How did you first get into running?
I grew up in California and then later on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. When I was 10 or 11, and I used to run cross country where we lived in California. There were hardly any hills, it was really flat farmland, so no forest – we just followed the tracks through the cotton fields near the school.
We moved to Australia when I was 11. Cross country was a mandatory part of school there. I didn’t like it much and usually tried to get out of doing it, preferring surfing and football at that time.
I moved to the UK when I was 20. I took up archery and got pretty good at it, ranking as high as #5 in the UK. I competed for about 10 years but the sport became very political at the top end, which I didn’t like. Hours of training, combined with having young children, it made archery at that level too hard, so I decided to give it up and didn’t replace it with anything.
I was working as a medical editor at the time. By chance, I was working on a drug for the treatment of diabetes and obesity, and editing pieces about the early indicators of type 2 diabetes – a sedentary lifestyle, little or no aerobic exercise, gaining 2-3 lbs each year, feeling tired and listless in the afternoon. I thought, hang on, this is me!
A few of the guys in the office were going out running at lunchtime. I decided to go out with them and give it a go. My first ‘run’ was only 3 or 4 miles, but I nearly died! I persevered though and eventually I was running a bit further and a bit faster than the others, and started training largely on my own.
In 2015, we moved from Oxfordshire to Leintwardine. We needed a bigger house and wanted to be in the countryside. We knew Ludlow and the place we’re living in now came up for sale. We love it here! People aren’t out to impress each other the way they seemed to want to do in Oxfordshire, and the countryside around here is just so beautiful and peaceful.
It took me a while to get into running off-road. At first I just didn’t get it: why run off the road when all the roads are nice and quiet like this? Now I think “Why would you want to run on a road?”
I still work for a company based in Oxfordshire but full-time at home. This means I can go out at lunchtime and run 5 or 6 miles if I want to, or be finished for the day and head straight out the door – no commute!
I joined Ludlow Runners shortly after moving here, and was doing Ludlow ParkRun almost from its inception. That spurred me on to enter the Hereford Half Marathon in 2016. It was the longest run I had ever done, but it went ok. After that I started entering more races and doing the XC leagues.
Then someone told me about Teme Leisure Tri club. I was already doing a bit of cycling and knew how to swim from my years of surfing/swimming in Australia, so I thought I may as well give it a go. That’s where I met Gareth Leek and Jack Wilson, and through them, Mark Lamonby. They persuaded me to join Croft. I went along and it was a really nice group of people. I haven’t looked back!
What’s a typical running week for you?
I usually do one or two runs of about four or four miles each week and try to do Ludlow Parkrun whenever I can. I think I’ve done about 130 Ludlow Parkruns now. Most of my intense cardio work is on the bike, and I try to get in 100-120 miles a week. I also use Zwift quite a bit for virtual racing and workouts.
What’s in the diary?
Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon – I ran it this morning and set a new PB by a couple of minutes!
London Marathon – 2nd October
Ron Skilton Memorial Half Marathon – 23rd October
Probably a half-ironman race sometime next year, but nothing confirmed yet.
London will be my first marathon. I’ve entered the ballot for the last three years and never managed to get a place. One of my wife’s former colleagues asked if I might be able take the place for a runner who had to withdraw due to injury, a charity place for the Restricted Growth Association (RGA). So I got the place six weeks before the event! I’ve had to get into the training a bit quickly.
A family friend has a daughter with restricted growth and so this charity has been a huge help to her and her family for many years. My company is going to match everything I raise up to £500 – so as long as I can raise £500, the RGA will get £1000.
All donations will be much appreciated. It’s a cause that’s very close to our hearts. You can donate here. https://tcslondonmarathon.enthuse.com/pf/grant-womack
What’s Your Most Memorable Run?
The ROC Triathlon in Abersoch and Snowdon was amazing! Gareth and I did it together. It has to be the best event I’ve ever done! The views were amazing and weather was fantastic. I think I was 3rd in my age group, which is about the closest to a podium I’ve had since I was doing archery!
I also really enjoyed The Offa’s Dyke 15. It was the longest run I’d done at the time. It was a really friendly and supportive atmosphere the whole way around. It was one of those races that you could just do for the fun of it. You didn’t need to be chasing a time or feel you had to be faster than someone. I did it in a bit over 2 hours I think.
Any injuries you’ve struggled with?
In the past, I suffered from shin splints quite badly. I think it started with me running on the road and building up the mileage too quickly. These days, I try to mix it with swimming and cycling. I also try to stay off the roads. The balance has kept the injuries at bay.
What do you most love about running?
I love just getting out in the countryside, seeing nature, seeing the changing seasons. Since moving here, I don’t think I’ve ever run with music – I don’t need a distraction. Although I enjoy running with other people, I’m just as happy with my own thoughts when I’m running on my own.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a medical editor, which is largely working on medical congress presentations and medical journal articles. At the moment I’m working on rare diseases (e.g. Hunter syndrome, Gaucher disease, and Fabry disease). In the past I’ve worked on treatments for MS, diabetes, neuroendocrine tumours and obesity. I’m fortunate enough to be able to work at home full-time, since the 2.5-hour commute to Oxford would be a little difficult to manage!
Who do you live with?
With my wife Lizzy and daughters Evie (14) and Ellie (11).
Have you any pets?
Five chickens – Lilly, Ebony, Hetty, Coco and Boo.
Can you recommend a good book?
‘Born To Run’ by Christopher McDougall was one of my favourites. Also, a book I was given at Christmas, ‘A Beer in The Loire’ by Tommy Barnes is hilarious. It’s his story of moving to France and deciding to set up a brewery. He’s a bit of a knob but he knows it and makes the most of it. And one of my all-time favourites is ‘A Booke of Days’ by Stephen Rivele. It’s a bit heavy but a great story!