Fetcheveryone Member of the Month

Each winner receives a £100 ADVANCE PERFORMANCE voucher

Interview with Duchess

pedroscalls asks: Congratulations on being MoTM. My question is, if time and money were no object, is there any race or route anywhere in the world that you'd love to have a run in/on?

Duchess says: I've long since learnt that I need something to look at when I run so I'd love to do the Venice Marathon (even if only the last mile or two is actually in the city that is my favourite place on earth).
If we can also ignore aptitude, ability and the fact that I don't like snow, running in the Himalayas would be amazing; imagine running across the roof of the world...
DrPhleecingD asks: Well done Duchess! I love your blogs (and your rants). And your love of champagne :) My question is: if you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Duchess says: High praise from the Queen of ranting!

My superpower would be super vision so I can find the things that have temporarily misplaced themselves.
Angus Clydesdale asks: Congratulations! :-)

Please explain the elements of your avatar. I believe I see champagne, a cat, a bullwhip(?!). What have I missed?

Duchess says: A glass of champagne, a cat and a whip, absolutely right. Well what more could I want? Except maybe a pair of heels, of course...

Champagne to make me happy, a cat to ride on the back of my broomstick and a whip to keep recalcitrant runners and colleagues in order.
Autumnleaves asks: Congratulations Duchess - my question is (apart from champagne) what's your favourite post-run tipple?

Duchess says: Rather boringly it's usually just a cup of coffee, but the best post-run drink I ever had was a pint of cider at the Inversnaid Hotel after a run alongside Loch Lomond on a hot summer's day a few years ago. It tasted like nectar and two-thirds of it disappeared in one mouthful, at which point I remembered that I needed to run back.
The Teaboy asks: Just how many pairs of heels do you own? And is this truly compatible with the ultra scene?

Duchess says: Pairs of heels are like bikes; the correct answer to "how many do you own?" is always "one less than the number that I need". It's into three digits, that's as precise as I want to get. ;-)
Boab asks: Ah, well done on the MoTM. I see you often helping out and marshaling at ultra races across Scotland, you are an eternal presence in the scene. When will I get the opportunity to cheer for you as you pass? ;) And at what race?

Duchess says: The chances of me passing you in a race are somewhat akin to hell freezing over...but I'm entered for the Edinburgh Half at the end of May so if you're running the marathon at your usual speed, we might arrive in Musselburgh about the same time.
katypie asks: Yay. Do you get the same pleasure from buying trainers as you do shoes (I suspect not). What have you been most inspired by? what would your ultimate race goody bag contain? Xxx

Duchess says: No, but I like them a great deal more now that I can buy trainers in happy colours (peril of needing a men's fitting). The original inspiration for running came from watching a bunch of runners laughing and bounding down off Rannoch Moor in the snow (including a certain small noisy blonde Fetchie) but since then, there are so many things I'd struggle to choose. The people, the places, the camaraderie - all of them drive something.
A bottle of champagne would be an excellent goody bag - I was gutted the year I did Smokies and there was no wine.
HappyG(rrr) asks: Many congrats J. You put an enormous amount of time and effort into supporting various ultras. What is your main motivation for doing it, what has been your most memorable moment and any top tips for those of us due to marshal at the WHW for the first time this year?! Congrats again. :-) G

Duchess says: At the risk of sounding incredibly mushy, it has to be the people. Ultra running seems to strip away any urban veneer of behaviour, leaving only the real person on display, and (almost always) that turns out to be someone honest and likeable. I get to stand around, shout at people, get hugged and see some spectacular places, what's not to like?

I have a million memorable moments - I acquire a dozen at every race - but probably the first prize giving for WHW back in 2011. I didn't expect to find it quite so emotional yet there I was, sat with tears pouring down my face throughout almost all of it. The tribute of the final finisher receiving their goblet from the winner still gets me every time.
Top tips: midge repellent and a sense of humour. And the thought that this year you're not supporting one runner, you're supporting 200 and all of their crews.
ChrisHB asks: How many Fetchies think they work for the same company as you, and how many of them do you think might be right?

Duchess says: Half a dozen? And mathematically that's probably about right, although it might not be the same six. Alternatively I fear that the ubiquitous SatanCorp may actually employ all of us and we just haven't realised....
becca7 asks: Great to see you getting this recognition. You must have spent hours and hours supporting at ultras. I did appreciate very much that you were at the end of Glasgow to Edinburgh. As someone who gets chilled to the bone even standing for an hour at parkrun I would like to ask what are your top tips for keeping warm?

Duchess says: Keep your extremities warm: hands, feet and head. I have very thick hair but I also have a selection of fake fur hats to supplement that. I've been known to wear two pairs of gloves (fingerless mittens if you need to hold a pen) and both tights and socks on my feet (I've a lovely pair of Teko merino socks that are wonderfully toasty). It always helps if you can manage to find something other than a icy muddy puddle to stand it - Scotland doesn't always help with that one.
IanS asks: Congratulations Duchess - well deserved MotM :-) Which (if any) target races do you have on your bucket list?

