OCTOBER 2015: Emily Proto completed her first marathon in Brighton in April 2011, in a time of 3hrs59.
In the Florence Marathon, November 2012, she ran 2hrs59.
In the build-up to Brighton Marathon this year, all of Emily’s training suggested she would run inside 2hrs50. Unfortunately, she landed awkwardly when stepping off a curb in the early stages of that race; this resulted in a fractured fibula and she had to pull out at mile 6.
Adamant this wasn’t going to deter her from bouncing back even stronger, Emily set herself a new target race of Cardiff Half Marathon which took place earlier this month. She took almost a minute off her PB, finishing as 15th female, in 1hr18. [This was also the British Half Marathon Championship race, in which she came 10th.]
This makes the local Arena 80 club runner and RunBrighton Ambassador one of the top distance runners in the county; in fact she now has the 4th fastest (female) half marathon in the south east this year.
Emily, congratulations on such an awesome progression over the last four years, and on your fantastic run in Cardiff. And I should also congratulate you on attaining a new course record last month in the Hove Prom 10k. What does your Cardiff result mean to you? And what pleases you more – the time or the position?
The result at Cardiff meant a lot to me. It was my main big target race when coming back from breaking my leg in April.
I was going for the time. I had targeted under 1:19 and did several training runs at that pace, which boosted my confidence for race day. I knew the pace would be achievable if I worked hard on the day. When looking at the elite start list, I was hoping for a top-30 female position. I didn’t think I would come 15th. There were a couple of females who ran, who I was really surprised to beat on the day.
How did your appetite for running begin? Were you involved with other sports before you took up running?
At school, I was involved with all sports – basketball, netball, football… I ran in 100m and 200m races but only on the once-a-year sports day. I couldn’t face 400m though! I usually came first or second in the sprints. But that was all when I was about 13 or 14. I don’t recall doing much exercise in the years which followed.
Then one Sunday morning in 2010, I was at home (near Preston Park) with my partner, Phil. We heard the sound of a gun, looked out of the window and a couple of minutes later there were thousands of people running by. It was the first Brighton Marathon! We’d had no idea it was going on. We left the flat and walked along the course as far as the Palace Pier, which was around the half-way point. We watched and cheered and I got quite emotional. I thought “I really must enter this next year!”
As soon as the 2011 entries opened, I registered. And I ran it for charity – Chestnut Tree House. My longest two training runs were just 10 miles and 15 miles, but somehow I finished in 3hours 59minutes.
I remember telling my dad that the following year I would knock an hour off, and I went on to run 2hours 59minutes in Florence in November 2012.
You’re clearly a very driven athlete. I know you’re incredibly focussed and determined. So, what is it that drives you?
I’m very competitive and I’m always analysing training sessions / race results / race splits (as geeky as that sounds!). Once a new target has been achieved, I’m always thinking about the next one.
I understand you’ve also set up a gym at home. Does that mean cross-training forms part of your overall training? What race prep do you do other than actual running?
I wasn’t able to run for eight weeks when I broke my leg in April. But thankfully I was able to cycle pain free, so I cycled a lot and I kept logging my cross-training like I do with my running to make sure I was doing enough. I did spin classes, body-pump classes and also cycling outside. I actually averaged 10 hours of cross-training a week for the eight weeks – and for one of those weeks I had a plaster cast on! I have kept up the cross-training and still do at least three different gym classes a week as well as running. It’s really helped!
What do you do for work? Do you have a job which allows you the flexibility to train in the daytime?
I’m an Accountant for a local construction company. It’s full-time, about 45 hours a week, but I quite often run at lunchtime. And I like to get my easy run done first thing in the morning, so I’m normally out running at 6.30am. Whenever I run twice a day, I prefer to get the second one in at lunchtime rather than in the evening. I can’t do speedwork first thing though!
How long before Cardiff was your peak training week and what did it entail?
The biggest week was the one which ended two weeks before race day. I did about 75 miles that week, which involved:
Monday: Fartlek training run (mix of paces) 3/2/1 minutes hard, 2/1/1 easy (9 miles total) & 1 hour body pump in the evening
Tuesday: 6 miles easy in the morning + 10 miles easy in the evening
Wednesday: Long rep / LTP session of 2 x (10 mins @ 5:56/mile pace + 2 x 1k @ 5:40/mile pace) & cardio class 1 hour in the evening
Thursday: 6 miles easy am + 10 miles steady pm (6:45/mile pace)
Friday: 8 miles easy
Saturday: 4 miles easy with some strides
Sunday: Hove Prom 10k race + warm-up & cool-down (10 miles total)
What do you do to relax and switch off from running?
I love spending time with my family – I get on really well with my little sister.
So, what will be your focus now over the winter and beyond?
In the short term, I want to target PBs in 5k and 10k, on both road and track. I really want a sub-17min parkrun, and it would be great to break the course record in Hove Park.
And do you have an ultimate running goal?
My ultimate goal is to run a target time which qualifies me to represent GB. I’m not too sure about what distance yet. I’m still trying to work out what my best distance is. I just know it would be a dream come true to represent GB one day.
Emily, once again, congratulations on everything you’ve achieved to date, and good luck for a successful winter season ahead!
By Mike Bannister