Life

20 Questions on Health & Fitness: Belfast marathon winner Laura Graham

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Kilkeel runner and mother-of-four Laura Graham, the first Northern Ireland athlete to win the Belfast Marathon since 1999

Kilkeel athelete Laura Graham crosses the finish line

1) Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I'm up at 7 o'clock most days, although I'll rise at 6am a couple of days each week so that I can go to a strength and conditioning class.

Then I get the housework started, the kids up and dressed and breakfast on the table before the school run. I'll have coffee if I'm starting work at 9am or I'll do a morning run, usually on the treadmill.

2) What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast? 

Breakfast is normally porridge.

Lunch?

I'll have something light like crackers with peanut butter and banana or maybe an egg sandwich.

Evening meal?

For my evening meal, I love to have a vegetable stir fry served with rice.

3) Is nutrition important to you?

Nutrition is important to me, but it is also my downfall sometimes as I quite regularly skip breakfast, then I would have crackers and peanut butter or some other snack later on in the day.

I am not good at eating straight after a run and fuelling before a long run isn't my strength either – this is definitely an area I need to focus on prior to other competitions.

4) Best meal ever?

It is always a good vegetable curry and rice.

Runner Laura Graham in action

5) Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Yes, my guilty pleasure is chocolate and sweets.

6) Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

I haven't really been on a diet, but I think if you have the attitude 'everything in moderation', you can't go far wrong.

7) Do you take health supplements?

I take iron daily and also a multivitamin.

8) How do you relax?

I relax when I run or walk!

9) Teetotal or tipple?

Teetotal.

Laura Graham

10) Stairs of lift?

Always the stairs.

11) Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I run five-to-six days each week; I'll do a speed run twice and then a long run. I do a strength and conditioning class once a week and I love to walk as well.

I'd really like to do more exercise, but I have four kids, a hubby, a house and a job, so it's not always easy to get out of the door and start running. Some days, I'll run for an hour; others it will be an hour and-a-half.

I'm now starting to run twice daily – an easier run in the morning and a more difficult one in the evening which will be timed and done at a quicker pace. You do have to be disciplined, especially if it's raining outside or if I need to be indoors with the children – then I'll get on the treadmill instead.

12) Best tip for everyday fitness?

My best tip is get up and just do it – the aftermath feeling is amazing,

13) On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?

I would put myself at a six or seven, but I would like to feel a lot fitter.

14) Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

No, I haven't tried it, but I would definitely consider alternative therapy if the situation arose.

I could also do with a sports massage more often in order to give something back to my poor back and legs as a 'thank you' for all they have done for me.

Co Down runner and mother of four, Laura Graham. Picture: Mal McCann

15) Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

I loved PE in school and it was always my favourite part of the day or week. I played in the hockey team and I was also involved with the athletics club, so I think that is where my interest for running first developed.

I also loved cross country – when other people were trying to hide and get out of doing it, I couldn't wait to get started. I even loved splashing through all the muck and ditches; I don't know what was wrong with me. Sports day was really the only day I wanted to go to school.

16) Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

No, but I feel now is the time I need to change my diet for the better so I can improve my health and fitness.

17) Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

I am not the best person to give advice, but I do know now that nutrition is vital – it's very important as you need it to fuel your body and help you succeed. I would say the time to change is now – you won't regret it.

18) Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?

Irish marathon runner Breege Connolly inspires me when I think how far she has come and the goals she has reached. She is also an absolutely fantastic person, very down-to-earth and very helpful when you need advice.

I also greatly admire Irish runners Lizzie Lee and Fionnuala McCormack – they are all living legends.

19) What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?

I usually head to bed around 11.30pm but sometimes I only finish work at 10pm, so I find it hard to switch off.

20) Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

I would say yes, I do have a healthy attitude towards my mortality and my faith helps. Life is a race, although, being a runner, you would think I would turn up to events on time, but I am always late.

I try for the best times when running, but I'm the worst time-keeper when I'm not. My motto, though, is never give up – you will get there in the end.

Kilkeel athelete Laura Graham crosses the finish line

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