World Class Ultra Runner Jo Meek Shares All About Gear, Training and Staying Organized

My name is Jo Meek. I am from Great Britain and that is where I am living right now. I am married (nine years this month!) and have the pleasure of owning a border terrier who is now the ripe old age of 14!

I have two main loves that take up my time: My hobby and my job.

I am a runner who has moved up to race in ultra — races all over the world and I’m a physiotherapist who specializes in sports and musculoskeletal injuries.

Runner Jo Meek
at the Marathon des Sables

How and why did you get into your sport?

I started running years ago as a teenager to lose weight. I was overweight and unhappy. I think if you stick at something for long enough you get good at it!

I was not naturally sporting at all and have had to work pretty hard to achieve. I still do!

Initially I just ran, then I joined a club and starting racing in local races (road and cross country). I’ve not stopped running since really as I progressed up to the marathon distance. I achieved 2hrs, 46mins as my best time.

In 2013, I decided to do a bucket list race called, the Marathon des Sables (MDS). Since then I’ve never looked back as I moved into the world of ultra-running. I prepared precisely for this race – I trained hard, practiced running with all my kit (you have to carry everything and be self-sufficient for the six days) and I organised using a heat chamber for acclimatization work. Running with a thermometer to read core (internal!) temperature was the hardest part of this! Ha ha!


Video link Credit: Yann Audouin for SCOTT

I have raced on the road, the trails, in the mountains and in multi-day stage races. I have also been lucky enough to race for GB in the World 100km and trail Championships. I love to race and race as hard as I can. Check out my blog story of races so far and find out why I call myself the Running Squirrel. One of my proudest moments is the CCC race – check out the video link to see real elation after 14 hours of running!

The hardest part of running is always finding the mental determination. Everyday (especially through the winter) when it’s cold and wet it takes some mental tenacity to get out the door. Once out it’s always a privilege to run. I’ve learnt this the hard way by having many injuries. The most difficult part of my sport is being injured. I find this tough as running is now part of my identity. I cross train when injured so am always trying to keep fit and strong. I do not find it so difficult to motivate myself anymore because it’s such an intrinsic thing to me.

Real dangers for me include climbing high up mountains in crap weather. I don’t live in the mountains so it’s hard to train for these conditions. On one race in Romania I encountered wild bears and shepherd dogs which were massive. I was so happy when he came charging at me and was pulled back by his chain at the last minute!

Runner Jo Meek
CCC in Chamonix 2016. Photo creedit: Guillem Casanova for SCOTT

How do you finance your sport?

I’m lucky enough to work with a few sponsors. These include:

I love working with the different products and the people behind them. My running doesn’t cost me too much. Essentially, I get all my kit and am very proud to wear the #blackandyellow from the Race Concept (RC) range in SCOTT running designs. I pay my own travel but I’m lucky enough to sometimes be invited to races too. After the MDS my first race against international competition was being invited to The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. This was totally amazing!

I also have a normal job to pay the bills and help keep a healthy balance in life regarding perspective and moderation!

Runner Jo Meek

How do you eat and sleep?

I eat and sleep well!

I eat everything to be honest. I used to be a vegetarian but struggled with iron deficiencies so now I eat red meat. I enjoy food and cooking and naturally follow a pretty healthy diet but I do love cake – everything in moderation!

When training, I sleep a lot, perhaps 9 hrs. a night. I am pretty disciplined at going to bed early because most of my training is done in the morning before work. Sleep and good food are key components to recovery and injury prevention.

I travel well on the whole but recently started a course of Symprove to help balance the digestive system a bit more. Running and travel is not always an ideal combination for your digestive system so finding a way to help balance it is great.

Runner Jo Meek

How do you balance normal life with training?

Get up early!

I train daily and race regularly. I now probably race an ultra 4 to 5 times a year. The first year I started racing, I did 13 ultras in one year and was then injured for six months so learnt the hard way. My training includes running (obviously) and strength training in the gym. I’ll cross train sometimes by cycling and swimming.

It’s difficult sometimes to find a balance but I have an understanding husband who also enjoys running and has plenty of other hobbies.

