Author Archives: Lauren Hendry

About Lauren Hendry

I set up The Production Shed in 2013, to grow contemporary circus across the UK by working with companies making great work on a small scale. Previously, I trained at the National Centre For Circus Arts, and set up So & So Circus Theatre, with whom I created and toured shows for 6 years.

Here we go

hurdlesIt’s the eve of the World Ultra-MultiEvent Championships. I head off to Belgium tomorrow.

On this bank holiday weekend, two years ago, I sat idly watching the IAAF World Championships over a late-night take-away curry. With almost no idea what was going on, I Googled what events were in a heptathlon. I could not have imagined the road that this action led me down. It’s been quite a ride.

One of the joys of athletics fandom is seeing the stories form through the numbers. The constant pulse of the seasons. Rising stars and ageing athletes, clinging on for just one more season. The elation of surprise results and the devastation of the disasters.

Now I have my own numbers to worry about. Last year’s tetradecathlon at the European Championships gave me a benchmark of 4000 points. I will be fiercely competing against my former self- hoping for 5000, but will likely be some distance from the winner’s 8000+.

No matter how many times I’ve told people that I started all of this so that I could be 12th in the World (of 12)… the truth is that I’d be devastated to come last. I’d not even be that pleased with second last. It’s pretty frightening to put your goals out there, but I’m hoping for a top-ten finish.

This is all completely ridiculous, given that a) my initial desire was simply to finish, and b) most of these women have been training for this since birth. But after putting god-knows how many hours into it, one can’t help but care a bit.

Last weekend, I competed ten events and came last in all but two. I am constantly saying that I like to find the joy in coming last; but it’s a bit of an untruth. It was funny last year to come last- in my first season, the taking-part felt enough in itself. But what’s my excuse now?

So off I go. Off I go.

I’ve enlisted Arron to take photos of the most painful moments this weekend, lest I forget and sign up for something stupid again. If you want to see what’s going on, keep an eye on my Instagram.

World champs + World records

We’re in the midst of the World Championships- not the Ultra MultiEvents World Championships, but the geniune one; where athletes pick one or at a push, two events in which to compete with some level of competence.

Needless to say, I am binge-watching; both on TV and IRL. There has been a disappointing lack of new World Records so far; so instead, I’ve been looking at age-category records, particularly as a way to guage my own progress.

In my best event, 100m, I could have been beaten by both 8 year old Lauren Williams and 61 year old Karle Del Grande, who would both cross the line in 13.63. According to Power Of Ten rankings, this year, 149 British girls under-13 could have beaten me. Take that, child #150.

However, if we were to look at one of my weaker events, things look more miserable still. Let’s take 1500m. 5 year old Yasmin Lopez would have finished over 40 seconds ahead of me. I can take consolation in having a far better race with 75 year old, Elfriede Hodapp- who would still have won by 5 seconds.

Perhaps my best shot at a World Record would be to hang for another couple of decades, to claim the mysteriously missing (at least from Wikipedia) V50 record for 400m hurdles.

World youth records
World masters records


“Have you been trying to lose weight?” asked the nurse.
“I’ve been trying to run fast.”

I recently sat down with the multi-events calculator and last year’s results, to begin setting myself goals for each event in this year’s World Championships, in just under 100 days time. I charted last year’s results; what I thought I could comfortably assume I would achieve this season; and stretch-goals, which I might achieve in my wildest dreams with a lot of work.

I then travelled down to compete in the first Southern Athletics League meet of the season- and in my first event, 400m hurdles, took 6 seconds off last year’s time, trouncing my stretch-goal. Gosh.

I certainly didn’t start training for a tetradecathlon to lose weight, but it just so happened that around that time, Arron bought digital scales. I’d set an arbitrary target- a happy half-way between my weight then, and my weight as an acrobatic flyer.

For the first year of athletics training, the scales stayed firm, until the beginning of this year when things started to take a tumble. This month I hit that arbitrary target.

Perhaps I’m just bad at gauging where to place those goals.

New season

On the brink of the outdoor season, it feels as though this may be the calm before the storm of competition.

Next Saturday, the Southern Athletics League begins once more. This time, I will compete 100m + 400m hurdles, 100m (flat), triple jump, high jump and 4x100m relay. It’s an exciting sensation- not having the faintest idea what effect a winter of training will have on my results.