Duchess says: I'm never sure whether I actually like racing as opposed to running itself; they seem more of a means to an end. However there is still the little matter of The West Highland Way - if I have a bucket list, that's the top of the list.
Bintmcskint asks: Well done, Duchess. Thoroughly well-deserved. Here's my question...You are stranded on a desert island. You can take one type of food, one book and one Fetchie. What and who do you take and why?

Duchess says: If it's a type of food, it will be cheese for its almost infinite variety, although if it was just one food it would be Marmite, which requires no explanation for half the population and is inexplicable for the remainder. Choosing a single book would be difficult but I think it will be Venice by Jan Morris, which is the most perfect love letter ever written. While there are many Fetchies that I adore, I think I would choose to take Fellrunning because I could listen to his stories for years without being bored. And I could rely on Shel to invent some mathematical formula to locate and retrieve us before the next lambing season.
Corrah asks: Fantastic, well done Duchess. Very well deserved. My question is what is your favourite way to unwind (other than a glass of something sparkly) after you have been assisting at ultras or generally cheering folks on in races and stuff :)

Duchess says: For some reason, most post-race unwinding always involves a glass of something sparkly! Or several glasses if santababy is involved....
General unwinding usually involves a book. I have cupboards full of books at home and then random piles scattered around the place on windowsills and tables. At the moment I'm devouring the Inspector Montalbano series.
Carpathius asks: Congratulations Duchess, very well won :) Duchess of where? Any why that Fetch name?

Duchess says: The Duchess of Duke Street? Or is that showing my age?
It comes from one of those family myths, that my mum's family had links going back to nobility (not as exotic as it seems - something like 99% of the white British population can claim Edward III as an ancestor). Although in this case, through a delinquent daughter that ran off with the village carpenter and was promptly disinherited so completely that a few generations later the family were barely evading the workhouse. Being a delinquent daughter myself, I liked the story and generally use it as my online identity.
Tigerlily asks: Congratulations! A very worthy winner. I've got a wedding in April. Can I borrow your gorgeous sparkly shoes please? Seriously, your an admirable Fetchie for the time you give to others. Can you recommend an ultra for my first one please?

Duchess says: For you, I recommend Clyde Stride in July. Around 40 miles and a little bit of everything thrown together (up, down, flat, grass, tarmac, trail, pavement) ending up in New Lanark with soup and cider and a laid-back party after the best race director's hug in the country.
halfpint asks: So excited to see your avatar up top. Well deserved. So it seems to me you have 2 identities: super marshal Duchess and super ass kicking professional J. If you had a secret identity what would it be?

Duchess says: What makes you think I dont? :-)
mrs shanksi asks: Well done Duchess. My question is have you got anyone in mind for crewing for you when you do the WHW race? And who will take your place at KLL? Needs to be someone good at giving hugs/ kicks up the bum! (I know i'm obsessed!)

Duchess says: I did say once that if I ever ran an ultra, I would want loon dod supporting me, on the grounds that if I was physically able to run, walk or crawl to the finish line, he would make sure that I did. I think I stand by that. Velociraptor would probably have the same effect.
When I ran the Clyde Stride relay, I started helping at the checkpoint from force of habit, so whoever was at KLL would have to also be able to tell me to bugger off out of the door!
santababy asks: Worthy winner indeed, I sense another evening on the tiles for us. If you could have anyone alive or dead help you at your Marshall post, who would it be and why? You're allowed 3 helpers. ...

Duchess says: Yay, more fizz!
Dean Richards (Tigers and England rugby player from the amateur era) to keep the car park under control. His day job was a police officer and he once pulled over the car I was in being driven (rather fast and recklessly) by a teenage boyfriend. Seeing that absolute giant unfold himself from the patrol car was, and remains, one of the scariest moments of my life.
Mae West for sheer sass and wisecracks that would keep me entertained for however long the shift was.
George Clooney for reasons that need no explanation whatsoever!
Bazoaxe asks: GANTT chart or training plan ?....serious question now, what do you love about running and what do you hate ?

