Athlete Interview: Mhairi Johnston

Athlete Interview: Mhairi Johnston

Mhairi is aiming to complete Starman for the first time in 2019. She is an active mum from Aberdeen who runs a pet boarding and dog walking business! here she tells us about her training for Starman, and gives us some wacky tips for training for a night swim!


Starman: What inspired you to take part in Starman this year?

Mhairi: I love a challenge and knew when I first heard about Starman that it would be a massive undertaking for me to achieve a middle distance triathlon IN THE DARK, but it just looks so unique I wanted to sign up for it! I am taking on this challenge whilst raising money for a local group called Spikin Autism And More – a group that helps support families affected by autism.


Starman: That’s amazing! We are so excited to have you join us for such a great cause. Is this your first triathlon?

Mhairi: I did my first triathlon last year in Aviemore (750m swim in Loch Morlich, 7-mile trail MTB ride and 3-mile run). I was terrified of the swim but after I got through it (breaststroked it the whole way and swallowed A LOT of water) I absolutely loved the rest of it and knew I needed to get involved in more triathlons.

Last week I did my second ever triathlon, a personal challenge with a good friend of mine – Jane Wilkinson – who I met through our local Canicross Club (Canicross Aberdeenshire). It was a challenge set by David Parry of Team Akobe Marathon – he encourages people of all abilities to get involved and move more, a little like virtual challenges, and you can make a donation and receive a medal. The challenge Jane and I set ourselves was our first ever standard distance triathlon. We swam one mile in Ellon swimming pool, 25.5 miles bike ride from Ellon back to Oldmeldrum via back roads and got a wee bit lost then a 6.2-mile run around Oldmeldrum.


Starman: That sounds epic! Have you ever raced in the dark before?

Mhairi: I’ve never done a swim or cycle in the dark before, but I did do The Illuminator, which is a 15-mile night trail run in 2017. What a fantastic atmosphere but I really should have trained better for those big hills! I ran with my good friend Leonie Kirk. We started off all giggles and chatting, then we enjoyed the snack stop in the lit up area still feeling fab, then as the terrain got tougher we got quieter and we spent a good while just running alongside each other in silence!

Leonie gave me the encouragement I needed in the last km to keep going. I hadn’t fuelled sensibly and my body was absolutely exhausted – I nearly didn’t make it across the finish line. She was a total legend and helped me finish. Afterwards I was sick and very dizzy for a good 12-18hours, but the following day I knew the mistake I had made and I was just delighted we had completed it together. She’s a good friend – I vomited on my shoe and she never complained about the smell once on the car journey home!

I have never swam in the dark but I did something last Friday in an attempt to see what it would be like swimming in the dark….I taped the inside of my goggles leaving just a wee peep hole for each eye and went for a swim in my local pool – it was a strange experience!


Starman: Have you started training?

Mhairi: Yes I’ve started training. I’m a dog walker so walk many many miles a week, also have lots of animals including dogs and horses so I’m always active. Within the last couple of months I’ve started cycling regularly on my 4th hand road bike with my father in law, Victor who is a very keen cyclist. I’m a member of Three Peaks Triathletes in Inverurie – the club is very inclusive and they offer lots of tri advice, which I find invaluable. I’ve also joined Team Ecosse Northboats Cycling Club just this last week – I’ve attended two of their ladies rides on a Tuesday evening and already learned lots about riding out in a group and have enjoyed the company and beautiful countryside routes. I enjoy running, it’s what started me off on this journey…I do it on my own, with my kids, with my dogs, (sometimes even with my horses too!), with friends and with Jog Scotland Meldrum occasionally too.


Starman: Do you have any training tips for other newbies?

Mhairi: I’m such a novice at this, I’m really not in a position to be giving anyone advice but something I was told before I did Stirling Marathon last year is never far from my mind when I’m pushing myself: “your body achieves what your mind believes”. Oh and taping up the inside of your goggles is a good start for training to swim in the dark hahahah!


Starman: how do you like to fuel your events?

Mhairi:I don’t eat meat or dairy so there’s a fair heap of gels, bars and drinks that I can’t eat. I like Cliff Block shots and SIS gels but, to be honest, I fuelled my marathon last year with water, a few gels and an iced fruit cake square – it got a bit squashed in my race belt but my husband and kids gave me another one at mile 16 and that’s all I needed!! I don’t have an experience of fuelling for an event like The Starman so I will really need to try different things in training. Yesterday I did a 25-mile cycle and 5-mile run on a hot cross bun and another one when I finished!!


Starman: How are you feeling about Starman in three words?

Mhairi: Excited, terrified, determined.


Mhairi, it’s been a pleasure getting to know more about you and your training! We can’t wait to see you at the start line!


You can keep up to date with Mhairi’s training at her Facebook page Splash Spin Stride 

Author: The Starman

Set in the mighty Cairngorms National Park this is going to be a sleepless, tough, intimidating and wild triathlon under the stars.