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Be inspired every day with Living North
Record-Breaking Ultra Runner from Malton
Health and beauty
June 2024
Reading time 3 Minutes

Imo Boddy is an Ultra Runner and running coach from Malton with an appetite for the extreme

Living North spoke to her just before her most recent record-breaking challenge.

It would be fair to say that British long-distance runners are having a bit of a moment right now. In March, Jasmin Paris became the first woman to finish the Barkley Marathons 100-mile race and, in April, Russ Cook (also known as Hardest Geezer) became the first person to run the length of Africa. With all this enthusiasm in the air, and a run club charging around every corner, it should be more difficult than ever to stand out from the pack – but Imo Boddy has never been one to shy away from a challenge. 

On 15th May she will be setting off on a gruelling week-long (ideally less) feat of endurance as she attempts to set a world record for the fastest person to complete the three peaks on foot (ie. running between the mountains, and not just up them) beginning at sea level in Fort William and ending at sea level in Wales. The current record was set in 1979 by Olympian Ann Sayer, who completed the route in seven days and 31 minutes. 

Imo with her coach, Chris Taylor

‘It equates to about 16 and a half marathons, back to back,’ Imo tells me in an attempt to help me get my head around the distances she will be covering. Betraying my own priorities, my first question is how she will manage to fit sleep around all that running? She explains that while she runs her Dad will be following her in a camper van that doubles as accommodation. However, she will be tackling long sections of the run through the middle of the night and grabbing some shut eye when she can. ‘Depending on how I’m feeling that day and how we’re doing for timing I’ll be sleeping as and when,’ she says. 

Despite being only 24 years old, Imo is no stranger to extreme challenges like this. These days Imo is based in London, but she is originally from Malton and went to school in York before attending sixth form in Sedbergh. At the age of 17, she completed a triathlon consisting of a marathon, followed by a 10-kilometre swim and a 30-mile bike ride. Having gradually come to focus on running, at 21 she ran seven marathons in seven days, and at 22 she spent 22 days running from John o’ Groats to Lands End (that’s 60 kilometres a day), making her the youngest female to have run the length of the UK.

So just what is it that drives her to keep completing challenge after challenge? ‘I think just to see what I’m capable of,’ Imo says. ‘Because I can at the moment. Because I have the physical and mental capability’. Her answers remind me of a trend that has been doing the rounds on social media recently whereby running influencers announce that they don’t “have to” do this to themselves, they “get to”. In other words, it’s a privilege to live in a body that can facilitate these experiences. 

I love this way of looking at things, but I imagine it’s a lot harder to sustain on wet and windy days.  ‘We’re all human,’ Imo says. ‘There’s definitely days when I’m like “ugh, I really can’t be bothered”, but you feel better once it’s done, so that’s always a focus. In the colder months I like to stay warm. I always over-layer so that I’m starting warm and de-layering, which helps me.

‘If you enjoy it then you’ll do it. You’ve just got to have a strong mindset and know your why’

‘To be honest I think it’s a mindset thing. You can be fatigued, but I think you’ve got to just keep going… and you’ve got to want it. I’m a running coach as well and whenever I have clients that are lagging I’m thinking “what’s your goal?”, “what’s your focus?”, because if you enjoy it then you’ll do it. You’ve just got to have a strong mindset and know your why.’

Alongside lack of motivation, a big barrier to running is injury (which can seem to creep in however hard you try) so I am astonished to hear that this has never been an issue for Imo. ‘Touch wood I’ve been very lucky,’ she says. ‘I spend a lot of time focusing on recovery and eating lots and sleeping lots. Refuelling has been my primary focus. When I ran the length of the UK I had a slight injury on day six. That’s recovered and that’s been my only thing.’

On the subject of refuelling, I’m very curious to know what an endurance athlete has for breakfast. What could possibly meet the demands of a challenge like this? ‘I keep my foods pretty simple when I’m running,’ Imo says, revealing that the morning frontrunner is always a bagel. ‘A bagel is the generic, historic running food,’ she adds. I wonder if I too might be destined for athleticism? 

As previously mentioned, Imo also coaches other runners and she says that there are a couple of common pitfalls people fall into. Aside from ensuring you’re refuelling properly, her advice to aspiring runners is to increase their mileage gradually, slow down if it feels too difficult, and incorporate some running-specific strength training. 

We speak just before the London Marathon, which Imo runs ‘for enjoyment’ before beginning to taper down the mileage in preparation for the big event. She says that she is feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement, but ultimately the hardest part of the challenge will already be behind her. ‘The training is when you’re doing it by yourself and getting out whatever the weather. The actual event, regardless of how painful it may be, is the victory lap.’

On 21st May – six days, five hours and 43 minutes after she set off from Scotland – Imo completed her challenge. She had officially broken the 45-year-old world record set by Ann Sayer by a staggering 18 hours, making her the fastest woman to have completed the UK three peaks on foot. 

You can follow Imo @imoboddy on Instagram, YouTube and – of course – Strava. 

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