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Running Feat meets...Mel C


She wasn’t called ‘Sporty Spice’ in her girl band days for nothing and now Melanie Chisholm is living up to her nickname by taking part in the Great North Run. The singer, 39, is aiming to raise more money than former 400m runner Iwan Thomas at the half marathon (meanwhile he will be fundraising at the Great South Run).

Running Feat caught up with Mel ahead of her challenge to find out how she fits training into her schedule as a working mum and whether she can tempt any of the other Spice Girls to take up running…

How are you feeling about running the Great North?

It will be the furthest I’ve run in my whole life! I have been having lots of fun in the triathlon and enjoying the different disciplines of the swim, bike and run but I have never done long distances. I have always wanted to do a half marathon but I am putting myself in the deep end with the Great North as it’s the biggest half in the world, everyone knows about it and it’s not an easy course, it’s quite undulating. Iwan’s told me it’s really hard but I’m not sure if he’s just psyching me out! I am nervous about the distance. Five miles to me is a long way and now I have to double that and do a bit more. But I think a lot of it with me is psychological.

You raced five miles at the National Lottery Anniversary Run, how did you find that?

It was incredible starting at the front with Paula Radcliffe and Victoria Pendleton but it meant faster people were behind me so I was getting passed the whole way which was slightly demoralising. But you just have to know your own pace with a race like that and not get carried away.

How hard will you train for the Great North?

I have been training for the triathlon so I have a general level of fitness but over the summer I’ll be following a training programme for the half marathon. I take these things quite seriously as I really want to give it a good go.

How often do you train at the moment?

I go the gym twice a week and do body conditioning and strength work and yoga. I also go out on the bike and do some swimming but it will be getting more specific with the distance training and doing longer runs. I currently run about three times a week.

Any time in mind you’d like to achieve?

I’m hoping sub two hours but we’ll see.

Is anyone coaching you?

No, but Iwan and I may do some training runs together and he’s done lots of halfs and marathons so I can learn from him. I also have other friends who have run long distances so I can ask their advice – maybe I’ll call Paula Radcliffe!

Could you be tempted to run the London Marathon next year?

Possibly! I have always been jealous of people who do it as it’s such an amazing event. But let’s see how the half goes first. I have so many friends who have done the London Marathon and I have so much respect for them. I’m not sure if psychologically I could do it.

What do you enjoy about running?

It’s a great time for me to think. If you have a busy job or stressful life or you are a parent, then running becomes your ‘me’ time. It gives you time to think so it’s really positive not only for your physical health but for your head. I’ve found so many benefits from running.

What don’t you like about running?

When it hurts! And sometimes just that first 20 minutes when you’re getting into it before you feel good and get into the zone. But once you get there and the endorphins start flying round the body, it’s such a great form of exercise.

How do you stay motivated?

I’m lucky because I enjoy it so it has become part of my weekly routine. I say to people who want to get fit then ‘just pop to the gym and do 20 minutes’. After that you may want to do more or you may have had enough and want to go home. I think it’s about not putting pressure on yourself and listening to your body and sometimes you can surprise yourself.

What advice would you give someone who is not sure if running and racing is for them?

I have done two racing events this year so far and it’s been so much fun. The camaraderie is brilliant between people. It’s a great way of making friends and keeping fit so don’t be intimidated by it. I did a women’s only triathlon at Dorney Lake in Windsor and it was women of all ages and all levels of fitness. For some of them it was their first triathlon and I just thought ‘good on you!’ So get out there, there’s so many sports available to people so find something that works for you.

How do you fit the training in?  

It can be tricky and that’s what stops me training as much as I would like. My daughter is my priority but I have when she is at school to train. Like everyone I just have to try and fit it in. I’m lucky in the respect that I don’t have a 9-5 job so sometimes I will have a morning or afternoon free.

What advice would you give to people who do have 9-5 jobs?

Then it is harder and it becomes a real commitment but I’d say arrange to go with friends in the evening so it becomes social and more fun. I often find when I run with friends the time passes more quickly. Or join a running club as then you can train with like-minded people.

Competitive: Mel C is hoping to raise more money than Iwan Thomas at the Great North Run

Have you inspired Scarlett to take up sport?

She’s proud of her mummy and she loves it when I bring home a medal but she’s more interested in being a fairy or a mermaid at the moment! She also loves coming to watch me when I sing on stage. Following the London 2012 Olympics, I think it’s great she and other young girls have sportswomen like Jessica Ennis-Hill to look up to. These are talented women who are healthy and determined, they are better role models than other people today who are just famous for being famous.

Has your body shape changed since you’ve started running more?

Yes, I would say running is the exercise that changes your body the quickest once you start doing it as you are burning fat. I’ve found I am more defined now and toned. Sometimes it can be hard to get clothes to fit my arms but then I just get the guns out!

What about your diet, has that changed since you’ve been running more?

It’s just a case of making sure you have enough fuel when you are demanding more of your body. So I am having more carbs for energy. I also have to make sure I eat regularly and never leave long gaps so I always have something in the tank.

Are you a fan of certain diets?

I have done the Alkaline Diet before we went on tour with Jesus Christ Superstar. I’m really into eating to benefit what you were doing and it was recommended to me so I tried it. I enjoyed it and it gave me a lot of energy.  It’s basically vegetarian and involves taking acid out of your diet, so no meats or processed foods. It’s the things we know anyway about not eating things that are bad for you and sticking to whole grains, soya and pulses. But it’s hard to stick to when barbecue season hits as I do like a burger!

So do you prefer to exercise and eat healthily to stay in shape rather than diet?

Yes, as when you are exercising you can be more relaxed about your diet. When you are in the public eye there is a lot of pressure to stay slim and look a certain way but if you are active and eating well then most of the time it takes care of itself. I’d say to young girls it’s always better to exercise and eat healthily than diet. There are no quick fixes, diets really don’t work. Instead I try and eat healthily in the week and then at weekends I’ll be more relaxed and have an ice cream or chips or whatever I fancy. There are times when I was younger when I have gone with the trends and tried different diets. I did a low carb one once but that made me feel awful because I am so active. I couldn’t do the Fast Diet! You learn what works for you, I like to eat regularly.

The race is on: Unlike Iwan, Mel hasn't run a half marathon before but she hopes to finish in under two hours

How Sporty were you when you were in the Spice Girls?

I have always been sporty so the name suited me. When I was younger I was a dancer and I did a lot of gymnastics. I used to run at school doing cross country and hurdles. I also love watching sport so it’s always been a big part of my life. I’m probably fitter and sportier now than I ever was though. As I’ve started to compete it’s made me train harder.

Any plans for a fitness fashion range?

No I’ll leave that to my friends like Victoria Beckham who are good at fashion!

Could the Spice Girls ever reform?

We’d never want to get back together on a permanent basis but it’s great when we can get together and perform once and a while like we did at the Olympics closing ceremony. Although it’s hard to even match our schedules up to go to dinner! Geri and my little girls are good buddies so I see here a lot of her and Emma and hopefully I’ll see Victoria more now she’s moving back to London.

Could you get them running out with you?

Emma has hinted at it! Geri walks and does yoga and Emma goes to the gym. But she’s keen to start running so I’ll have to get her out

At this year's Great North Run, Mel is raising money for Shelter using her Vodafone JustTextGiving code. If you would like to donate to Mel, please text MELC74 £3 to 70070. To sign up for a free personalised JustTextGiving code to help with your fundraising visit www.JustTextGiving.com