When ultramarathon runner Lucy Bartholomew isn’t out pounding a trail, you’ll probably find her whipping up a post-run plant-based treat. We were lucky enough to chat with this incredibly humble human, who thinks nothing of a quick 25km trail run before a (vegan) breakfast…
Tim: What is ultra running? Can you describe what competing in an Ultra is like or compare it to anything else?
Lucy: An ultra is technically anything that’s over the 42.2km distance of a marathon. For me what it’s about is not so much the journey of running from place to place but more the journey of mentally, emotionally as well as physically coping with running those kinds of distances. Obviously if you run 100km you learn a lot about yourself. Everyone has their own Everest. For some it’s a 5km parkrun and for others it’s crossing the road.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever run?
My longest run was the TDS in France which is 120km long and part of the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. Leading up to this run I was training for 160km and aiming to complete it in 20 hours because I don’t like night running. When the races get longer, the chance the sun will go down is always increasing.
There’s something special about running through the bush, is that what drew you to trail running?
I first got into running, when I was 15, because of my dad. He was running marathons because he wanted to see the cities he was running through. As he got slower and his personal bests weren’t coming, he started running longer instead. He entered the UTA 100 in Katoomba, I came along, loved the people and the landscape and fell into trail running.
When I started running I absolutely hated it! I played netball and I was the lazy kid who sat under the ring to get the goals, just cherry picked. For me it’s not so much about being a runner, it’s about being strong enough mentally to not stop. People say, “You’re so talented”. I say, “Dude, I’m just stubborn”.
Where’s your favourite place to trail run in Australia?
The Blue Mountains for sure. I ran the UTA last year and spent a few months there training. It’s such a beautiful, unique area. There’s nothing else like it in Australia. It’s where I started running and it’s always so nice to come back.
I saw that you’ve been eating and training on a plant-based diet. What inspired that choice and did you notice any changes?
I ate meat for 16 years and now I’ve been veggie for 3 years and plant-based the last 2 years. The biggest benefit I’m noticing is my ability to recover and race and train at a high level. I have a lot of energy. I really enjoy this way of eating. I don’t feel the need to eat meat but it was provided by mum when we were at home so growing up it was just the default.
When I started to change the way I was eating I was told, “You’re a female trying to run, you need iron you need all of this stuff, you need to replace food groups with tablets to replace the nutrients.” But I don’t take any tablets, my blood is taken every 2 months for anti doping and I’m fine.
When you’re not running, what else are you up to?
Eating! I spend a whole lot of time in the kitchen and I’d love to put together a recipe book.
I recently ran a running and health retreat in the Dandenongs. The theme of the retreat was becoming a well-rounded athlete and I held it at a place called the Beet Retreat.
The people we had on the weekend were so diverse, but it’s like we were on the same page of different books. We had strong runners, intro runners, paleo people, plant-based people. This time round we had 15 women and 3 men. The common thread is that they follow me on Instagram so they align with something of my passion.
The beauty of bringing a group together like this was to see where people bond and where they conflict and it becomes an experience where everyone just learns. Sharing your journey on a deeper level, not just the surface can be a wonderful learning experience.
Do you always plan out a route for a run, or do you ever just see where your legs take you?
I am definitely someone who will just see where the wind blows. On the camp I didn’t even know where we were going. I’d be like, “Just pack a lunch.” And off we’d go. For me this is the best way to enjoy running and find yourself. You have to get lost to get found. You can find your full abilities in that freedom.
What’s your psych up song?
I do love a good running playlist. Anything’s good but my guilty pleasure is Ed Sheeran. He doesn’t get your heart pumping but his music sets me in a good mood.
If you had any advice for any of our readers looking to get into trail running, or push longer distances, what would it be?
I could write a book! But for starters take your watch off, put your shoes on, go with a friend and just get outside. That expectation of time goes out the window on trails. It’s amazing what you can do, it’s not repetitive motion.
So are you always this chill, even on the trail? Or do you get competitive in races.
I definitely started trail running to complete rather than to compete. During the last 4-5 races of last year and the first one of this year though I got more competitive. It was like I just had 1 more gear.
Where are you running next?
I’ll be doing the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run on June 24th, in California. It’s the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race and only about 350 runners get in out of 5000 applicants, so I’m really excited to get to take part.