Sue Ullyett is a prime example of how to make your passion your profession. With over 30 years of running experience and well over 100 Marathons accomplished, Sue’s success speaks for itself. Her most recent success is the development and implementation of the popular FNB Cape Town 12 ONERUN. As the event manager for this innovative new event she has shown great strength on and off-road. We are happy to give you ladies an insight of such a power woman on our CMIYC Inspirational Stories.
1. When did you start running and did you love it right away?
I was a swimmer growing up and only started running when I left school. My PE teacher at school had to beg me to run around the track and I hated athletics, which is quite strange as I love running so much now. I started running to keep my mom company while she was training for half marathons. It was love at first step!
2. What were your reasons to enter races?
My first race was a duathlon on the Durban beachfront that consisted of a 5km run, 20km cycle and 5km run and I thought “what the hell, let me try this!” I won it and that was the start of my lifelong love of being part of events, either doing them or organising them. I’m always one for a challenge and I have to have goals to work towards. Races give you a goal to train for, but races are also great to use as training runs for your goal races so you don’t always have to race them. You can have fun too!
3. What advice would you give women, who want to start running?
Join a group and build up slowly! It’s very hard to stay motivated when the alarm clock goes off at 5am, unless you are meeting someone who is counting on you to be there. Plus you end up meeting so many like-minded people through running groups, some of whom become close friends. It’s also very easy to get caught up in doing too much and this can lead to injury, so take it slow when you first start.
4. Do you remember the first moment you felt “like a runner”?
I’ve been running for 30 years, so NO I definitely don’t remember that first moment, as it was too long ago 🙂 But that feeling when you are fit, feeling good and your running comes easy is very special. And the “runner’s high” does exist. It’s what keeps me training week in and week out.
5. How many marathons you have run?
I’m not too sure…it’s well over 100 marathons by now as I started running marathons in my late twenties. I did my first Comrades 20 years ago and have been running distance events since then as I love it so much.
6. Which race was your favourite race?
I have a few but the New York Marathon is one of my favourites. My brother lives just outside NY City in Connecticut, so I try to get an entry to the marathon and visit him at the same time. It’s tough event to get into so I’ve been lucky to do it four times. The crowd support on route is incredible and the vibe in the City before, during and after the event is something I have never experienced at any other event.
The Two Oceans Marathon is another favourite and I’m working towards my double blue number – I have 7 more to go to reach 20. In the past ten years, I’ve discovered a love of trail running and have started to prefer it to road running. The trail run I love the most is the Hout Bay Trail Challenge because it offers beautiful scenery and some tough, technical trail running, right on my doorstep. When it comes to multi stage races, the African X out in Grabouw is spectacular.
7. How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?
I think everyone goes through days when it’s a battle to get out the door and run. When I start having one too many days like this, then I know it’s time to take some time out and do some cycling or swimming, or just do nothing and give my body a rest. Having someone to meet or a regular group run is the best way to motivate yourself.
8. Who inspires you?
I get my inspiration from watching top athletes perform. To watch Olympic athletes run around the track or top marathon runners compete in events around the world, is incredible and always motivates me to want to get out and run.
Another source of inspiration is watching Comrades. I grew up in Durban and my dad always used to take us out on the route or to the finish to watch the runners coming in or we would watch in on TV. Watching Bruce Fordyce run into the stadium with the crowds cheering is what made me want to run Comrades. I can still remember telling my dad that I would run it one day.
I watched Comrades via live streaming while in the UK in 2014 and got very emotional seeing parts of the route as I was very homesick, and I cried when the winners came in. I entered the 2015 event shortly after that and made up my mind to run it again after an 18 year break.
9. Do you prefer morning or evening runs?
I’m definitely a morning person. I love starting my day with an early morning run. I find I’m Captain Grumpy if I miss a morning run and even if I tell myself I will go later, something always seems to come up, plus my energy levels take a dive and it’s usually the last thing I feel like doing. Although, having said that, on the odd occasion that I do end up running in the evening, I always feel good afterwards.
10. What do you like about ‘Catch Me If You Can’?
I love that it brings women from all walks of life together to share a common goal of the love of running, of getting fit and healthy together. It provides them with a safe place to meet up, run and spend time together. Special friendships are formed and it’s such a positive concept.