International Women’s Day – Ann Johansson

20 April 2017 by
First published: 8 March 2016

Find out more about one of International Women’s Day’s most inspirational women – Ann Johansson.

Ann Johansson is an ultramarathon runner and the founder of fitness clothing range BoomBoom Athletica. Ann used sport as an escape from her busy career in banking and eventually began marathon training. To date, Ann has run 12 marathons including London, Berlin, New York and Boston, as well as ultra-marathons, even earning a Bill Rowan medal at the Comrades in 2010. These types of challenges take serious commitment, so we took the opportunity to ask one of International Women’s Day’s most inspirational women – Ann Johansson – how she does it.

Q. What inspires you to take on new challenges and test yourself?

A. My inspiration to take on a challenge is to test the limits of what I can achieve. I like to see what I am capable of doing. I like to set goals that are scary enough that I have to train on days when I would rather sit at home. Working towards a seriously challenging goal gives an added purpose. Of course achieving a goal is fulfilling but the journey towards the goal – the transformation that comes from committing, putting in the hours, and how you deal with the unforeseen obstacles – is the most rewarding in the long term.

Q. What’s your next challenge?

A. My next challenge is to run a faster marathon and, within a year, run another ultramarathon distance. I have had an injury, which has limited my training and put me back, so being injury-free allows me to train smart again.

Q. Can you share one of the more challenging situations you’ve found yourself in?

A. Training for my first ultramarathon and then actually running it, was continuously scary for a few months. I have never trained for a 90K race before, I had done marathons, which are hard enough, adding another marathon plus some was a different ball game. Even if I trained longer, harder and did all things right here in London, I was still going to be faced with a race course that was called Valley of 1,000 Hills, where the steepest, longest hills had names (like mountains) and the weather was hot and sunny. Again, not something London is known for during the winter…While this might not seem like a big deal, it could make or break out on the course, as your body reacts to the heat. This is a race I have an enormous amount of respect for. You can prepare yourself for months, do all the right things, and on race day something goes wrong and it is over.

Q. What did you do to overcome it?

A. I trained. I educated myself about the race course, I practiced and worked on all areas I had control over. I made sure I put in the distance, so my body could feel what it felt like, I did yoga and other cross-training exercises, to prevent injury, and I experimented with different fuel so I could find what worked best for me. All in all, I prepped.

Q. How did it feel?

A. I stood on the start line in a ball of shivering nerves. I was so nervous it took me a few hours into the race before my nerves were under control, only to exchange it for fear of not being able to finish. Crossing the finish was one of the most memorable moments of my life. Six months before I had no plans to run this race, I’d even go as far as to say I thought it was a bit crazy. Not only did I finish it, but I went back the following year for round two!

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges for women in sport? And what do you think we need to do to overcome them?

A. Be prepared to surprise yourself. Often we are too embarrassed or worried about what others will think that we don’t even give it a try. Everyone starts as a beginner, allow yourself to take a chance to try something new or to push yourself beyond what you thought you were capable of. Allow yourself to be scared. We often put limits in our head about what we can and cannot do. Push through those barriers and you’ll be surprised. You’re tougher than you give yourself credit for. In general, we’re too hard on ourselves – we want quick results and fixes and often we forget to enjoy the challenge we put in front of us. You’re going to have good days and bad days, but if you’re consistent then results will follow.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

A. Don’t walk away from your workout wishing you’d done more. Walk away know you did everything you could.