She may be known for her modelling career, TV presenting and being the body of Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider video games, but Leeds-born mum of two Nell is also a bona fide running superstar.
She’s also just released an excellent new book – Nell McAndrew’s Guide to Running. It’s one of the most pragmatic, down-to-earth manuals we’ve seen in a while, featuring unflinchingly practical advice on everything running.She’s been running for 12 years now and has an incredible PB of 2:54:39 in the London Marathon – to put that into context, she was the 46th fastest woman out of more than 13,000. Yep, speedy.
Nell has an incredible PB of 2:54:39 in the London Marathon
The section specifically for women is particularly great, detailing how to run when menstruating, how to run during pregnancy, after childbirth and when going through the menopause.
Unbound caught up with Nell (we had to jog really chuffing fast to manage it) to check out her excellent tips.
Nell’s guide to starting running
“Running is accessible to almost everybody because you don’t need much fancy equipment or to shell out for expensive gym fees – just whack your trainers on, step out of your front door, and you’re off.
Running is accessible to almost everybody because you don’t need fancy equipment or expensive gyms
“I started out by jogging round a local park about 12 years ago. Gradually, I built up my distance, and eventually began to prepare for my first marathon in 2004. Around this point I realised I was going to need some support, so I joined a running club.
“I was so nervous on the way to my first meet, totally cacking myself thinking that everyone would be really fast, and ambitious in a cut-throat, aggressive way. In fact, it was welcoming and unintimidating – it introduced me to a fantastic community of people.”
Nell’s guide to pulling and parkrun
Lucy, who helped me write my book, met her partner at a running group – so it can even help you pull!
“I really recommend getting involved in parkrun, who organise weekly, timed 5km runs in parks all over the world. They’re a great way of making jogging sociable and tracking your progress. parkruns are free and organised by volunteers, so they’re a good way to be competitive (if that’s what you want) without having to fork out.
“Plus, Lucy Waterlow, who helped me write my Guide to Running, met her partner at a running group – so they can even help you pull!”
Nell’s guide to running when you’ve got kids
“If you can’t get anyone to look after your kids for an hour or so, then get them involved with your exercise regime. At parkrun last weekend there were several mums and dads running while pushing buggies, and with dogs on leads.
I’d stash my skipping rope and hand weights in the pushchair and use it as a mobile gym
“You can get pushchairs specifically designed for running with, which cushion the baby’s head and are easy to push over different terrains. I used the BOB Ironman Stroller when my daughter Anya was small; I’d stash my skipping rope and hand weights in the storage compartment, and use it as a mobile gym!
“Be aware, though, it’s not recommended to run with infants until they’re at least six months old and can sit up unaided.
“If your children are older, try giving them pocket money to ‘coach’ you. I pay my 8-year-old son Devon £2 pocket money to jot down my distances and timings at a track near me. Public running tracks are criminally underused – they can be empty in the middle of the day, and they’re often funded by taxpayers’ cash, so get down there and get your money’s worth.”
Nell’s guide to staying motivated
“Running’s much more versatile than people assume. Your goal doesn’t just have to be to get faster or travel further; you can pledge to explore a different part of the UK with each race, for example.
Flying across snow-topped country hills with the wind whipping round my ears was so invigorating
“I couldn’t commit to a marathon this year so I promised myself I’d mix things up with some off-road competitions instead. It was daunting, as I registered on my own – no friends to accompany me – but flying across snow-topped country hills with the wind whipping round my ears was so invigorating.
“I used to run on treadmills, but I find jogging outside far more interesting – there’s lots more to look at, even if you do have to put up with rain, dodging dog poos and avoiding wonky pavement slabs!”
Nell’s guide to running for stress
I depend on running to keep me sane! If I can’t get out to run I feel like I’ve got a snake curled up inside me
“I depend on running so much now to keep me sane! If I can’t get out to run I feel like I’ve got a snake curled up inside me. I get all wound up and grouchy.
“I think it’s a very basic human need to want to expel energy, to feel free in an open space. I instantly feel more calm, happy and confident after a jog.
“I’ve used running to help me process grief, too. I was very close to my granddad – we were born on the same day and shared a special bond – and after he died I used to run the same route through London every day.
Running was a coping mechanism when my dad was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2003
“At first, I couldn’t get past this one spot by the River Thames without crying, as I’d imagine him sitting there, but having the time alone on my head to think and run and meditate on my sadness was very helpful.
“Running was a coping mechanism when my dad was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2003 too (he’s now in remission, thankfully). It’s so good for your mental health.”
Nell McAndrew’s Guide to Running, published by Bloomsbury Sport, is available to buy now for £12.99