Editor of Women’s Running magazine, Esther Newman, celebrates all women who run, and passionately believes that running has the power to achieve much greater things than just physical fitness, from mental health awareness to wider social change. Since taking on the editorship, she has been keen to promote inclusivity in running, striving to ensure that the magazine is representative of race, gender identity, sexuality, body shape and age, and that its content appeals to all runners, from Couch-to-5Kers to ultrarunners. Having run regularly since the age of 11, she has only recently decided to call herself a runner rather than a “plodder”, in an effort to persuade every woman who runs to take on the same label. With a handful of 10Ks and half marathons under her belt, this year she will be attempting her first marathon.
Esther is doing a LIVE Q&A with Jordan Foster (@projectmarathongirl) at 12pm today on our Instagram page and we also caught up with Esther to find out how she is coping with being the Editor of our favourite magazine, alongside training, homeschooling and lockdown.
1) You still have a magazine to put together so how are finding the lockdown and balancing it with work, family life?
I’m finding lockdown life sort of more simple and sort of more challenging at the same time. Like most parents out there, I’ve found home schooling tough, but at the same time (on reflection) it’s been lovely to spend more time with the kids and basically get to know them better. But juggling family and work has been tough, guilt-ridden, and it’s sometimes hard to draw lines between the two. Trying to fit in running around all of that has been just as tough. The guilt at taking time for me – as well as taking time to work – is huge. But I know many people out there will understand all of that!
2) Are you finding you are running more since lockdown started or have you lost your mojo?
Running in lockdown has been very up and down. Right at the start of lockdown, I ran the Bath Half and managed to do something ouchy to my achilles. So I didn’t run at all for the first two weeks. I started again after that, went hell for leather for a week, and then screwed my ITB. In the middle of that, I slipped a disc. I wasn’t very happy for a while. The past two weeks have picked up: I’ve started running a little with my son, who’s 7, and who took on the Schools Half Marathon, so we started off walk/running a mile a day, and that turned out to be great physio for the grumbling ITB and delicate back. I’m now doing three runs a week, with a load of Zoom bootcamps thrown into the mix. It’s the only thing that’s keeping me sane.
3) Have you been joining in with the PE with Joe Wicks classes or joined any other online class?
Our use of online classes has been patchy. Joe Wicks lasted one day, poor sod. My kids are too young I think. We’ve done a lot of Cosmic Kids Yoga, which is BRILLIANT, a little bit of running, and some bouncing on the trampoline. And we were given some roller skates last week, so we go out to accumulate grazes on knees and develop our PMAs.
4) Has anything about your attitude towards the lockdown surprised you?
I’m not sure my attitude to lockdown has been surprising really, but sticking to bootcamp five times a week has been a little bit! I guess I was surprised how depressing the concerns about food shortages made me, something I didn’t realise until my husband turned up with five full bags of food from a shop he’d done in Sainsbury’s with a full mask on, which resulted in me bursting into tears. I hadn’t left the house for two weeks at the start of lockdown and had visualised a zombie apocalypse and bare shelves. When it turned out you could actually buy food, and actually rather lovely food too, I felt a lot better.
5) If you woke up tomorrow and everything was completely back to normal, where is the first place you would head to?
If I woke up tomorrow and everything was completely back to normal, the first place I’d go to is round to a friend’s house, who lives about five minutes away, for a really, really big hug and a massive glass of wine and a bit of a cry.
6) Have you discovered a new hobby since lockdown?
I haven’t really discovered any new hobbies in lockdown. But I’ve rediscovered the comfort of reading, and have been doing a lot more of that, which I hugely appreciate – both for its immediate rewards and for the fact that it gives me better sleep. I’m cooking more, as everyone is, and my burpees have improved. Not sure I’d call any of those a hobby though!
7) What do you miss the most about normal everyday life?
The thing I miss the most about normal everyday life is the school run! Not something I thought I’d ever say!
8) What is your favourite race distance?
Right now, my favourite race distance is half marathon. I was training for the London before Lockdown and that would have been my first marathon. And of my training runs, my happiest was about 15 or 16 miles, I really enjoyed those. The end result was that, even on a wonky achilles, the Bath Half – which I did just before lockdown – was an absolute walk in the park. I got a better time than the last time I’d run it ten years ago (in my 30s!), and it felt easier, even though I was running on a very painful ankle from about mile 3. So definitely half marathon. 10Ks are too fast for me.
9) If you could have one person to coach you, who would it be?
If I could choose any coach I wanted, it wouldn’t be a pro athlete. They feel way too out of my league, I feel like they would only be disappointed with me. I would like one of the friendly coaches I’ve met along the way to coach me – Tina who works for the magazine, or Hannah the Runner in Bath. Both of them are brilliant and motivating.
10) I know you need to be as unbiased as possible but do you have a favourite running shoe?
I would find it very difficult to choose a favourite running shoe, as I have lots of favourites! I’m so lucky to have this job as I’m able to try out so many. I’m a comfort runner, so Brooks Glycerin are a fave, and I also like their new Hyperion Tempo shoe, I did most of my longer training runs for the marathon in those. I can’t wait to try the new version as it’s supposed to be even more cushioned. The New Balance Fresh Foam have been a revelation too, I’m currently wearing their special London Marathon edition, and they are incredibly comfortable to run in. But because I like comfort, it means I have a very soft spot for HOKA Cliftons, On Cloudflows and Asics Nimbus too. I recently tried a pair of Asics Novablast, and they were amazing. But then I also really like the 361 Spires, the fit is fantastic. And the Saucony Rides are also super comfy. And there are launches coming up that I’m itching to get my feet into: the updated Glycerin, obviously, the whispered about HOKA launches (say no more), the incredible Saucony Endorphins, and if anyone would like to send me a Next % I wouldn’t turn my nose up at them either. Oh god, they’re like tiny, beautiful, well-behaved children. Don’t ask me to choose.
