Recently, we had a chat with one of the people who inspires us, the lovely Ann Johansson. Former investment banker, founder of women’s sportswear brand BoomBoom Athletica and ultra marathon runner, we think she’s the closest thing there is to superwoman. Who better to ask for some tips and tricks on all things running, diet, and clothing?
Q: How did you first get into running? What was your motivation? What do you love most about the sport?
“When I was younger, there was a group of runners in my neighbourhood who would run every morning at 5am, so one day I thought, why not and asked one of them if they could wake me up in the morning and take me with them.”
Having always been a sporty person, Ann was a competitive swimmer when she was younger and used running as training when she wasn’t in the pool. She’d always been quite fond of running, but had lacked the motivation to go out on her own. Being accountable to the running group was what made her get out of bed every morning to run, and once she was out she was pleased to have taken the leap.
“Running is easy, you can do it anywhere, all you need is a pair of trainers and you’re off”.
Inspired by her new-found motivation, when a few members of her running group signed up to run a marathon, she decided to join in too.
Q: What made you decide to run your first ultra marathon?
“By the time I started thinking about doing an ultra marathon, I had run ten marathons in the space of six years. Our running coach was getting into ultra marathons himself so he asked me if I wanted to tag along on his training runs.”
Once she started training with her coach, she decided to see if she could take on the challenge of the race herself. Ann waited until a couple months before the event to actually sign up.
“I had to make sure I was fit enough and that way there was a lot less pressure”.
Q: What was the training like? Talk us through the actual race?
“Once you have the base of having done a marathon, instead of counting the miles in your training, you start to count the hours. When I was training for the ultra, we started going out for five, six, seven hour runs to get our legs used to running for that long.”
Q: What did you eat to keep your energy levels up?
“I’ve never been particularly good on the diet front and while my diet may have worked for me, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to others. I guess I just ate whatever I wanted to at the time! On the day of the race you’ll see some people practically eating a three course meal when they’re running an ultra. You get all sorts: cookies, sweets, shakes, energy gels and even people eating baked potatoes, but the only things that my stomach has been able to cope with while running is Coca Cola and Nuun tabs in water. It’s just different for everyone, I don’t think that there’s a right or wrong answer.”
Q: What’s the community of ultra marathon runners like? Do you train together?
“A group of us all signed up for the ultra, and we tried to do as many of our training runs together to keep each other motivated and make the hours pass quicker. We all had day jobs though, so sometimes life would take over and we’d go out for five or more hour runs on our own. This is doable when you have your goal in mind, but it’s obviously more fun when you’re running with friends. We also did a lot of spinning, which was a great way to get in the hours of cardio without putting too much strain on the body because it’s very low impact.”
Q: What made you decide to start your own brand of activewear?
“Because I was out on the road so much, I needed kit that was functional but also comfortable. I also wanted it to be stylish and flattering because I spent so much time wearing it! At the time, activewear that ticked all of those boxes was pretty much unheard of, to the extent that even the accessories were tasteless. I used to get laughed at because I ran in my Ray-Bans since I couldn’t find any running glasses that I actually liked! You want to bring your own personal style, even in your gym kit. Nobody wants to look like everyone else nowadays.”
Having spent ten years in banking both in London and Canada, Anne decided to take the plunge and BoomBoom Athletica was born.
Q: Finally, what advice do you have for budding runners who are aiming to run their first race? Be it 5k or an ultra marathon?
“The most important thing is to find someone to be accountable to; a running buddy. Knowing that when things get tough, you’re not just doing it for yourself and there’s someone else that’s counting on you! That’s what got me through most of my race training. Another important thing is not to stress about it, it’s just a race. Stress makes us more likely to over train and takes the fun out of the experience. It’s supposed to be enjoyable! So make sure that whatever race you’re training for, you’re having fun.”