Emmie Collinge: Winner in Valtellina

Posted: April 28, 2015 in News
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Stair climbing in the UK doesn’t yet enjoy the popularity it has in other parts of Europe and around the world. For years now our best climber, “The Marauder” Mark Sims has been holding his own against the best in the world. But apart from Sims, British athletes haven’t experienced that much success at global tower running events. Lately, Paul “The Puppet Master” Faulkner and “The Manchester Myth” Andi Jones have been performing excellently at races in the Emirates, and former Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington managed third place at ESBRU in 2012. But, given the UK’s rich sporting history and broad base of athletic talent it is surprising we haven’t had more success.

Could that be about to change?

Two weeks ago, British athlete Emmie Collinge stormed to victory at the inaugural Valtellina Vertical Tube Race in Italy, in what was her very first stair running event. We don’t use that word “stormed” lightly either. She finished 7th overall, ahead of seasoned stair runners such as Tomas Celko, Dario Fracassi and Milan Wurst! She was nearly a full two minutes faster than the second placed lady! Bear in mind it was her very first stair climb and, as it happens, she turned up at the event in jeans just to cheer on her boyfriend, before getting swept up by the imposing challenge of the course and dashing off to buy a pair of shorts so she could race. Incredible!!


Emmie Collinge on the climb to victory at Valtellina

To those with an interest in running in the UK, her success may not come as that much of a surprise. Emmie is a highly accomplished athlete with numerous victories to her name. Last summer she won the Lago di Como (65km) and Lago d’Orta (55km) ultramarathons, and in October she was victorious at the very competitive Red Bull Steeplechase (21miles) in the Peak District, winning the women’s section by almost 30minutes. She has a variety of other mountain and road race victories as well, so her caliber is well established. It is well worth reading this article she wrote for the Guardian newspaper about one of her skyrunning experiences.

We caught up with Emmie after her win at Valtellina to find how she found the stair running experience.

TRUK: Hey Emmie, congratulations on your fantastic debut. We know this hasn’t come out of nowhere so can you tell us a bit about your athletic background?

E.C: I ran a lot when I was younger but as soon as I went to university I started to neglect the sport a little. Over the past few years I’ve been slowly getting back into it. I did my first road marathon in October 2013 and that was probably when I first started training ‘seriously’ again. Last spring we moved to the border between Italy and Switzerland for work. Living in the mountains has been really inspiring, and for the first time I started to really enjoy running – for running’s sake and not for competition.

TRUK: How did you find out about the race at Valtellina? Did you do any stair specific workouts in the lead up to it?

E.C: The organisers of the Valtellina Vertical Tube (Marco De Gasperi and Emanuele Manzi, amongst others) also organised an amazing race last November called the Valtellina Wine Trail (21km and 42km), which was such a special race as you ran through wine cellars, past giant barrels, through vineyards etc). Quite unlike any race I’d ever done. Then in March they organised yet another storming race, the Santa Caterina Winter Trail, just 14km at 1,700m across the snowy mountains – incredible. So we knew that the Tube Race was set to be something pretty special.

I was never actually planning to do the race as I’ve been struggling with feet trouble since mid-January and thought that steps would seriously aggravate it. I travelled up there with my boyfriend in jeans and normal ‘street’ trainers but it was so sunny and once we saw the tube from a distance it was just too tempting! So I quickly popped into a shop and bought some shorts, borrowed my boyfriend’s club vest and decided to do it. I had been advising my boyfriend for the past 6 weeks to practice steps but we don’t have many near us and he didn’t think it would be that useful.

TRUK: So what does a typical week of training look like for you?

E.C: When my feet are normal I run every day, usually about 10-12 hours a week. I’d love to do more but work commitments keep me tied to the computer for too long each day. I rarely do intervals or road sessions, but I love running uphill on the small, but incredible, mountain behind our house.

TRUK: Can you describe the race for us, please? How did you pace it?

E.C: Normally I get really nervous but as I went to the race completely unprepared – I considered myself quite unfit so wasn’t expecting anything spectacular – I was far more relaxed than usual.

I started off running two at a time, but only very briefly! Then I just tried to be as light as possible and keep running. The crowds were incredible and that really helped – although perhaps too much initially as I think I started a bit quick. After a while I ended up a bit like a monkey and clambered, trying to spring up two at a time. It was so steep that I had to have my hands on the steps in front. Stumbled a few times as soon as I lost concentration. It was quite scarily steep! Not knowing where the finish was, or having any idea of how long it should take me, it was quite hard to judge my pace and I had more capacity left in me when I finished.

TRUK: What are your plans for the future now? Do you think you will be signing up for more stair runs, or are they just something you might do occasionally between your main races?

E.C: Definitely quite curious to try some stair races, I like my running to stay varied and fun so they’d be a welcome variation.

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  1. Coin Haggie says:

    Hi Emmie, so pleased you stuck with the sport, your performances are inspiring, as many of us at Gosforth Harriers remember your tentative start after finishing Uni, keep
    the passion, Regards Colin H.

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