Angela Mudge – A career of ups and downs

Saturday 25th July 2020

Thanks to Karla Borland of What Karla Did for allowing us to share this piece.

Calling Young Hill Runners

Karla: Everything I’ve read about Angela demonstrates how modest and understated she is. This interview just reinforces that. I have lots of bucket list races it’s easy to dream about from my comfortable sofa. It reminded me to just get on with it (and to try some of those jelly snakes!).

Angela has won the Scottish Hill Running Championships three times (1997, 1998, 2006), the British Fell Running Championships five times (1997–2000, 2008) and holds the women’s record on more than thirteen courses in Scotland alone. On the international stage she won the Women’s World Mountain Running Trophy in 2000, the World Masters Mountain Running Championships in 2005, and the Buff Skyrunner World Series in 2006 and 2007. She has won countless other races around the world.

Angela: I live in the Trossachs a few miles outside Aberfoyle with three very badly-behaved dogs; Gran, Mum and pup. I work as a sports and remedial massage therapist and also as the event lead for hill and mountain running at Scottish Athletics. I’m a long way past my running prime and have never really had a coach. Martin Hyman advised me in the mid nighties and pointed me in the right direction.

At school I was too slow for the sprints and put in the 1500m because no one else wanted to do it. I found I was good at endurance events and ran cross country and track at county level. I kept fit from participating in all sports and didn’t join a club until I was 16, when a club was formed in my hometown.

As an undergraduate I became disillusioned with running and started orienteering. Most university races were short relay events where I’d race the first and last race because we didn’t have enough women to make up the team. On graduating I moved to Stirling for a Masters. The deciding factor was a picture of Dumyat on the front of the prospectus. At Stirling I was introduced to hill running and found my very ungainly style really suited this discipline and I loved the rough terrain, mud and being exposed to the elements.

As I kid I spent hours on Dartmoor so hill running was probably a natural progression once I’d found some decent hills. Mountain running just followed on. When I began to improve, I started racing in the Alps in the mid 1990s.

My training doesn’t resemble what I was doing when I was at full fitness. I rarely do speed work and most of fitness comes from running or long walks in the hills. I also use the bike.

Back in my prime I was running twice a day with two or three speed sessions a week depending on which races I was competing in. I’ve dabbled in and out of Pilates and Yoga. During lockdown I’m doing more yoga again but it’s down to if there’s a convenient lesson nearby. Living rurally there very often isn’t! I run a weekly circuit session in the village and swear by traditional circuit sessions for strength and conditioning.

I have a see food and eat it diet. I’m a strong believer that you should have a bit of everything in your diet and being active I don’t need to worry about consuming excess calories. I need to worry about consuming enough. I only take glucosamine for my knees. If you have a healthy diet I believe you don’t need supplements.

I don’t have a favourite pre-race meal; it depends what time of day the race is and whether I’m travelling to the event or it’s on my doorstep. Jelly snakes in a long hill race are good but if I’m doing a mountain marathon or similar, I like real food – flapjacks, sandwiches etc. Post-race I just eat what I can get my hands on, I’m not fussy.

It’s hard to choose a favourite location, different runs have different memories. I could opt for the Swiss Alps where I’ve spent numerous summers or something nearer to home like bog hopping in the Campsies. As long as it’s in the hills or on interesting trails I’m happy. I have too many memories of exceptional runs in the hills to pick a single highlight. The experiences are all so different it’s hard to pick – it could be seeing a brocken spectre, spotting a pine martin or trudging through knee deep snow in the Ochils.

The Isle of Jura Fell race stands out as my favourite race; the terrain is wild and beautiful. All the competitors are camped out on the island, so it has a great atmosphere before and after. The effort getting there always warrants a few extra days on the Island to explore. I also love Carnethy 5, it’s my club’s race and the first big race of the season. You meet up with all your running pals again and you never know what the elements will throw at you in February. Canazei Sky Race in Italy has to be one of the best, a true up and down race on a classic rough mountain. It’s a spectacular hill and a really tough race.

In 2001 I won Sierre to Zinal and broke the long-standing course record. I was flying that day and smashed Veronique Marot’s course 1987 record by over 5 mins and was the first women to duck under the 3 hour barrier. Now the record is stupidly fast, and I would look like a jogger!

My worst performance was probably coming about last in Caerketton when I was anaemic in terms of athletic achievement but there have been plenty of decent performances which I consider worse as I got it tactfully wrong or didn’t give it my all.

My philosophy has always been to just get on with it. If you’re injured find another outlet, for me it’s about being outside in the elements. If I can’t run I’ll cycle and if I can’t cycle I’ll walk and when I’m getting desperate I’ll swim! Just live for the moment.

Running has definitely influenced my life. I’m a very private person and don’t like the spotlight. Excelling at a sport

Angela running at the 2007 Whangie Whizz hill running event. Pic by DeLarge, via WikiMedia Commons

throws you into a very niche spotlight and I’ve had to learn to deal with the expectation and attention – luckily in my heyday, apart from hill runners, not many people knew I was pretty good. It’s also made me a far more confident person and influenced my career path. I trained in sports and remedial massage to give me the flexibility to train and race abroad.

My days of sponsorship are well over! I love my Salomon Speedcross for training in, but they’re useless for hill racing in. I’m not a gear freak and still wear an analogue watch.

In 2004 I wore away an area of cartilage on the bottom of my femur and had an operation to resolve it. Rehabilitation was 6 months plus of aqua jogging and gym work. In 2014 I tore my spring ligament in my foot, this took a long time to resolve and it was operated on after nearly 2 years. It’s sorted but I no longer do intense training as I get compensation injuries. I’ve learnt that if I push hard something breaks. I was born with club feet, so I just appreciate that I was able to run for numerous years before my dodgy biomechanics got the better of me.

In terms of influence, Martin Hyman put me on the right track back in the mid nighties. Martin saw my potential and gave me invaluable advice, something I can never thank him enough for. He’s helped hundreds of runners in his time and is one of the unsung heroes in Scottish running.

My favourite running book is probably The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren, it’s a love story between a running coach and his star athlete. I’m not into love stories but the author really gets into the runners psyche.

My advice for runners hoping to do more hill and mountain running is to run on some trails first and then once you’re happy with the rougher terrain progress to some little hills and finally to the bigger hills. Learn to navigate so you can safely run some routes in remoter areas and buy shoes with good grips that will cope with rough uneven terrain.

Pick the user friendly hills at first where there are tracks and gentle gradients, once you’ve got descending sussed move on to the rougher steeper hills.

Below: Angela pictured with fellow hill runner Charlotte Morgan, at our Annual Awards in 2018, where Angela was inducted into the scottishathletics Hall of Fame. (Picture: Bobby Gavin)


Tags: Angela Mudge, hill running, mountain running

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