Duchess says: I love that I *can* run. I hated PE at school, never did sports, was consistently useless at everything I was made to do and retained that dislike/inability into adulthood. So to discover, in my 40's, that I can run, even if it's short and slow, amazes me. I love the places it takes me and the headspace it gives me to bring my world into balance. I hate when it gives me blisters, or when it wrecks the hair I've spent several hours and a lot of money in the hairdressers having made lovely.
Metro_Nome asks: brilliant, well done and well deserved :) when we gonna see you running the D33?? :) x

Duchess says: Shall we make a deal? The first year I think I can cover 33 miles in a time that doesn't interfere with George getting to his Guinesss at a reasonable hour, I'll do it. In return, can you make sure that there are ultra flapjacks reserved for me at halfway and the finish?
Night-owl asks: Congratulations lots of good questions already asked. What advice would you give to a wannabe Ultrarunner

Duchess says: Go for it! Unless you're super speedy, an ultra means you're going to be spending several hours out there, so for your first race make sure you choose a course that runs somewhere you want to be for that long. Practice taking food on the move - preferably real food not gels - and running on tired legs. Back to backs of a long run on two consecutive days help with that. Accept that if you do it, and love it, it's going to take over your life. And come and run an ultra in Scotland, we do great races, hugs and post-race parties.
McGoohan asks: Because we have long seemed to have worked in the same place, I could ask something about the corporate world and some of the **** you have had to take work-wise. But I won't because this is a celebration! So my question is in two (completely un)related parts. Part 1) Can you share with us your favourite recipe?
Part 2) Favourite music of all time?
Part 3) of 2. Who would you most like to punch?

Duchess says: Recipe, McG? Do you think I can cook? My baking recipes are too long so Roast Butternut Squash instead. Slices of pumpkin drizzled with oil, sprinkle with paprika, rosemary and sea salt and roast on a hot baking sheet for 20-30 minutes. Best served with parsnips cooked the same way.
Favourite music is difficult...I need at least two: La Serenissima by Rondo Veneziana, and the Kaddish Symphony by Bernstein which I was fortunate enough to see narrated by Samuel Pisar .
I'm far too nice a person really...but whoever first thought of offshore outsourcing should have been slapped hard and sent to have a nice lie-down with a cup of tea and a biscuit.
_andy asks: Congratulations Duchess! Glad that the strong campaign has worked and you have been rightly recognised as being awesome by the Fetch community too. My question is all historical, since I do remember the first time I saw you - in the midst of Rannoch Moor in August 2011, watching all those skinny ultra-runners (and me) heading through the wilderness. So where did you first hear about ultra-running and what made you decide to go out and see it up close and personal? Which ties in with asking what your inspirations are/were, both running and in everyday life (or both, if these overlap). Again, thanks for being fab and congrats!

Duchess says: Ah, _andy, my "normal" runner who turned into a rather extraordinary ultra runner.
About a year before Rannoch Moor, I got very drunk one evening in the back yard with my next door neighbour who mentioned that, a few weekends before, he and his mate had run 160 miles. When I sobered up (several weeks later) I thought "wtf did he say? HOW MANY MILES?????" and started reading blogs and race forums. And to a rather lost and lonely person, several hundred miles from home, this all created my own private serial drama that I became utterly fascinated by and addicted to. The following spring I realised Jez Bragg was running the Fling and decided to go and see it, on the grounds that I'd never have a chance to see someone that good again (!). And in June I fell down the rabbit hole as all my blog writers came to life as they walked through the doors of KLL....
Not surprisingly, many of my inspirations are strong women. Some are runners such as Debs Martin Consani who manages to combine elite running with motherhood and a career, and Fiona Rennie who utterly refuses to allow life to get in the way of how she thinks it should be, regardless of what fate throws at her. I'll add Joopsy and HappyG to that list (despite being male) who are two of the best human beings I know, with an astounding capacity for living life to its greatest degree of contentment, positivity and joy.
LouLou asks: Congratulations! My question: how do you motivate a (mentally) broken runner to continue at Kinlochleven?

Duchess says: I don't think there's one guaranteed way; different runners will respond to different motivations. A few years ago, I had a blazing row in the car park at KLL with a runner who wanted to quit. I think I basically told him to **** off up the hill before I kicked him up it. I won the argument and the next time I saw him was as he collected his goblet. More often, it's about not allowing the gremlins to take over and convince a physically capable runner that they can't go on, they're the same gremlins that build a wall at about 20 miles in a marathon. So tell them they're talking nonsense, that they're going to eat some hot food and then start walking before they even think about it. After all it's only a half marathon to go and how many of those have they run in their lives?
M1nty asks: Loving the new haircut. Who is your favourite ultra runner - male and female? Any why? Very much looking forward to a Duchess hug and kick up the ares at Kinlochleven again this June x

Duchess says: *blushes* I couldn't possibly have a favourite ultra runner, where would I start? The elites? (I realised I know all but one of the Scotland team for the Anglo Celtic Plate). The back of the pack crew who put in blood and sweat and tears for longer than everyone else? The first-timers who realise they've done the impossible as they approach the finish line? The fizz drinkers? The gin drinkers? The ones I can always rely on for a smile and a hug? Pfft, behave yourself! Or you'll be getting the kick and no hugs!
Doctor K asks: Congratulations Duchess, you've beat me to it. Which runner most inspired or inspires you?

Duchess says: I may have partly answered this above, but if I had to choose one, it would be this lady:


whose attitude to running and life never ceases to amaze me. And she gives great hugs, if I can get her to stand still for long enough in the middle of a race.
Back To Top