The Checklist: Training and kit advice from an Olympic modern pentathlete

From favourite places to compete to the items she always carries around in her kit bag
The Checklist: Heather Fell

In our Checklist series of interviews, we feature amazing people doing inspirational things in the world of fitness and the outdoors.

This week, we speak to Heather Fell, a former British modern pentathlete and triathlete who competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics, winning the silver medal in the women's modern pentathlon event.

Heather is taking part in the Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones on the 4th and 5th of July. The race, which can be completed in one day or over two days will see more than 2,500 people run, jog or walk along the Ridgeway in Oxfordshire to the Avebury Stone Circle in Wiltshire.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sport has been and still is my life. I started out swimming and riding ponies from a very young age. This lead me into Modern Pentathlon and then onto triathlon. I currently work in sport as a presenter for a triathlon channel and am always targeting some sort of physical challenge.

What was the last thing you trained for?

Properly, that would have been Comrades Ultra Marathon in June last year, but I did put in a few swim sessions for the Dart 10k at the end of last summer too.

You’re taking part in this year’s Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones. What made you decide to take on the challenge?

I always like to have a physical goal, it keeps me sane and happy. It’s an event that caught my eye years ago and last year I saw world champion triathlete Chrissie Wellington took part just before running Comrades. This year I wanted something closer to home but still a challenge, and attempting 100k for the first time ticks that box.


Have you been involved in a similar race in the past?

Just the one ultra I ran last year in South Africa, but that was on road and just 87km.

What kind of schedule/program will you follow to prepare for it?

I am planning on preparing very similarly to last year expect with more off road running – which suits me, I just can’t wait for the trails to dry up a little so I can actually run rather than just slide.

I put quite an emphasis on strength and conditioning to enable my body to withstand the mileage. It’s very much about training for resilience for this sort of racing. I need to build up to several 100k weeks but it is a balance between getting in the miles, finding the time and staying injury free.

What are you most worried/concerned about in taking on the race?

Nutrition and keeping my stomach happy are my biggest concerns and something I certainly haven’t found the solution for yet. That and of course being able to run further than I’ve ever run before.

Do you have any advice for people that are maybe taking on the race in terms of mental preparation?

The race should be the “fun” part if you’ve trained hard enough. I don’t just mean doing a few tough sessions but getting out there when you don’t feel like doing it, training on tired legs at the end of a long day, in weather that is less favourable.

The Checklist: Training and kit advice from an Olympic modern pentathlete

I also rate doing some of your training alone with your thoughts – no music, no one to chat to. It gives you time to work out why you’re doing it and teaches you to deal with the monotony. When it comes to race day with fresh legs (at least at the start), with the atmosphere and so many people running with you, it will feel easy in comparison.

How will you celebrate after finishing the Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones?

I’m not sure how late it will be by the time I’m done but I would love to go for a wild swim then finish off with a pub lunch in a beer garden with friends, the perfect recovery.

What have you got coming up after the race?

I haven’t got that far but I might try and do a few smaller and shorter races, keep things local and find events that I can do for fun. I do have the 10k swim again so I’ll also need to get back in the pool or lake by then. That said, I would quite like to try and run a fast marathon before the year is out so I’ll just wait and see where my head is at after Race to the Stones.

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Training Kit

What are the key items in your kit bag?

This is really tough as I’m still experimenting so much with kit.

Item 1: Boudavida Spark Jacket in Black – It’s a waterproof running jacket that fits and you don’t notice you’re wearing it. I’m rubbish at getting out in the rain and this jacket really does help.

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Item 2: Polar Vantage V watch (in black and rose gold) – I have grown to love numbers. Not so much when running but analysing what you’ve done after is an incredibly satisfying. I’ve started using the recovery scores too, which are helpful to keep an eye on when checking the stress on your body from so many miles.

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Item 3: Buff headband – It’s UV protective, although sadly I seem to use it more to keep my ears protected from the elements and my hair from blowing in my face. When I get too hot it fits nicely on my wrist to save having to carry it.

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Item 4: Physio band – Can’t say I love it but I love the fact it helps keep my injury free. I try to use it before every long or fast run to activate my glutes.

Item 5: Golf ball and peanut – I get really tight plantar fascia in my feet when doing a lot of running and this is the perfect tool for releasing it.

I also tape two tennis balls together and use them to roll my back either side of my spine. It’s a lovely release.

What trainers do you use?

On Cloudsurfer. I run in a few different models from the On range depending on the surface and type of run. They are a brand partner through work but I do find they work for me and completed Comrades in a pair of Surfers.

The Checklist: Training and kit advice from an Olympic modern pentathlete


...I might swap into the trail shoe for Race to the Stones though depending on the conditions underfoot.

What apparel do you use?

I’ve already mentioned Boudavida. It’s kit designed by women and you can tell, it’s understated and fits so nicely. The kinetic leggings are my go to for any long run as they are just so comfortable.

What one item of your gear would you implore someone else to use?

Flip belt. I have only just been given this for my birthday but it’s so handy to be able to carry my phone and keys without weighing down pockets or carrying in my hand. Having Apple Pay with me has also come in handy when peckish at the end of a long run.

The Checklist: Training and kit advice from an Olympic modern pentathlete

Where’s the best place you ever trained or competed?

South Africa. The crowd there are amazing, that country just loves sport. And the food and wine is pretty fine too, makes for a good holiday after.

What’s the exercise you hate doing the most?

Swimming. I used to be a swimmer and it’s great cross training plus I like to enter events with friends but I do find it hard to make myself head to the pool for training.

Quickfire questions

What’s your ultimate workout song?

The Chemical Brothers – Hey Boy Hey Girl

How many push-ups can you do in one go?

30. That’s backing myself as haven’t tried for a while but I’m consistent with my bench press in the gym so on a good day I reckon 30.

If you could compete/train anywhere in the world where would it be?

New Zealand. That country has been on my bucket list since a child.

Who’s your fitness/sporting hero?

Jo Pavey. She’s represented GB at 5 olympics on the track, plus she’s from Devon (my home county).

Is there any sport you’re really bad at?

Gymnastics. Ever since I started to run more my flexibility has gone out of the window.

What’s your favorite post-competition/challenge meal?

Something with plenty of vegetables. It sounds boring but after training camps we always craved Wagamama.

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