Last weekend, I went to my home track in Inverness, where Arron challenged me to a  time-trial over 800m. Having done a parkrun just an hour before (encouraging my 7-year old niece around the course for a big PB of her own), I wasn’t optimistic. Nevertheless, I somehow ran 10 seconds quicker than my previous best. Given this rather surprising result, I cannot wait to see if the winter slog has had a similar effect on my sprints.

This week I also travelled back to London, joining Heathside for a training session. I had the pleasure of answering questions from newer athletes, preparing to compete in their first seasons. Being a voice of relative experience in competition is both bizarre and delightful.

Looking ahead to the Tetradecathlon World Championships, just 4 months away, I’ve just had a pootle on the multi-event calculator to see where improvements could translate into the most points. Terrifyingly, one of the biggest areas for improvement looks like it is the 800m. If I were to run it as I did in Inverness last week, it would give me an extra 140 points- or 240 more if I can take off another 10 seconds. Given how infrequently I train the dreaded middle-distances, perhaps it’s time to bite the bullet. That horrible, pukey, concrete-legged bullet.



It’s been on the cards for many months- I now live in Glasgow.

Having felt like I struck it lucky having London Heathside as my local club down South, I’ve been very apprehensive about finding a new club in Glasgow which I’ll love as much.

During a visit last November, not knowing exactly where I would end up living, I tried a session with Victoria Park City Of Glasgow, based in the West of the city. Since deciding to move to the Glasgow’s Southside, I’ve been in touch with a more local club- Giffnock North AAC.

Giffnock North’s website showed groups of adults in the team kit, so I felt confident that it would be a similar set-up to Heathside. The club train at several school tracks during the summer season, having just come out from indoor training at Emirates Stadium over the winter.

This Tuesday, I arrived at Hutcheson’s Grammar School to an empty track. I had a bit of a bounce on the new and pristine surface before the coaches began arriving. Head coach, the aptly named Billy Glasgow, introduced me to the others- who in turn, assumed that I was there to become a coach. As the squad turned up, I realised why- I was the only adult there to train.

All the same, I began warming up with a gossiping gaggle of girls, mainly under 15s. When we were ready to run, I was introduced to the oldest pair in the group- both under 17s. I was to run with them.

2 x 4 x 200m.
“Around 85%, so coming in at 30 or 31 seconds,” Christine called.

30 seconds is my race-pace.

I began running with the older girls, but they quickly eased away from me. They seemed to find it so easy, and recover so quickly, whilst I gasped for air. After the third rep, I realised all was not so smooth for the youngsters after all, as one of them left to throw up.

On my fourth and final 200, I ran the bend smoothly, but as soon as I was on the straight, it felt like it would never end. I closed my eyes, willing the time away, but when I reopened them it was as if I’d gone nowhere. Aeons later, I struggled over the line and lay on the infield, exhausted. Billy came over to check I was ok- I felt that I had to remind him that I was double the age of these girls.

I was glad to have declared myself a multi-eventer, and had already planned to go to work on throws after the first set of sprints. Phew. In a 10 minute break, I lay on the floor in the school corridor, wondering how I was going to summon the power of both brain and body to change from spikes to trainers, let alone coordinate by body parts to throw a javelin. As I dragged myself upright, the girl who had just vomited skipped off for her second set of 200s.

James, a former softball player turned throws-coach, welcomed me and offered a choice of throwing implements. I took a javelin- 500g, rather than the 600g weight for senior women. I threw it, and as ever, it landed tail first.

James patiently worked through some techniques with me, resulting in quite a few legal throws- something I’ve barely managed in competition. It was great just to have the time and space to throw things- something which I haven’t had much of a chance to do in London. Throwing is where I hope the least amount of time/ training will result in the biggest jump in points in the Tetradecathlon- I see skinny girls throwing twice as far, so I’m hopeful that with a coach (and all the weights I plan to do now I live round the corner from the gym), I can double my distances.

Thursday- I headed down to Williamwood School track for the second session with GNAAC. Having to haul myself out of bed from an afternoon nap (or more accurately, Arron did the hauling), I felt more sprightly by the time I arrived. The session was to be:

4 x 100m

4 x 4 x 100m relays

The shape of the session, I realised, was very cunning. There were 8 of us. Placing the relay runs last meant there was no option of bailing early. I went for a true sprint finish as I ran the anchor leg on the final relay, and felt the joyous whoosh of the air passing my ears as I ran through the line.