11) What’s your favourite race you have ran to date?
My favourite race has to be the Bath Half. Even the cut down version, at the beginning of Lockdown, was lovely. I rather liked there being less runners, too.
12) What would be your favourite race to take part in?
The race I’d love to take part in has got to be the London Marathon. I have history with that race. I’m from London originally, and have watched it religiously since it began. My dad got a place in the first one, but missed out due to injury. However, my mum got in and ran it three years later, so I was really hoping to follow in her footsteps. I’ve deferred my place for next year so fingers crossed …
13) How do you relax?
I tend to relax by, well, going for a run, to be honest. And having a big drink on a Friday, which I’ve now allowed myself to do after the first few weeks of lockdown craziness. I also like reading, watching a bit of Scandi murdering on the telly, reading the less intellectual parts of the Guardian, drinking coffee, eating Trek bars, and shouting at my children.
14) What are your eating habits like during lockdown – same, junk food or discovering you are actually a Masterchef in the making?
My eating habits in lockdown have been utterly shambolic. I manage to eat well for most of the day, but by 5 o’clock I just go crazy. I should have bought shares in Tyrells and Trek bars. I have been eating like I have worms. And I don’t have worms. Worms would be helpful right now. But that said, we’ve also eaten better than we have done for a long time, as we couldn’t get our usual supermarket delivery and now rely on local butchers and veg shops, so we’re way more organic and local than we used to be, so I’m pleased about that. But good lord, I’m spending a lot on food!
15) If you could only buy one item of food from the supermarket what would it be?
If I could only buy one item of food from the supermarket it would be Stoats apple and cinnamon porridge bars, no question. I discovered them after doing a 10K in Edinburgh last year, and they’re basically everything I look for in a bar. As I keep saying to my husband, “they actually taste of apple not apple flavouring!” You have no idea how happy that makes me. I really, really like apples. But they’re like gold dust and I can’t find them anywhere. Sadly that means I have to buy them in bulk.
16) If you weren’t the Editor of Women’s Running magazine, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t the editor of Women’s Running, I’d be finishing the final draft of my long-awaited 10th novel, soon to be shortlisted for the Booker.
17) We love that you have everyday runners on your front cover but if you could pick your running icon, past or present, to feature who would it be?
If I could choose any running icon for one of our covers – and to be honest, I’ve not ruled it out – I’d choose Flo Jo. I remember watching her when I was a girl, and being utterly bewitched by her. I didn’t realise women could run like that, or could look like that.
18) How do you choose the panel for testing running gear?
So how do we choose who reviews our stuff? Good question. The people that test the gear in the magazine are associated with either Tina or me in some way – normal women runners. They all work hard to test the gear thoroughly by running in it as often as possible, and they review the kit honestly. We decide who tests what depending on preference. Some of them are short-wearers, for instance, while others (like me) stick to leggings.
19) Do you only test products that advertise with the magazine?
Reviews aren’t dictated by adverts, it’s the other way round. Brands can often be so chuffed they’ve been awarded a best in test that they place adverts with us, which is cool. We are sent masses of press releases about kit, and we go through those and pick stuff we think readers will like, and which we think reflect a good range of quality, price and tech, and we go from there. In fact, we love to shout about smaller brands that would never be able to afford an advert – lots of the kit we review are made by tiny companies run on a shoe string by dedicated women, working from their kitchen tables. Companies such as Maaree, BP3 and Zaazee, which all deserve recognition and should stand shoulder to shoulder with big companies with mega marketing budgets.
20) How long does it take to put the magazine together?
It takes about eight weeks to put the whole magazine together, but it’s not a dedicated amount of time. I commission about eight weeks ahead, copy comes in about a month later. Then we start laying out, subbing and proofing, and polishing it all off. It’s relentless, but I wouldn’t do it unless I loved it.
21) Do you have a message for the NHS?
My message for the NHS? Ah man, this will make me cry as I think about it. I love the NHS, always have done. Bevan will always be my hero, and I hope to instil that devotion to him and his creation in my kids. The fact that we can access free healthcare whenever we need to is just so precious, and so vital. My brother has lived variously in Miami and Paris, and his experiences of accessing healthcare in those two places just sound ludicrous and outdated (although I am a fan of French taxation, which while the bureaucracy is mental, it means that their healthcare system is better funded than ours. I think.) And the way in which the NHS is working now is incredible, especially when we stop to consider the crap pay and conditions that many of the public sector have to deal with. I have friends who work in administrative positions within the NHS who are now volunteering on the frontline, which I think is illustrative of the organisation and the people who work in it as a whole. I think it just goes to show that we have, with the NHS, an organisation stuffed to the gills with incredible people, who constantly put other people’s lives and welfare above their own. It takes something as awful as coronavirus to really make us appreciate that the people we should be proud of are the ones that are kind and generous, rather than those we normally tend to celebrate because of their financial success or their ambition. The NHS is the backbone of this country, and my only hope is that this is reflected and rewarded once we’re out of this, with adequate funding and recognition for the vital work it does. There. I’ll get off my soapbox now.
Join Esther at 12pm LIVE on our Instagram page…. and Esther now that we ‘know you’, can we be addd to your Tester Panel please 🙂