The Carnethy Interview – Nicki Innes

At a Tinto Race a year or two ago, I spotted a young lady with a baby in a high-tech buggy - one of those titanium alloy jobs for taking the bairn for a run in. Having been impressed with one a couple of weeks before in a fancy gear shop in Hathersage, I knew they cost a small fortune. Here was an opportunity to do some chatting up. Can’t resist it. That’s how I met Nicki. Having met a Club member, one tends to notice their activities, if they are recorded in the Newsletter. So I now know she has run the West Highland Way, is a past holder of the St. Cuthbert’s Way Record, has run the Southern Upland Way and is a marathon enthusiast. She also sent me a video, for the Carnethy Archives, of a party running the West Highland way (in drastic weather). Anyone who sends me stuff for the Archives gets loads of Brownie points. Her article for the Hillenium Book earned her more Brownie points.

First of all, Nicki, did you really buy a double version of The Buggy? Yes, I bought it second-hand from a guy at work. It’s enormous but only cost me £40 (they are about £500 new!) so I could not resist it. Robbie, our youngest, is only just old enough to go in it, so Dave and I have only run with it (and the kids!) once so far. But for £40 it was worth it for that one 5-mile run. Robbie slept, Iain had fun shouting "faster, faster" and Dave and I got some training. A great family outing. We were living down near Newcastle for a couple of months before Christmas and didn’t take it with us. It wouldn’t fit in the car with all the other baby and toddler gear. I hope we will run with it a lot more this spring and summer. We still run with Iain in the single buggy. Well, you have just lost some of your enormous stock of Brownie points for not coming to see us in Darlington.

You have two little ones, one only a few months old. How do you manage to keep running with the pressures of a young family? Running is my escape and my only time just for me. The rest of my life is currently dedicated to my kids, my husband and soon my part-time work. I never sit down and relax or do anything for me, except run! I have to be very motivated to get out these days and I generally arrange to meet someone, which helps. I understand – it’s the friends I have in Carnethy who keep me motivated, even from a distance. I run about three times a week for an hour currently but hope to increase that soon. The early months of a baby’s life are very important. At first, while breast feeding Robbie, I could only dash out between feeds when I had someone to look after both kids.

How long does it take you to get back to running after the birth of a baby? Medics recommend six weeks after a normal delivery and twelve after a c-section. I had two c-sections (Iain was facing the wrong way and Robbie was upside down) and ran at ten weeks after Iain’s birth and nine weeks after Robbie’s! I was desperate! I ran until 30 and 28 weeks of my pregnancies, which helped me get back to fitness afterwards. With Iain, I ran the Edinburgh Marathon when he was 16 months old and felt pretty much back to full fitness. Two weeks later I was pregnant again! Has anyone explained what’s causing it?

Are you training very hard at the moment? What do you call hard training? I’m training and that’s a good start! Training hard for me is about 40-50 miles a week with one Meadows session and one hill session/run. I’ll get back to that when my boys are bigger.

And do you still intend to race a lot? I’m not racing yet. I plan to do the Carnethy 5 as my first come-back race (Robbie will be 8 months then). After that, I hope to do four or five hill races this summer. Next year I’ll get more serious. What is your favourite type of race? It has to be a hill race. Do you find races do what Munro-bashing does – gets you to places you wouldn’t otherwise have gone to ? Yes, it’s fun to travel to races but I haven’t done much of that this last few years with kids – my time will come again.

What is your attitude to Munros? As you say, Munros are a great way to see your country but I’m not a bagger. Dave and I have only done about 70 but some several times and some on skis. We’ve done plenty of other good hills and lots of summits in the Alps. Have you had any dangerous moments in the hills? A few in the Alps, but nothing really life-threatening.

You told me it was Mad Nigel Rose who got you into the hill running game. Were you a mountaineer before that? Yes, I have always loved the mountains. Dave and I spend almost all our holidays in them walking, running or skiing, mostly in the French Alps. Iain, our older boy, has been to the French Alps four times already and Robbie once.

What about when you were at School - any sporting activities there? I started running when I was 12. I did an evening paper round, so I ran for 25 minutes every evening, which is quite a lot at that age! Then, when we started doing cross country at school, I found I was pretty fit – from the paper round - so it all started then. I also played hockey and tennis at School and University. I took up skiing when I met Dave at Herriot-Watt in 1985 and we’re now fanatics. We’re looking forward to skiing with our boys. Iain will start this year, just before he is three.