I can’t say that I’m not sad that there’s not a thriving community of adults doing track & field at the club, but the younger girls have pace and endurance which will push me; and having the opportunity to work on one of my weaker events is a real draw. So I’ll see how things go over the next few weeks and months. I’ll also be travelling back to London every month, competing with Heathside at the Southern Athletics League meets once again.

Glasgow- I have arrived.

Nitro Athletics

The promise: “Athletics will be revolutionised.”

Created by Athletics Australia, Nitro presents a new style of team competition, mixing up track & field events including races such as mixed medley relays and seeded para-sprints. It’s all wrapped up with a very matey-feeling bow, with irksome live commentary from on the track played not only to TV-viewers, but also those in the stadium.

Looking at the schedule, I could not be more intrigued. Though I’m not a fan of the categories (is javelin not a power event?) I looked forward to an afternoon of such varied events.

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 19.27.16.png

I enjoy the non-traditional distances, which means there’s a greater mix of styles and tactics in the race. I had similar thoughts about last year’s Great City Games. In the Newcastle edition, the headline act was a 500m road race- with a supposed head-to-head between 400m specialist Martin Rooney, and 800m specialist, David Rudisha. Rooney strode out with confidence in the first 250m, but after 30 seconds seemed to stall, and lost it in the last 100m with both Rudisha and Mark English overtaking him and pulling away to first & second places respectively.

Back to Nitro in Melbourne, where the races began. The 6 teams are: Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, England (not team GB- though I’m sure they pine for Laura Muir in the 3 minute challenge & elimination mile) and “Bolt’s All-Stars”- curiously made up not of athletes only from the 191  countries without a team in Nitro- but also those pilfered from the 5 competing nations.

As Australia strode to victory in the first event, the mixed medley relay, one couldn’t help but feel that they have the massive advantage of being the home team. England’s team, led by Christine Ohuruogu, had barely another household name in it; seeming to use the new competition as experience for some less seasoned athletes. This meant some slightly odd draws, including 400m runner Hannah Williams sprinting in the 60m. I was, however, pleased to see Jo Blair compete in javelin. I had competed against her in my first javelin competition, which was probably the second time I had picked up the implement. Jo was disappointed to get just 45m. I was delighted to get 11m.

team_englandLive commentary was constant and dreadful. Presenters wandered freely on the track, repeatedly asking athletes about the ‘trash talk’ that had been going on. On Jarrion Lawson’s long jump, the presenters talked about his failure to win gold in Rio, as he stood preparing on the runway. He was clearly distracted by the commentary run through the loudspeakers, and signalled for it to stop. His gesture was ignored, and the commentator called to the crowd- “do we want to see 8m?” He continues to prepare. “25 seconds to go- he needs to take off.” He again tried to gather himself. “Wiggle. Wiggle. Wiggle- and launch.” Lawson fouled.

Perhaps the most interesting event was the elimination mile. Similar to elimination races in cycling, at the end of each 400m lap, the last competitor is eliminated. It is fantastic to watch but must be horrendous to run.

I looked eagerly to see what weird and wonderful events next week’s Nitro fixtures (9th & 10th Feb) would hold- and was disappointed to see that the events are almost the same. The para race is 200m instead of 100; there is a 4 x 400m instead of the medley; and the genders change on the field events and hurdles. I understand the desire to have fewer events to keep the pace going for TV- but why not change it up? Where is the hurdle shuttle-relay? 100m sprint with a shot-put at the end?

Nitro Athletics has been developed to increase the global profile of international athletic competitions. In addition to more traditional events, I’m sure it will do- though I certainly hope it won’t replace coverage of regular championships. I can’t help but feel that what I disdain about Nitro- the commentary, the bluster, the spin- is what they feel will attract a new audience to athletics. The irony is- I am a new audience.

I’ll be fascinated to see how Nitro pans out- with its ambition to become a brand of athletics meets which travels the globe to rival the Diamond League, pulling athletics out of the musty and corrupt closet- but I suspect the novelty may be over by this time next week.

Girls Run the World Runuary™

I forget when I first heard about Runuary- perhaps it was immediately after my New Years Day run, long scheduled in my holiday calendar – but it certainly caught me in that fleeting glimmer of optimism in the opening moments of 2017.

Organised by Hove-based organisation, Girls Run The World, Runuary was a running streak- not demanding any particular distance or speed, but just requiring you to run every day of the month. I was interested to see if I could get myself out the door, day after day after day.

