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Holly Lawrence | Lessons of 2017, the social side of triathlon and what’s up next

The 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Champion is helping a solo sport become more social for athletes of all abilities in her local community

Ironman 70.3 superstar Holly Lawrence has been using social media to connect with her local endurance community and get more people out enjoying running together for her weekly Sunday long run. The idea came when Lawrence noticed lots of other runners frequenting her normal route, but all running solo. She put a call out on social media for anyone to join her on her long run, and was pleasantly surprised to find lots of interest. We caught up with Lawrence to chat about her new initiative and the start of her season.

How has your winter training been going, Holly?
Yeah it’s been going good, still early days for the whole season and it’s my goal to build throughout the season this year so I’m at my best for 70.3 Worlds and hopefully avoid what happened last year!

You recently decided to start opening up your runs for anyone to join. What inspired this?
It kind of started just by me running on my own for my long run (Sean (Jefferson) my boyfriend has had some injury issues so has been out of action) and I see all these runners, all running by themselves. So many people do their long runs on a Sunday and I’m a social runner and I love to chat and tick the time away. So I just thought why can’t we create a meeting point every week where runners of all abilities can start from and end at to have people to run with? It was kind of an experiment the first week, I honestly didn’t think anyone would turn up – but I ended up having 22 women- (power of social media). I was so thrilled by the turn out and although of course not everyone ran at my pace, no-one was left on their own and it was so much fun. I just think there is such a big community of runners here but how much better it could be if we actually brought that community together – support and help each other and if it helps someone get out the door or make new friends, that’s great!
I can be pretty shy before I get to know someone so it’s also been a great experience of me putting myself out there and getting involved in the community I live in!

You are an extremely approachable pro, known for your “pre race hugs” and being generally sociable at races. This can be rare among the pros.. how do you feel pro-age grouper interactions can improve the sport ?

Thank you, I really hope that people find me approachable. I race best when I’m just having fun and in a good head-space, for me interacting with others, spreading some love and feeding off their excitement really helps me and I hope I can do the same to others too. Pre-race hugs has always been my thing, It honestly started years and years ago with me and my mum to be like “ok if I totally f**k up, it doesn’t matter, just have fun and do my best”- and now I do it with everyone and I love it!
Every pro is different, some like to be by themselves and prefer to be closed off before races- and that’s totally fine. In the end of the day you have to do what is best for you, especially when you are trying to make a living from it. I am just somebody that thrives on being around people and keeping things light and fun. It’s funny because I see a lot of pros that just looked stressed out before a race and I think “this is supposed to be fun”, and I never want to be like that, so if I can help anyone by spreading the love and having a laugh before the race- that makes me happy!

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Although I'm not in the states ?? and I'm a Brit ?? I'm sad to be missing Thanksgiving this year here in Bahrain ??. I love this American holiday and what it stands for – and I've got a lot to be thankful for! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd get to do my passion as a career. My standard response when people asked about what I do is was "I'll do it for as long as I can till I have to get a "real" job" – and that's still true today! So I'm beyond grateful to my amazing sponsors who make this dream possible. My family back home who love and support me even though I'm thousands of miles away and @jeffersonsean who rides the bumps with me in life and in training. ❤️ #thanksgiving #lifeisgood #savemesometurkey #turkeyday #usa #thanksgivinginbahrain #soppypost

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You had a tough year in 2017…what’s something you have learned about yourself through your struggles with a foot injury and dealing with pressure as the defending Ironman 70.3 World Champion?
I had a hard time dealing with the new pressure I put on myself last year after winning worlds, feeling like I had everything to prove to myself and my new sponsors that now believed in me. Turns out it was easy rocking up as the under-dog, and I just didn’t deal very well as my situation changed even though it changed for the better. It’s funny because when you spend your whole life trying to prove people wrong when I was always told I would never be very good. I knew I wasn’t talented and was ok with that, I was proving myself with my work ethic and did it for the love of it. And then when suddenly people believe in you and are behind you, I really wasn’t used to it so felt the pressure not to disappoint them. So long story short it lead to me over-egging it a bit mid-season (after winning pretty much everything) and getting injured and going down a little rabbit hole until 70.3 World Champs was over. Im glad it happened this early in my career, and grateful to my sponsors who are more like family that have really supported me through everything and have made it clear they care more about me and my longevity, which is so truly touching and humbling!
(Read more about this here)

Which races do you have coming up and what are you looking forward to most this year?
Next up is Oceanside and then St George. I probably won’t race as much as I did early last year in prep for World Champs but I also want to race 70.3 Mont Tremblant as it was my first 70.3 pro win 2 years ago (and won it again last year) and I get goosebumps coming down those cobbles through the village towards the finish with the crowds lining the sides- it’s such a special race for me!