously it’s quite hard to go slow or to go 100k pace on road. It’s pancake flat. Oh, I feel super, right? There’s no hills to go, Well, I’ll hike that little hill and that will sort of dial me back. Yeah, when I ran in 2010, I only took the lead then… I was in third until about 7k to go. There were a few of us there that were quite close together. Winschoten in 2011 I can’t really remember, and that was the one I dropped out of. Again, yes, there were people around and I think there is usually good competition. It’s not like there’s usually one favorite and that person is pretty much bound to win.
iRunFar: It’s sort of a different… in terms of your road history, it wasn’t you winning at the line. You got the lead and you ran with it. Did you know how close the Japanese woman… because she was on your heels until that last lap?
Greenwood: Yeah, I’m not sure which lap it was, but obviously we had G.B. crew and it may be around, with it being a 20-lap course, maybe around five laps to go, and at that point, again, towards the end of the lap you could see people, and the crew were like, “Oh, she’s a minute behind you, and she’s looking very relaxed and very good.” At that point I was like, I don’t think I should run any faster, so if she comes past me, she comes past me. Then with each incremental loop, I was getting feedback that I was drawing away a little bit. I didn’t really do that on purpose until the last lap. I was like, Okay, let’s get this done, and let’s not have a sprint finish. Like I said, she was looking good. If she could push it a little bit and I’m just running in the last loop, it could end up closer than it needs to be. So, yeah, I pushed it a little bit.
iRunFar: Through all that time, you’re really thinking about your own race. There’s a team competition here, but you were running your own…?
Greenwood: Yes, I was running my own race, but the really nice thing about the race was there were quite a few sections where you saw people going back and forth. We’d discussed this before with the G.B. team. I said, “Look, can we really try and cheer people on, our teammates?” I was cheering on the Swedish people and the U.S. and the Canadians as well. But, yeah, it was good to see Jo and Jo were doing well. There was like, “Okay, if we keep it together we’re going to get a really good team result,” which in the end I’m sure with first, third, and fourth…
iRunFar: You probably are guaranteed…
Greenwood: I think we’ve won.
iRunFar: You’ve got two golds.
Greenwood: Yeah, which I got in 2010 as well—I got the individual gold and G.B. got the team gold as well. No, we weren’t working together because none of us train together. We’d expected it to be hotter and someone might do better in the heat than someone else. No, it was “run your own race” but try and if someone looks like their struggling, give them a little bit of motivation.
iRunFar: So in all the weeks leading up, everybody was talking about the heat and humidity. Did you come in with a plan to deal with that?
Greenwood: I’ve done quite a bit of sitting in the sauna. I hadn’t really gone out for a run wearing enough clothes to heat adapt. I did tend to wear more than necessary. I did two treadmill runs where I wore two toques (if you’re Canadian, right?)…
iRunFar: You’re wearing a British uniform.
Greenwood: Okay, it was two beanies. I did a couple of those, but mostly I went in the sauna.
iRunFar: Did you have an expectation to change your pacing?
Greenwood: Yes. I said I was going to go out at about a 7:45 finishing time. I went out way faster. I went faster even than 7:30 pace. I soon dialed it back but soon realized that I really don’t think heat is going to be an issue at all. Then I went for… I think I’m in about 7:30 fitness, so I’m going to now run at 7:30 pace because I don’t think heat is going to be an issue, and it wasn’t.
iRunFar: So if you’re thinking you’re in 7:30 shape and you’re on 7:30 pace, what’s the U.K. record?
Greenwood: I think it’s 7:27, yes, 7:27.
iRunFar: So is that crossing your mind at all during the race?
Greenwood: No, no, not at all. When I came around for the last loop, it was like, Oh, I’m going to have to do a 21 minute 5k which wasn’t really going to happen. I kind of knew the record was 7:27, but I didn’t really think about that. I did know Jo Zakrzewski had the Scottish record which I kind of got at Gibraltar except the Gibraltar course was short.
iRunFar: By 90-some meters.
Greenwood: By 93 meters, I think. So, that was frustrating. So, I’ve at least got the Scottish national record.
iRunFar: So you set a national record today. Congratulations.
Greenwood: I did, yes. Thank you.
iRunFar: You had some niggles kind of leading up to the race maybe?
Greenwood: Yes, I did, which I told very few people about.
iRunFar: I feel like I can say that after the race.
Greenwood: You can say that after the race, yes. The last race I did was The Rut which was early September. It was totally fine. I’d done the summer on trails. Then it was kind of like… I thought I’d take a bit of recovery time and then I’ll start transitioning to roads but doing it slowly and being sensible and obviously flatter trails when I was running trails. Then the little fibula from last spring or spring 2013 started to say ‘hello.’ I used to say, “It keeps saying, ’hello,’ and I don’t really want to say, ‘hello,’ to it.” Obviously, yeah, that was like, Oh, my goodness. That was not the thing I really wanted. I’ve got a super sports-med doctor and a physio. I thought, Oh, this is ridiculous that I’m considering running 100k on tarmac,” but my physio said, “No, I don’t think this is a silly idea at all. I think you’ll be fine.” Yeah, the bone was a little aggravated, so I did a lot of running to start with in September time on runnable gravel trails because I wasn’t allowed to run on the tarmac. Then I was allowed to build the tarmac in. Yeah, just following the physio’s advice and easing it in, and by the time I came here I wasn’t worried about at all. I was prepared—this is my last race of the season—I was prepared to aggravate it a little, but I knew that I wasn’t going to cause a stress fracture because it has been totally fine for the last while. I did not feel anything in the race, so that’s very good.
iRunFar: You’re shutting down your season?
Greenwood: I’m shutting down my season.
iRunFar: As per plan?
Greenwood: As per plan. I think it’s a good idea to do that every year. The first ultra of this year was Chuckanut in March, and I’ve not done tons of races this year, but I have done quite a lot. I’ve certainly been running throughout the year and training for each of them. So, yeah, I’m going to shut it down and maybe do some easy jogs and that kind of stuff, but yes, let the fibula if it’s still an issue totally rest and the other little things as well.
iRunFar: Is this your best season ever?
Greenwood: It different. 2012, I obviously had an amazing season winning American River, winning Chuckanut, course record at Western States, winning UROC—there was a lot in that year. I think I have done less races this year, but then I won Comrades and I won world 100k, so it’s been a different but very successful year.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your successful race and a successful year, Ellie.
Greenwood: Thank you so much.