On January 1st, I headed out for to parkrun on Southampton Common. I was running with Arron, who asked in advance what my PB was. 27m 45, I told him. He was going to look after the pacing so that I could attempt to go faster. Arron’s dad, Mike, came to support us, standing on a looping section, where we threw excess clothing to him as the quickening pace warmed our January cockles. In the final straight, I tried to sprint finish but found myself literally clinging to Arron’s shoulder gasping for help, struggling to move forward at all. Eventually I crossed the finish line, and almost needed help through the tunnel to pick up my token. 27m 33. I’d done it!

But my question was- how had I done almost that time on my own, over a year ago- before a year of sprint training had gotten me accustomed to almost vomiting from exertion? Once back home, I looked back over previous results to realise that I had totally imagined that time- my previous best was closer to 29 minutes. Whoops. No wonder the end was so hard.

The following day, I dutifully ran a hills session, as Mark had asked me to over the holidays.

Now I was back to training at Heathside 3 times a week- which meant dragging myself out to jog on the inbetween-days. Around day 7, with more than 3 weeks still stretching ahead, I began to wonder if I was made for this.

Initially 2 or 3k seemed like a ‘proper’ run, but as I reached towards the end of January, this was what I would do on my tired-days; or on the way to a circuits session. Three times over the final week, I ran the 6km to work- where I then taught acrobatics for 5 hours. I would never have been able to manage that a year ago.

The longest run, and perhaps my biggest achievement of the month was trying Cross Country for the first time. Heathside’s eager XC runners have baffled me since joining. Of all the events you could do, why choose the long, cold, wet, muddy one? Yet in a moment of madness, I messaged teammate Noelle (both a long-sprinter and XC runner) and offered her a lift to the Sunday League XC race in Watford. I was bound into it.

The night before the run, I dreamed that Noelle was giving the pre-race briefing, showing us how to crawl backwards through narrow, muddy tunnels. When I awoke to realise that the only thing I had to do was run (and forwards, at that!), it didn’t seem so bad- even as we drove to the race though the driving rain.

As the race started I discovered the first rule of cross country: keep your mouth shut. The mud from the majority of the 386 runners sprayed across the faces of those of us bringing up the rear. Up and down the slippery slopes of Whippendell Wood we went; supposedly 8k but in reality closer to 10k. Once again, Arron joined me for support, which was needed when my foot went numb and I needed to loosen my laces, but found that my fingers didn’t work anymore either.

IMG_0414.jpgWe crossed the line in 63 mins (versus the winning woman in 41), shocked to not quite be last- I was 364th. We did, however, come in late enough to miss the Heathside team photo; but we made it to the finish line with just a small amount of walking!

It was cold, wet, muddy and further than expected- but for some reason didn’t mind it too much- so much so that I’ve actually got the next and final fixture of the Sunday League in my diary. It was friendly, nobody seemed to care how slow I went and it felt like an achievement just to run, even being so close to last place.


A  weekend in Paris to watch Cirque De Demain threatened to derail Runuary- but I found there were 2 parkruns in the city. I chose the closest: Parc Montsouris; crawled silently around to try to get my running gear on without waking my room-mates; and headed to what I was sure would be a big event. I arrived to find the organiser, Kathryn, was from Yorkshire- who at 8.50am, was still on her own. She had set up the run just a few months ago, upon realising that both she and a fellow runner were commuting across Paris from the same block to attend the Bois de Boulogne run.

Come 9am, we were just 6 runners: 4 men, myself, and one other woman. For the first of 3 laps, I ran with the slowest man, Jeremy (a fellow Londoner, from the Ealing Eagles)- which was really a little fast, which resulted in slowing to a near stop on the long hill on the subsequent laps. All the same, I had the novelty of being the first female finisher.


31st Jan: I joined the Girls Run The World crew in Hove for the final 5km run along the seafront. In the driving rain, 60 women (and one man) donned head-torches & hi-vis for the last jog of the month. On the ultra-flat course, it took 27 minutes- faster than my parkrun PB, 30 runs prior.


Day after day, I managed to get out the house, start Strava and if it wasn’t pitch black, take a photo during the run. At first I felt almost outraged at fitting this new habit somewhere into my ever-changing schedule. By the end, it felt more natural. Commute to a meeting; run to pick up a parcel from the sorting office; get back home, immediately change and get back out again- snow, rain or shine. I was certainly aware that my body had not had a day off- feeling sluggish and worried that pushing myself might cause injury- but my outlook has changed. With regular running, a run can be just a run. Not a disastrous time, nor an amazing one. Just a functional run. Another small piece of the puzzle.

