Words By Lisa Pratt – Images by James Mackeddie
We were greeted by the very welcoming Matt Ward and Anna Frost and taken through to one of the rooms that became our base for that day (with stunning scenery!). Once we had all arrived, Anna gave a very humble introduction about herself. Followed by a very touching film called Paradise Lost. The film shares an insight into where she grew up in Papa New Guinea and her journey to becoming one of the world’s strongest trail runners.
On a similar theme to her short film Home, Paradise Lost provides more depth to the challenges experienced at the height of a sport, what it can take away personally and ultimately on reflection, what you are left with when a full race calendar is left empty. It is a pleasure to watch, the film is very heart warming and honest, sharing her roar emotional struggle, strength and courage.
It has been extremely touching to find out that although Anna has experienced very low points, she has found the strength to break free from all of the negativity and returned stronger than ever before.
In 2015 Anna came back to win the Hardrock 100 mile race in 28 hours, 22 minutes and 50 seconds. The Hardrock 100 course, based out of Silverton Colorado is unique. With no prize money at stake, real isolation in the high mountains and only 140 runners, it’s something of a rarity in which you find the ultra elite taking part in.
Anna went to explain that she reignited her passion for running by not worrying about making mistakes, as it does not make you a bad person. It is all about learning about who you are, not being afraid about how others perceive you. If it’s beautiful and special then why wouldn’t you try it.
Once we had a summary into Anna’s life we had a Q&A session to find out more about Anna, there were questions about how do you keep the motivation, how do you find the time to train and where this inner strength comes from?
Anna shared with us is that she is also an ambassador for the Sisu Girls and has a book released called ‘Fearless Forsty’ to help empower young women around the world.
From her life experiences it is clear to see that she runs hard and enjoys the focus of a challenge when her lungs and legs are burning, truly inspiring. She has connections with friends from places all over the world – Who said home had to be a house in one place after all!
Then we went onto a Yoga session to relax and focus before our run around the Coed y Brenin forest. The exercises are put together for all abilities, it wa great to learn some routines to practice in our busy every day lives.
We then all had a group shot taken together, it really felt like we were all a group of friends, even though I had never met any of them before.
The trails around Coed Y Brenin really are a treat, with stone paths, running through woodland, by rivers and uphill through the green mossy ground. This section of the day is really useful as Anna and Matt taught us some really useful running techniques:
Dabbing – This is a great move to use when running uphill, quick short steps with your feet and use your arms to drive you up the hill.
Grow Tall – Hold your body in an upright position and lengthen your body to increase your lung capacity.
Belly buttons in – Hold your belly button by tensing your stomach and making sure you hold your back straight, push your shoulders back to hold your pace.
Open up – Open up your chest by pushing this out which will expand your breathing space.
Long legs – Stretch your legs out further when running to maintain momentum on a flat surface.
Anna and Matt also provided us with the perfect playground to put descending techniques to the test. The trail was short, relatively steep, with a sweeping bend. Descending is a mental game, you have to trust yourself and allow your body to follow the trail, rather than fight it. Matt and Anna both gave us demonstrations, before we practiced.
Straight away, I put into practice some of the techniques and noticed a difference over the course of the weekend.
Feed your body with nutritious food and drink lots of water to remain happy and content whilst you are running. It is so simple, but I know I am guilty of not snacking on food or having large gaps between meals, or forgetting to keep hydrated.
Value yourself more – It is important to acknowledge that you deserve the time to run, exercise or stop for a moment and be thankful for what you have.
Listen to your body- If you need to rest because you are very tired or injured then rest without letting yourself feel guilty. We do not speak openly about it enough but we need to go easy on the exercise when we are on our period!
To finish off the day, which I never wanted to end, we had a core workout. This is when you realise how frequently you need to train to create the inner strength to hit the trails hard and support yourself. Anna took us through a number of moves with encouraging words to keep us focused and make the most of this day.
Honestly, I cannot speak highly enough of this experience, it is very well organised, Matt and the lovely ladies who helped with the nibbles were extremely hospitable and no one left without a smile. You have the opportunity to understand the journey of a professional elite runner, learn running techniques and exercises that will fit into your day and have fun exploring the breathtaking grounds at Coed Y Brenin.
A final picture with Anna
Important Fact – We are all equals – The beauty of trail running is that whether you are a professional runner or not it really doesn’t matter. We all share the same experience out on the trails together.
I left feeling content after a busy week at work and now feel ready to give myself more time to enjoy running and take the time to feed by body the right food. We make choices everyday so it is us that can take control to make sure we are the best we can be
Thank you to Anna, Matt for our bag of goodies and to everyone that made this such a special day.