2nd November 2018


The second meeting in the British Athletics Cross Challenge series is now just over one week away and Gemma Steel (coach: Liz Nuttall; club: Charnwood) is preparing for her first official race on the circuit of the new season.

Over the last few weeks, Steel has been continuing her transition from the roads to the grass as she readies herself for the Cross Challenge season, which got underway in Cardiff last month.

Steel’s opening race of the season at Teardrop Lakes is just over one week away and her training has intensified, but she is feeling stronger and fitter as she prepares to kickstart her title defence.


“Since the Great South Run, my training has gone really well and I have recovered from it quite miraculously, compared to two weeks earlier after the Commonwealth Half Marathon in Cardiff where I had all but used every ounce of energy that I had!

“I was  surprised how after a day that I was able to get straight back into it without any muscle aches or signs of fatigue at all! Maybe it was a case of doing three miles less or I hadn’t pushed quite as much during the latter stages, but I came off the back of it ready to do a session on Tuesday straight away.

“Monday morning was a solid seven miles up on one of my new stomping grounds where I can actually push up the hills, followed by five miles in the evening. Tuesday was my favourite signature session of five three-minute, two-minute and one-minute reps off one minute of recovery.

“This went better than I expected and I was able to execute a strong tempo and feel particularly good on the three-minute reps at just over 5:10 pace, five-minute mile-ing on the two-minute reps and 4:50 on the one-minute runs, all of which were on grass.

“My recovery rate seems to be improving after feeling fatigued over the last three months, which is promising because I’m starting to show signs of my old self just in time for my Cross Challenge season. Wednesday was another eight-miles up at a steady pace, with five miles in the evening, same on Thursday as well as physio appointment.

“I got to my rest day on Friday without feeling like I needed it too badly which is how I used to feel but again it’s about taking a break mentally as well as physically, so I count it as a very important part of training, maybe even more important as it’s where you get the benefits and your adaptation to fitness occurs.

“I need to remind myself to relax and enjoy it and not use it as an excuse to run around using all my energy in other ways like shopping or driving about everywhere, it’s important to just chill out but it’s easier said than done!

“Sleep is another vital element to getting the real benefits of training and is a shortcut to success. Another thing I am learning to never underestimate. I aim for at least 8 hours of solid sleep a night and one-and-a-half hours in the afternoon and it’s seeming to pay off. Getting into a routine is vital and the phrase ‘run, eat, sleep, repeat’ is so simple but effective.

“The week drew to a close with Saturday’s hill session of five reps of three minutes off a reduced recovery, daunting as I had to be down in four minutes ready to go again but once I got into my stride I realised to my surprise that I was recovering really well.

“I was moving swiftly up and down in the three minutes, a good sign as recently my legs had been feeling tired after getting to the top and my Achilles also took a lot of strain so I took a lot of heart from this fact.

“Sunday’s long run was also a great sign as I travelled to Launde Abbey to train, alongside supporting some friends in the local Derby Runner Cross Country league. I was getting down to 6:35 pace and not feeling fatigued as I had previously at eight or nine miles ready to throw the towel in!

“Instead, I felt able to do 13 miles instead of my usual 12 on quite an undulating terrain so hopefully my endurance is starting to finally turn a corner and strength is returning. This has always been the key for me, I’ve never been a speed-based athlete so hopefully time will tell.