The last event of the TetraDecathlon is 3000m. Last year, for the final 5 laps I walked 200m/ ran 200m. The 13 prior events are no walk in the park but I at least feel that, thanks to Runuary, 3k in itself won’t break me now.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Today came the first enjoyable sprint session since… 2016.

As I approached the dark track, I wondered ‘have I got the right day?’ The floodlights were off, and I couldn’t see anyone running. With feet already sodden from the walk in, I stepped on the track and realised there was a good inch of slush covering it. I trudged a very slow and careful lap in an attempt to warm up, but quickly retreated to the gym to do drills.

The session was to be 400m, 300m, 250m, 200m, 150m, 100m.

Last time I did a full lap, besides warming up, was in the one-hour decathlon back in September; but once outside in the cold, we were more than keen to begin quickly. We were 3 pairs: Jaime & Jeremy out front; Giulia & Jenna, who joined us this week; Gocke & I at the back, with Mark following (then overtaking)   us.

Now- Jenna is much younger than I, and sprinted a lot as a teenager. However- I suddenly felt extremely competitive for the first time in months. I would not be beaten by somebody on her first sprint session here. Starting a second behind her, I stayed on Jenna’s heels through the first 200m. Around the second bend, I eased to her right- something I am absolutely not accustomed to doing- and accelerated through the finishing straight. I found it curiously satisfying to run the full lap with 3 women, much closer to my ability than in previous 400m races (when I’ve been running my own slow-race). Suddenly almost understood the enjoyment of the longer sprints- or at least the tactics involved.

With the 400m done, the back of the session was broken; and with each sprint getting shorter, I felt able to push myself in each run without worrying about simply finishing the session, as I have done every week since the autumn break.

For the final 100m, we ran a men’s and a women’s race, so the 4 of us ran together. It was really exciting to feel the thrill of a 100m race after 4 months. Form, I am sure, went out the window as I scrapped with Giulia to what would have been a photo-finish.

Back into the gym for a flask of tea, dry socks and a stretch- happy days.
It’s back on.

In the bleak mid-winter

We’re now in the depths of winter training. Or at least, I hope we are.

I’ve just read a blog post from Elise Downing, who ran 5000 miles around the coast of the UK with her kit on her back. When she got to Swansea heading North, she decided she would cycle, rather than run the coast of Scotland.

I feel like I’m in Swansea.

I guess it’s been a slightly more emotional time than average. My job finished (I was maternity covering); a family friend died;  and I’ve decided to move out of London- the city I’ve called home for all of my adult life. But all the same, I’m not sure how normal it is to be doubled over, weeping on the track, after a few 200m reps.

Every session, the distances get longer and reps get more. Any small gains in fitness are quashed by the struggle to keep up with the pace of change, and the pace of the group. Mark tells me over and over to left my knees and flex my feet, but in the struggle to keep moving, I’m just not able to lift them any more.

But Elise Downing passed Gretna Green and she kept running; and so I will too. Not 5000 miles, mind- but I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Winter training begins

In a brief 6-week break before the winter season starts (consisting mainly of sitting on the sofa, watching the West-Wing and eating crème brûlée or an entire bag of prawn crackers) it’s time to get back into the swing of things.

Things have definitely slid since the summer, but it’s made to feel worse by the onset of winter training. Before this year, I had never given a thought to how track-training might change with the seasons; I thought I just found it harder at the start, and then it got easier as I got fitter. Not so. My first track session at New River totalled 1600m. The last was just 300m.

So although we are getting ‘gently’ back into it, training this week has felt tough. Back to longer sprints on the track and on the hills, and more of them. With many months until the next race, this is perhaps the most difficult period of the training calendar- nothing imminent to focus on or to lift the spirits; and nothing but dark nights and freezing mornings ahead.

At the start of the break, it felt odd not to train. I had re-assessed my initial pledge to myself: that I would train for at least the 8 months up until the European Champs, and then see if I still wanted to do it. Towards the end of the season, during warm and bright evening sessions with just a few short and speedy sprints- I wondered why I would even question doing another year of this.

But now, in the cold, wet days of grim training, and hovering to the side, wanting to vomit… it’s a lot harder.

The 2016 season in numbers:

162 training hours
15 days of competition
60 events entered
Power Of 10