Becca Burns shares her love for running, cycling, swimming and triathlon. Now residing in London, Becca has battled obesity and a lack of self-confidence and lack of happiness. However, finding the ‘fitness bug’ has transformed her body and mindset and she now spends her time combining her love of fitness and the great outdoors. She’s a multiple marathoner, a triathlete, a member of the ASICS FrontRunner UK team, and also has one ultramarathon in her trophy cabinet. With a PhD in Environmental Science, Becca also regularly writes about the linkages between sustainability, running and sport.
In this Q&A, Becca shares her fitness journey, discussing her love of the great outdoors, her best fitness experiences, how she trains for multi-discipline events, sustainability in sport, and more. Read on below.
Thanks for joining us Becca, please introduce yourself.
I’m Becca and I’m a runner and relatively new triathlete, originally from the North West but now based in London. I first started running to lose weight and then returned a few years later in 2016 to help manage the stresses of finishing my PhD amongst other things. I started with parkrun and soon was hooked! I joined the ASICS FrontRunner UK team in 2017 and being surrounded by such an encouraging and passionate group helped build my confidence and spur me on to complete new challenges. In a year I went from never having run further than 10k to running my first marathon- the London Marathon in 2018. After that, I went onto do Ride London 100mile cycle and Swim Serpentine 2 mile swim, accomplishing the London Classics in 6 months. After that, I began combining my love of running, cycling and swimming and made the switch into triathlon. My big goal for this year was to complete my first half ironman, and I hope I’ll eventually tackle this distance.
When making the move into multisports I found there were many barriers to entry, some of which were linked to confidence, knowledge, kit and equipment. It was such a steep learning curve and one where I had to just go for it and not be afraid to fail. I think that the fear of the unknown is often a huge barrier to participation and enjoyment of running, cycling or swimming and I want to help and encourage others by taking some of the mystery away. Beyond this, I’m passionate about the Environment (I work in environmental research support) and like to combine my love of the outdoors and sport.
When and how did you find the ‘fitness bug’?
I was a really sedentary child and teenager, I didn’t have a healthy lifestyle and I lacked confidence. I was first empowered to get moving by my GP after a discussion about my weight (at the time my BMI fell within the obese category). I started running at University as I couldn’t afford a gym membership and lost a third of my body weight in the process. Once I graduated I left running behind and found enjoyment in things like CrossFit and Zumba- I actually became a Zumba Instructor during my PhD, I loved it that much. In 2016 I returned to running as a way to alleviate grief and stress and I’ve never looked back. Running (and now cycling and swimming) teaches me what I’m capable of, it builds resilience and allows me to move my body in a way that makes me feel empowered.
What is it about fitness and the great outdoors you love so much?
I love the mental and physical benefits, I find time outside helps me relax and running helps me zone out and focus on myself and my session and just momentarily forget any other distractions. Through fitness I’ve learned to appreciate my body for what it can achieve, not what it looks like- I’ve had such a rocky relationship with my body and finding this kind of inner peace and acceptance is what inspires me to get moving.
You’ve completed marathons, triathlons, duathlons and more, what have been your best experiences?
Beating my sub4 hour goal at Manchester Marathon has been a real highlight for me, especially since I never imagined I would ever be capable of running a marathon- let alone 5! I endured so many grim sessions during my training plan, from running repeatedly in the pouring rain on dark nights, to getting lost on my 20mile run, bursting into tears and just feeling completely overwhelmed. Hitting my goal was a testament to my ability to focus and push through whatever temporary situation I found myself in- it certainly taught me resilience and perseverance. Another of my favourite memories is from a trip I was invited on to the South of France in 2019. One night we stayed up in the Pyrenees in a small mountain refuge, the next morning I woke up to watch the sunrise over the distant mountain tops. It was once of the most incredible experiences of my life.
You’ve also scaled up to an ultramarathon. How did your training change to be ready for the distance?
I came to my ultramarathon off the back of two marathons (7 weeks apart) and a week running in the Pyrenees. I felt ready in terms of the distance but what I added to my training was getting used to running longer distances on consecutive days, getting out on the trails more (I’m mainly a roadrunner due to living in London) and hills, hills, hills. Also, your mindset has to change when thinking about an ultra. You need to leave your ego behind, forget whatever your road PBs are, and adapt to a steadier ‘slower’ pace with walk intervals (usually for the hills).
How do you prepare on race day?
I get up early and always have porridge and a slice of toast with Nutella for breakfast. Rather than focus on nerves, I focus on how I will feel the end of that day, what I want to achieve and how much I have prepared.
What motivates you to keep going when it gets tough?
I’m a huge believer in the idea that you haven’t come this far to only come this far. I always think that later on that day I’ll be sat on my sofa with my feet up and however tough this moment feels it will just be a distant memory. I want to end the day knowing I gave it my all at that moment.
Training for multi-discipline events is particularly difficult. What are your top tips?
1)Find a routine that works for you – I find that its the time of fitting everything in that poses a big challenge for me, mix things up and try different routines and see what works. 2) don’t shy away from the sport you’re the least good at/enjoy the least as this will show on race day 3) don’t skip your rest days, it can be overwhelming trying to fit everything in but rest days are the one thing that shouldn’t be compromised 4) remember you are more than capable- new things feel daunting at first but don’t let the fear of the unknown deter you.
For anyone new to fitness events reading this, what is the best thing about them?
This might not be the top thing everyone goes for, but I like having someone plan my route for me and supply snacks along the way, especially when its a trail event as I get lost very easily!
Tell us about the ASICS FrontRunner UK team.
The ASICS FrontRunner team is a global team of running enthusiasts who want to share their passion with the world and encourage others to get moving. It consists of over 700 people in 30 countries, and I’m part of the UK strand.
Sustainability is something that should be important to everyone. How can we, as a nation, become more eco-friendly when it comes to exercise and eventing?
This is something I’m really passionate about and an area close to my heart. I’ve written about this previously on my blog and I’m an advocate of the idea that small actions add up into larger results. Some of my top tips are: respect the environment you’re running in – stick to the paths so that you don’t trample wildlife, don’t drop litter (take your gel packs home as many of these can be washed then recycled), travel mindfully to events, carry a reusable water bottle to reduce your plastic use, opt-out of race t-shirts, think about how you use and consume running kit (prolong its life where you can through care and repair and look at how you can responsibly recycle/rehome used kit – I do kit swaps with friends).
Lastly, you are an advocate for leading a happy and healthy lifestyle, but what does a ‘healthy lifestyle’ mean to you?
A healthy lifestyle is one which helps you find and feel ‘balance.’ For me, its spending time outdoors, enjoying what I do and moving my body in a positive way which embraces my physical and mental health.