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Co-founder of ‘Move Against Cancer’ initiative Lucy Gossage set to tackle Winter Spine Race

Jonathan Turner
News Director
Published on
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Our sister site TRI247 has been catching up with Spine Race debutant Lucy Gossage, a former multiple Ironman winner and someone who has already taken on some of the toughest triathlon endurance challenges out there – all combined with her work as an oncologist in Nottingham.

She also set up the running group ‘5k Your Way’ in 2018 to help cancer patients and their friends and has been recognised both locally and nationally, including a surprise presentation by Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill on the BBC’s One Show.

Clear perspective

And at the Spine Race she’ll be raising money for ‘Move Against Cancer’, something which is very much at the forefront of her mind as she prepares for the incredible challenges ahead over the next week.

She told us: “I feel it’s a cliche when I say it but my mantra is always choosing to suffer is a privilege and I do a lot of work with people with cancer obviously and so many people, whether it’s because they’re affected by cancer – or war or whatever -they’re suffering but they don’t have that choice.

“At an endurance event we’re choosing to put ourselves in that hole and I do find that really helpful and also remembering that it always ends. The tough patches do always end and then you generally get a high afterwards so yeah, I think psychology is so important and you can definitely work on that.

“I guess for me the thing that scares me the most is perhaps I don’t always know my limit so I know I can push myself into holes and I guess with little sleep, how deep of a hole do I actually dig!”

One step at a time

She’s obviously best known for her triathlon exploits – an Ironman finishes with a marathon and she’s won two of the most extreme versions in Patagonman and Norseman – which should stand her in good stead.

But from a running perspective how has she prepared for the Spine – and how has she found the training?

She explained: “We’ve done Coast to Coast, we’ve done the Dragon’s Back route. We’ve done the Pennine Way in two stages. And yeah, all that kind of stuff. I just love it. You’re just out all day and I think gradually I’ve just got better at accumulating – from a marathon to 30 miles, then to 40 miles to fairly comfortably grinding 50 miles if I had to.

“Not quick – I think the slower I’ve got at running the better I’ve got at those point to point events. But I’ve had two really bad ankle sprains and then last year we tried to do the Dragon’s Back route, which is Conway to Cardiff. So not as a race but self-supported over the same number of days and I tore my quad really badly coming down Snowdon. So then we did do the distance but we had to cut out some mountains. I couldn’t run anything other than up a hill which isn’t much use, until the last day. So that was kind of tough just because it was so sore. And I had really bad sciatica for about eight weeks in the summer.”

Highs and lows

When we ask if there have been other challenges, the initial response is a quick one-word answer: “Hypothermia. We got really badly hypothermic, fairly recently. And that was kind of a wake-up call.

But generally I love it. I love being out in the night – whether I’ll love 16 hours of it I don’t know!

“There have been highs and lows but we’ve done it in terms of the training. Andrew, my partner, and I have done all of it together too so that’s been cool as well.”

Lucy Gossage and partner Andrew training for the Winter Spine Race
Lucy and partner Andrew training for the Winter Spine Race [Photo credit: Lucy Gossage]

Lucy is also more aware than most about the mental side of the challenge as opposed to just the physical nature of it, adding: “When I was an athlete, I did a lot of work with a sports psychologist and we created this ‘IRON-MIND’. I mean she created it and I just shared my kind of stories but it’s a six weeks sports psychology course to get you ready for an Ironman and I’ve actually been doing that because it’s really good to revisit some of the techniques.

“I think for me the biggest thing is really why you’re doing it and if you’re ‘why’ is strong enough then that’s a really powerful thing.

“I think knowing my why – and I’m fundraising for the charity that I’ve helped to lead and grow and kind of founded, I think that’s also really important. So I genuinely feel like if I can get to the start line without getting injured and without getting ill, that’s success. The whole year building up to this has just been so much fun. I’ve learned so much that the race – if you want to call it a race – is just a bonus at the end.”

Poles apart!

Another key component for the next week is the kit needed for the Spine so has anything surprised her in that sphere?

“Poles! I never used poles and then we got them and I cannot believe I love them so much. I was blown away – they are cheat sticks! I use them so heavily. I actually think sometimes I almost use my arms more than my legs when I’m tired.

“They’re a complete game changer for me and I have no shame in that. I love my poles. If one breaks I would be in a hole actually.”

Lucy Gossage training for the Winter Spine Race
[Photo credit: Lucy Gossage]

And that leads us on to another aspect of the event which has also some as a surprise – the pace of even the quickest athletes in such a long race.

Lucy explains: “If you do the maths when Jasmin Paris got the record – if she’d run four miles an hour she would have had 16 hours rest to still get the record. So that’s just bonkers – even Jasmin Paris in the record that none of the guys can get, she was still moving a lot slower than four miles an hour.”

We wish Lucy all the best in her latest adventure and will be tracking her throughout here on RUN247 as we bring you regular daily updates when the race starts in Edale at 8am on Sunday. Her JustGiving page is here.

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  

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