I used to work full time but now work part time, which has made a big difference in helping me recover between sessions. If I struggle financially I can always increase my working hours but so far so good. I probably miss out on a social life but as I started running a bit later I am happy in the knowledge I’ve certainly had one in the past!

I spend time planning my race calendar because for some races you need to prequalify and get a certain amount of experience points. I want to make sure I’m making the most of my running so I travel abroad to race and experience new places with new people competing at the highest level I can.

Runner Jo Meek
Iznik Ultra in Turkey. Photo credit: Ian Corless

How do you bring your gear with you?

I like to run because it requires minimal gear and can make you feel so free. I like to race hard and fast so I try and race as light as I can. For many races, there is a compulsory kit list such as waterproofs, head torch, food, warm clothes, etc. I waterproof everything in bags. I wear a race vest, which really snuggle fits to my body and does not bounce around. I truly believe in the gear my sponsors make so I use their products.

Here are some of my favourites:

Also, I get my energy from KOMFUEL who cleverly thought of offering all different energy products so you can pick and choose what works for you depending on your race and requirements. I tend to use 32Gi since coming across them in South Africa at a race I did called, Comrades which was incredible. It’s the oldest road race in the world with an incredible atmosphere.

I don’t always eat just gels and sport nutrition products so I find Bounce Balls are a great nutritional snack when racing and day to day on the move at work. I love the coconut and macadamia flavour.

Coffee with taste and real boost – pre-race Intrepid Baboon espresso is perfect if the race starts at some unearthly hour!

I tend to protect my feet with Rocktape and if carrying an injury use it as support.

When I travel I try and go with just hand luggage. If not I always carry my trainers and compulsory race kit in the hand luggage in case my hold luggage gets lost. Good advice for anyone!

Runner Jo Meek
The Costal Challenge. Photo credit: J.A.Vargas

How do you organize things in your bags?

I like to be able to run the whole race without taking my ultra-vest off so I tend to organise things easily accessible. Obviously, if it starts raining, I will stop and get my waterproof jacket out. Sometimes we are allowed a bag for half way through the race. It’s transported to a checkpoint where we can access it. I place my food in there for the second half of the race. Other runners place spare shoes and socks but I’ve yet. I’m planning on doing my first 100miler this year though so that might change.

If the race is really mountainous, I’ll take SCOTT poles and in the past I’ve struggled with where to place my poles so I can get them out/put them away easily. I’ve now taken to sewing on elastic loops to the bottom of my ultra-vests which works well.

Runner Jo Meek

How do your bags and gear hold up?

The only things that I struggle with are human! I inherited bunions on my feet from my father and unfortunately it means I have to where my shoes in well before I race a long way in them. Sometimes I’ve taken to using shoe stretching devices just to help me out.

Also, I’ve got Raynaud’s syndrome which means my circulation is crap. I lose feeling in my extremities really quickly which is hard when you need to get some food out of a really little pocket!

What has been your best sport purchase below $100?

Probably decent socks. Injinji make toe ones (like gloves but for your feet) and once on they feel great. Other than that my favourite gear is the black and yellow SCOTT Race Concept (RC) range. It’s a case of look good and feel good.

Runner Jo Meek

What is your best advice for people new to the sport?

For new runners, I would recommend finding a goal first. Without one it can be hard to motivate yourself. It could be a park run or a half marathon or even an ultra. Start and build it up slowly and then your confidence builds too and you can dream big! We’re all capable if we set our mind to it.

As experienced runners, it’s easy to just focus on the goal and then if the race does not go according to plan you are really disappointed. My advice would be to remember to enjoy the journey of training. It took me ages to realise the importance of this and now I do going out for another run when tired never seems such a chore.

Runner Jo Meek
Mourne Moutanins, Ireland. Photo credit: Ian Corless

What will the future bring?

In 2018, I want to try my first 100miler. I’m entering the Ultra-trail Mont Blanc now I have accrued enough points.

I want to keep racing as competitively as I can and be the best I can. The beauty about ultra-running is often age is not a disadvantage because our aerobic system and mental resilience improves with years.

I have another niggle in my list of things to do and that’s to do an Ironman one day but for now I still love being challenged by ultra-running races.

Visit Jo Meek on her website and learn her future races and adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

One Comment

  1. We love you, Jo!!!!

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