If you’re running in the same long-distance race as Melbourne’s Nicole Paton, you might not see all that much of her, (as she spends much of it up the front), but her smile is very hard to miss.
Since only entering her first ultra-marathon last year, Paton’s made quite an impact with a rap sheet full of firsts and seconds as well as setting new female course records across Australia.
Paton entered the Surf Coast Trail Marathon on the weekend as preparation for The Surf Coast Century this September, and as usual she surprised herself with a win in the marathon, in a time of 3:52:29 and 13th place overall.
Nicole enjoys challenging the stereotypes around the capabilities of women in adventure sports, and is proud to be a role model for other women.
And we’re excited to welcome Nicole to the Surf Coast Century this September.
How and when did your love of running begin?
That would have been my first 3km Cross Country run at school when I was 8 years old. I didn't know I could run then but I trotted along with my twin sister Toniel and we finished 2nd. I went on to run middle distance throughout my school years, however I gave up running for many years and only picked it up again recreationally as an adult in my mid-twenties. Whilst hiking to Everest Base Camp recently I met some inspirational Nepalese mountain runners and decided that I would love to give it a go. I wouldn't say running was really a passion until I discovered ultra trail and mountain running in 2016.
What’s your favourite place to run?
Wilson's Promontory is always a favourite of mine. The scenery is spectacular and I really enjoy the adventure of running in places you cannot access via a car or a short walk.
You’ve only been ultra running competitively for just over a year….and you have had some extremely impressive results, did you expect to find yourself at the front of the field so early on, and what do you credit your success and strength in distance running to?
I absolutely did not expect to be at the front of the field. Whilst I had been a decent runner in school that was always over shorter distances and I had never come close to placing in any races as an adult from 10km to marathon distance. I entered my first mountain race, the 2016 Razorback 40km with an 8kg snowboarding backpack as the only gear I had which met the kit requirements was from my other sport which is backcountry snowboarding. I started at the back of the pack and just set out to finish. When I reached Diamantina hut Race Director Paul Ashton informed me that I was in 2nd place and 1st was only a couple of minutes ahead. That was a huge surprise! When I finished that race I had the bug and went out the next week to buy all the gear so I could enter my first ultra, the 2016 Buller Sky Run 45km. I think my background in both running and hiking and a love for all things outdoors have provided a good basis for ultra running.
What do you think are the toughest elements of an Ultra marathon, and what do you do to overcome these?
That's actually a tough question. I'm pretty positive most of the time so I don't think about it being tough at all. I certainly don't focus on the difficult parts and dread them; rather I try to enjoy the whole race. I travel at a pace which is comfortable for me and hopefully I can keep smiling. I do listen to motivational rock music when it gets lonely or difficult and I talk to myself a bit. I offer myself words of encouragement during difficult climbs and congratulations when I finish a challenging section or avoid a near fall, which is a bit crazy really. Haha!
You’re obviously pretty hooked on ultra running, what do you love about it?
The physical challenge combined with exploring beautiful remote locations is definitely the main attraction for me. I'm also pretty competitive so I do enjoy the racing aspect as well.
How many hours would you run each week?
I don't do a lot of training runs as I enjoy doing a lot of events so I find I am usually either resting or tapering. I rest a lot in order to allow my body recovery time between events. I also do a lot of cross training with Body Attack and functional circuit training being my two favourites. I would estimate that I run about 8 hours per week plus 2-3 hours of cross training however this varies a lot with my race schedule.
What would you say is your running highlight so far?
Alpine Challenge 100km in November 2016 was the highlight for me. That was my first 100km race and it was also extremely tough. It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done to date so finishing that just 6 months after my first ever ultra was a huge achievement for me.
You ran and won the Surf Coast Trail Marathon on the weekend, with a King Tide and surging swells, well done!! How did you find it?
I entered the event as preparation for the Surf Coast Century so I could familiarize myself with the terrain and the trails and get an idea of pacing for the September race. Conditions were tough with the king tide and huge waves to contend with. I'm quietly hopeful the coast will be a little more kind come the Century but I'll deal with whatever happens.
You haven’t run the Surf Coast Century before, what inspired you to give this ultra a shot? And what are the things you are most looking forward to about it?
I've been really enjoying the 100km races this year and performing well in them. I think the 100km distance suits me as a runner; however I also have the ability to run at a decent pace when I want to. I like the idea of running a faster 100km with less elevation change than the mountain races I have done so far. I have no interest in reverting to road running so Surf Coast Century 100km is the perfect opportunity for me to achieve a 100km PB in stunning surrounds. I'm also looking forward to the challenge of lining up against some of Australia's best ultra runners who are competing in the event.
If you weren’t running, what do you think you would be doing?
That one is easy... backcountry snowboarding and hiking. I would still be going on adventures in nature either way :)
You can follow Nicole's running journey on Instagram @nicolepaton22 and on Facebook.