Francesca Eyre: From non-runner to ultra runner/cyclist/ski-tourer
Danielle Sellwood // April 10 2018
As part of our #FindingEmpowerment project, Danielle spoke to Francesca Eyre who didn’t discover sport until after she’d had three children but now takes part in ultra endurance events.
“I can’t run, my boobs are too big”
Francesca Eyre wanted to lose a bit of post pregnancy weight, but didn’t think she could possibly be a runner. That was, until, a sporty friend told her to “stick on two bras”, before taking her on a 5km trail run, during which she insisted Francesca talk to her the whole way round.
“There you go – you can run!”
Francesca was hooked immediately, she entered a 10km as something to aim for, then followed up with a half marathon or two. Francesca is based in the Alps, so when winter arrived she entered a ski tour* race to help maintain fitness. Now she’s completed several ultra events including the epic 220km Manaslu Trail Race in Nepal.
When you’re on the start line of an event, how do you feel?
“Before any event I have very little confidence in myself because I have very limited time to train. So I am always very scared, very nervous. I am scared of letting people down. But I’m also very competitive, so I want to do well and give it my best.
I am always very humbled too. My mum passed away in her 40’s from Cystic Fibrosis and didn’t get a chance to live her life, so now I live my life to the full for those who can’t – including both my sister and brother who also died from the disease. I can breathe, so I appreciate that and make sure I use the opportunities I have.”
Do you wish you had found running earlier in your life?
“I think it was always there, I just didn’t know it, so if I’d had the opportunity to do this at a younger age I would have done much more. I know I would have benefitted, not just physically, but mentally too.
Right now, it’s hard to get the balance right. Like so many people I am juggling too much – I’m a parent and I run a business and I’m surrounded by people all the time. To be able to put my head torch on and head out into the dark for an hour just gives me the space I need, it makes me stronger and means I am a much better person.”
How does the experience of completing an endurance event help your everyday life?
It’s hugely empowering to know that I can finish these epic races, but also that I am self-sufficient. When you are in the mountains you’ve got to be very aware of what’s going on around you, they can be a very dangerous place summer or winter. You’ve got to check and understand the weather, ensure you have the right equipment and be able to use it. To be able to do all this has made me more confident. I’ve seen and experienced amazing things and am so appreciative of that, it has made me recognise what I have.
What are your strategies for competing an ultra event?
I’m happy to plod, that’s my strength - I can just keep going. I love going up hill, so when it gets steep, I start overtaking, I focus on the person ahead and pass them one by one.
When the going gets tough and I start to get bad messaging in my head I normally eat something, it’s very often a sugar low that is causing the negative thoughts. Then if that doesn’t do it then I just have to give myself a good talking to – I remind myself that I have two legs that will get me round and then look at the view to take my mind off it. Sometimes I have a cry if I need to, but mostly the scenery gets me through. These events take me through incredible terrain and I feel like such a small being in a great big landscape, which is so humbling.
Do you think women approach these events differently to men?
I partner with guys a lot, they are generally faster than me, but I have the mental toughness to get to the end. So I slow them down at the start, but then I get them to the finish. I never want them to forget I am a woman, but equally I don’t want to be treated differently, we have mutual respect for each other’s strengths.
Do you see yourself as a role model?
One thing I really, really hope is that I can give inspiration to other women. Whatever level that is. I am a normal person, I am not an athlete, I am a normal mum who goes out and does these things because it’s a mental release and it keeps me fit and healthy for my kids as they grow up.
It’s also important to me to set a good example to my children – despite being very sporty themselves, they still have a respect for what I have done.
Francesca is the Founder and Owner of Chilly Powder: www.chillypowder.com
Watch: Want to know more about Francesca? Press play below:
The idea of sport as ‘empowering for women’ is internationally recognised as an important one,“Sport has huge potential for empowering women and girls” UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri. At Find It Film our mission is to use film, workshops and events to inspire, encourage and showcase women and girls as role models in the pursuit of getting more people active in sport and outdoor adventure. So it matters to us that we understand more about this idea of ‘empowerment’, directly through the experiences and stories of women and girls. If you have a story that needs to be hear then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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* Ski Touring is a way of getting across the mountain without using any ski lifts (similar to Backcoutry skiing). Skiers use a normal ski boot with a pivot toe and regular ski with fabric cover.