Jo Meek was born in Somerset, UK and now calls nearby Devon home. She has run races all over the world from Iran to Nepal and scored multiple wins and many podium places. Jo will be on the Vietnam Trail Marathon start line for the inaugural event. Here she talks about her training, race strategy, nutrition, inspiration and more.
1. First up, can you list a few of your biggest results?
2nd Marathon de Sables, 2013
1st Geopark trail 70km, Iran 2018
1st Snowdon Marathon, Wales 2017
2nd Translantau 100km, Hong Kong, 2017
1st + course record, Langavegur 55km, Iceland, 2016,
1st Lakeland 50, UK, 2014
2nd CCC 101km, France, 2016
2. Which result are you most proud of and why?
It was the Marathon de Sables that accelerated my ultra running career because in 2013 I came second female. It was my first real ultra and I am still the highest British female finisher. Without that result and acknowledgment I may not have got where I got to today. I am proud of it because of all the hard work that went into training for it.
3. What is your sporting background and what got you started in long distance running?
I started running to lose weight as an overweight teenager. I had no sporting prowess and only moved towards running because at school you had to do some sort of physical education. I think if you stick at something for long enough you can get good at it. I moved from running a little bit on my own, to joining a club, to trying a marathon and then never looked back!
4. Did you always have success from the start, or did success come later?
Success definitely came later. I’m a slow at developing, but very stubborn!
5. What are the key ingredients for a great trail race in your opinion?
A beautiful trail does not become a race without some very dedicated and organised people who are willing to put the event on. Their enthusiasm and hard work is usually the key ingredient and I’m always very grateful to the race organisers. The race itself then comes to life with healthy competition and challenging terrain and conditions.
6. What is a typical week of training at the moment, one month out from Vietnam Trail Marathon?
We have just moved house and I have started a new job so everything including my running routes are new to me. I am busy exploring! I will do 1-2hrs a day varying the pace and terrain 5-6 days a week, plus a cycle ride and a gym session.
7. How will you taper for VTM?
About a week out I reduce the mileage I run, but usually it’s pretty enforced because of travel time and time differences.
8. Regarding nutrition, what is your typical meal the night before the race and what do you have for breakfast pre-race?
As long as I eat enough I’m not too particular. If I have a choice then I choose a rice dish the night before and porridge oats for breakfast with a cup of coffee.
9. How about nutrition during an ultra?
My nutrition depends on my length of race. 50miles/ 80km or less I can usually manage with gels and energy drink. Longer races I tend to try and eat real food. I ran the UTMB this year for the first time, and it was my first 100miler, and I learnt that I didn’t eat enough, so I’m still learning!
10. What pacing tactics do you use to ensure your effort is measured over the course of an ultra?
I tend to go off conservatively and so I don’t use too much energy racing people at the start. It takes me a while to find my rhythm and pace and have learnt not to force this too early on.
11. How will you prepare for a race when you do not know the course or the terrain?
I look at the profile for sure and learn where I can get water so I know how to fuel myself. I talk to people before the race but essentially I let it all unravel during the race. It’s a nice surprise – most of the time!
12. Do you have any advice for people who are considering an ultra for the first time?
Build up the training so you do not fear it. Perhaps do a marathon first. You must enjoy it because there are hard times (and easier times), but everyone goes through these so you’re not alone.
Eat and drink regularly and smile at the scenery! It’s amazing where your legs and a strong determination can take you!
13. Do you have a running hero/inspiration?
As I get older I am inspired by women older than me because I know what is possible. I do not have any one in particular I look up to but as I look around I am inspired by many individual stories. The more I travel the more people I met and they are all incredible in their own way.
14. Lastly, apart from the race, what are you excited for in Vietnam?
Everything! It has been a dream of mine to visit Vietnam for many years. My husband is coming with me so we will explore for a few days afterwards, eat local cuisine and meet new cultures. I am looking forward to meeting everyone racing too! Please come and say hello!