I guess this may be a silly question to someone who has achieved what you have, but would you call yourself a very competitive person? I’m competitive, yes, but I know I will never be a star and win any big race. I love to compete and to do my best and beat runners I don’t normally beat. I live my life that way (not just when running).

And your motivation to do all those long distance runs, and keep running? My favourite type of running is long distance over our beautiful countryside, away from the roads and people. I love the sense of travel and achievement, which gives me a real buzz. I’m addicted to my running.

Where were you brought up and educated? Tell me about your family. I was brought up in Bishopton, 12 miles west of Glasgow and went to Park Mains High school in Erskine ( I was in Dougie Vipond’s class!). So you’re a Weejie, like Jane Robertson! I have two sisters, who are both fit but not really sporty – they play tennis a bit and swim. My Mum plays tennis 2 or 3 times a week, which is pretty good at 63. Dad is an avid golfer.

Did you enjoy your education, in the broadest sense? Yes, I had a great time at School and University. At both I did lots of other stuff as well as my studies – plenty of sport, music, debating etc. I used to play the viola at school but I was never any good at it. It was just part of our school social scene – our School was very big into music. I studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Herriot-Watt University, which was bloody hard work but fun! I met my husband Dave there during fresher’s week.

Like a lot of Carnethy people, you went abroad for a period and then came back. Talk about that.

Yes, I had a year in Grenoble in 1988, which was a great destination for mountain pursuits. Then Dave and I had 2 years in Boston in 1994/5. We wandered the Rockies in California and Colorado and explored the mountains of New England. During both stints abroad I worked for Hewlett Packard and had a ball!

Why back to Edinburgh? Did you consider living somewhere else? We love Edinburgh and we have so many friends here. Yes, we would go abroad again for a few years but would always come back. One day we might move North, when we are ready to "opt out".

Do you have time for other interests outside family and hill running? Tell me about them.

I have my work, which I love! I work two-and-a-half days a week for Agilent Technologies (formerly Hewlett-Packard) in the marketing department of their telecomm test division. I manage a group of 8 engineers and it’s fun and rewarding. With two boys, a husband, my running and my work I have no time for anything else. I really only see my friends when I run with them or I visit with them and their kids. I’m happy with the balance of my life.

Do you like dancing? I love to dance, though I’m not very good at it. I went to see "Billy Elliot" recently – I wanted to be a dancer after that! What a great film! I always warn people that it’s a three hanky job.

What about your reading? Any recommendations? I read for about 10 minutes every night in bed, so I’m always reading a book. I enjoy John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, Ian Rankin, Patricia Cornwell, John Kellermon. Whoa! I also read a lot about "Bob the Builder", "Thomas the Tank Engine", "Postman Pat" and "Noddy" with my sons.

How do you view the SAF saga? Are you closely engaged with it, accept whatever is done by the Committee, feel it’s a big bore? . . . . well, I believe that the Carnethy Committee is doing their best for us and I agree with their proposals. Actually, I just want to run . . . . . . .

Are you a very "Green" person? Do you use organic food? Are you alarmed by the global warming problem and holes in the ozone layer? I’m sort of Green. I recycle everything I can. I use organic food for our baby and some things for the rest of us. Yes, we are trashing our World and I’ll do my bit to prevent that - but I do use disposable nappies.

You are clearly a mathematical- and computer-literate person. Do quantum theory and super-massive black holes excite you? Yes, I’m an engineer but not a nerd, so QT and s-m-b-h don’t excite me. I use a computer mostly for work and e-mail, as I don’t have time for much else.

What do you feel very strongly about? I feel strongly about lots of things. In particular I believe we should give our children (the nation’s, not just our own) as good a start in life as possible – teach them lots, lead by example, show them the World, encourage them to be active and enjoy the outdoors. I hope our two boys will join the Carnethy Junior team one day.

If you were Dictator of the World, what measures would you introduce? A three day working week and retirement at 45 would be a good start.

With young children, I guess your thoughts of the future will be closely tied to them. Nevertheless, predict what will be happening to you and the World in 2010. By 2010 Dave, our children and I will be travelling the World, gathering experiences and having fun. The rest of the World will be surfing the Internet, buying their groceries on line – except the Carnethy folks, who will be out running in the hills and mountains.

Whom should I interview next? Serena Micalizzi, for the Italian view. Kate Jenkins our long distance Carnethy heroine. Oonagh Thin for a two-year-old’s view of things.



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