Meet Our Experts
Claire is a mother, keen marathon and trail runner, qualified boxing instructor and our in-store running expert. Her attitude towards the outdoors combines humour, a drive to stay fit and her energy is infectious when she shares her expertise with customers. From a military family, fitness is part of day-to-day life. And from teen to adulthood, there's always been an activity that's got her out there – facing challenges and smashing her personal best.
We caught up with Claire to learn more about her love for finding new routes, secret running clubs and who keeps her motivated to reach new fitness levels.
Why do you think it's important to enjoy the outdoors together?
That's an easy one. When people are together outside, they get on better. Everyone seems happier out trail running, camping or walking the hills. Have you ever seen a group of people running together who aren't happy? I enjoy spending time outside with others because it allows me to reset and reflect on how my day's gone.
Would I have done anything differently? What's on the agenda for tomorrow? It gives me time to think.
Fresh air is one of our primary human needs after all and when you don't have technological distractions, you can engage in open and honest conversations.
Who encourages you to push your limits?
To be honest, I push myself. I've committed to a walking expedition in Machu Picchu, Peru, in October – 7 days of walking with up to 11 hours per day. These are the sort of expeditions I'll actively sign up for, including other exciting challenges and marathons.
When I plan a run, I purposely set my route at 5k, so I can't cut it, but I could extend it if I wanted. I often take a second to reflect back to 15 years ago when I completed my first ever 5k without stopping. I cried and cried. I never thought I’d ever be a runner, and when I managed this distance, that was it. I can do it, and I tell others – they can do it too.
Anyone can push their limits outdoors if they put their mind to it. And, if I can do a 5k without stopping, trust me, anyone can do it after a couple of training weeks. And the endorphins you get at the end of it. Well, it's just fantastic.
Who do you love to explore the outdoors with?
I love running on my own or with my dogs. But I also love trail running with my husband. He always knows there's more in my tank. Sometimes he runs ahead of me, sticks his arm out as a silent gesture that I need to match his pace. He will always push me that little bit further because he knows I can achieve it.
Also, there's a lovely secret running club in the Brecon Beacons organised by a bunch of local friends. I only knew a few of them; now they're all people I enjoy training with. Running like this – you share passion, experiences and sometimes even your kit.
Tell us about your favourite outdoor places.
It's got to be by the sea. Nothing beats running in the fresh air along winding coastal paths in Western Wales – you feel exhilarated (all the while knowing how much good it's doing to your skin). I like to be up high on the cliff, looking down onto the beach and the crashing waves. There's something wild and beautiful about it. My husband and I spent our 17th wedding anniversary up there camped on a cliff. I'd say this was probably one of my favourite places because this memory always makes me smile.
The Brecon Beacons gives us so much to explore, like wooded areas and trails. There's a place called the Elan Valley not too far from our home, with miles and miles of beautiful scenery with waterfalls. That's the plan for the summer just to escape into nature on a multi-day expedition of running and exploring.
Do you believe going outdoors makes you happier?
I genuinely believe going outside makes people happier by simply letting people escape from the day-to-day – to be themselves, and nurture positive mental health. It's essential to appreciate what we have around us as much as possible. I come from an urban area, and I never thought I'd have a chance to live somewhere like the Brecon Beacons.
How do you share your expertise with others?
No matter who you are or your expertise level, it's always worth visiting a store in person. Tapping into expert advice is the most important start to finding suitable running kit. We can use our first-hand knowledge of specific kit and recommend the best places to visit locally.
As in-store experts, we love a chat. When you find out more about people through conversations, you get little hints and tips. By the end of the day, I have a piece of paper with names and trails scribbled down! I end up with new running mates and wonderful places to explore.
Plus, the experience in-store staff provide outweighs internet comparisons because our team have done it. We live and breathe it. I just don't want people making mistakes, ordering online and getting the wrong size – that's not sustainable for us or the planet.
What do you look for when you buy outdoor kit?
Versatility and durability. I'm always outdoors, so when I invest in new running shoes or clothing, I make sure it covers many bases. For example, a thin-wall windproof jacket is perfect for a sunny day. I'll wear it running and layer up underneath for a longer distance trail run. So, it's wise to ask yourself these simple questions:
When am I going to use this piece of kit?
What am I using it for?
What do I need it to do?
Once you can answer these questions, you're on the right road to finding kit suitable for you and your running needs. I invested in Helly Hansen base layers before I gave birth to my daughter – she's now 21 years old, and I still have them!
And lastly, do you have any tips for exploring responsibly?
Check out our Repair & Care service. If you’re out there everyday like I am, even your toughest kit will need some attention. This service is fantastic for the environment and you won't need to immediately invest in new kit.
Also, when thinking of new places to enjoy, link up with people who know the local area or get friends involved for company and car sharing. The more knowledge you have from locals, the more you'll get a feel for the area. Whether that's in the city or out in the hills. The running community are a lovely bunch, so find your team. You'll gain loads of knowledge and advice just by chatting with others. Running is for everyone - let's keep it that way.