London ETC with Emma Kirky-O

I was trying to think of a way to introduce you all to the latest amazing person to star in my London ETC series but when it comes to Emma, the first thing I want you all to know about her is that I LOVE HER. She is one of the strongest, most determined, most inclusive people I know. What’s more she is one of those genuinely lovely people who actually wants you to succeed. Emma is a former athlete, keen runner and Nike pacer. Like me, she was a Games Maker in 2012 (and like me she loved it as much as I did!). Unlike me she has completed an indoor Iron Man and the 24 hour burpee challenge (!!) In this weeks’ London ETC she talks about her love of training outdoors, how she honours her father’s memory, and what healthy means to her.


What is a typical training session for you like?

I have two! I love the absolute freedom of the outdoors and there’s nothing quite like running outside. In a city such as London you have the opportunity to be in the hub of the city as well as run through awesome destinations like Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, and my favourite- Richmond park.

Second, some days all I need is a gym with a barbell and I’m sorted. Nothing quite compares to lifting up heavy things and putting them down to let the mind relax! 

Recently, just putting on my shoes and getting out the door. I have started mixing up my runs half way by doing some strength drills – if I go through a park just to add some HIIT in there. Otherwise you’re like to find me at Barry’s! 

Do you have a particular area of London or a route which always gets you out of the door whether to run or walk?

Richmond Park as I mentioned before is a favourite of mine. I easily get lost there too which makes for fun navigation. I would walk, run or even cycle around there. The natural beauty there is everything.

As a Nike pacer encouraging people to run and motivating them to continue is obviously very important to you. Can you tell me a little more about where you passion for this came from?

Being a pacer is one of the most rewarding and fun things I’ve ever been lucky to be a part of. I have always had a passion for Nike as a brand. Ever since I was 6 and got my first pair of Pegasus running shoes I fell in love! Being fortunate to work for the brand at Niketown for two years continued my passion. I started running with NRC about two years ago and loved the community of people from all walks of life that you get to meet. I’d almost forget I was running and just enjoy the sessions with those around me. That’s the most important thing about running: the enjoyment. No matter whether you’re the next Mo Farah or aiming for your first 5k, NRC can help and it’s something I want everyone who comes to our run sessions to feel! 

In a world that’s becoming more and more health conscious, what does the word ‘healthy’ mean to you?

Being healthy to me is not about weighing a certain number or achieving a certain calorie burn for a workout. Healthy is about balance and for me, to a degree, my level of happiness. If I’m being healthy but fanatical about every tiny bit I eat, personally I think that’s unhealthy and can become obsessive. (Which has happened to me once or twice) It’s about learning how to balance your exercise, food, social life as well as mental and emotional health! That simple, well maybe haha!

To honour the memory of your father and raise money for Cancer Research UK you take on an amazing challenge every year. In 2015 you completed the 24 Hour Burpee Challenge and in 2016 you became an Iron Woman by completing an indoor Iron Man! Can you tell me a little bit more about what was going through your head for each of these?

The challenges started when I thought of the suffering of not only my dad but any cancer sufferer. The reason I did 24 hours of burpees was because the time represented what we forget – cancer happens all day every day. I did the Iron Man as it’s one of the toughest man made challenges on earth and it represented the struggle and fact that cancer suffers don’t have a choice to stop when it’s hard.

Mentally, it actually helped me process the loss of my father initially: I feel by doing something in his memory I can always be reminded of him. To tackle these challenges? It’s a mental state I find hard to describe but it’s a zone where you block out pain and focus on the end goal, which for me is those suffering way more than I am in that moment. 

What have you got planned for 2017?

From a race perspective the first half of the year sees me doing: Bath and Berlin Half Marathons and the Brighton Marathon all before the end of April! For my 2017 fundraising, well that thought is still in process. Any ideas people have will be considered haha!

Which one restaurant or café (or any food place) would you recommend to someone visiting London for the first time and why?

The inner cheat meal chocolate lover in me will always say the Haagen Dazs Cafe in Leicester Square. There I have had, simply, the best desserts of my entire life! It’s quite touristy, but on quiet mid week days it’s simply divine!

Can you tell me a little about what motivates you to train that little bit harder and sweat that little bit more?

What motivates me? Firstly I love seeing others around me succeed. If I see them achieving their goals, it makes me believe my goals are possible too. Secondly, what motivates me is the person in the mirror, as cliché as that sounds. I think growing up as an athlete (discus/shot thrower) competing at county level, you learn that everyone has their own abilities and that you may meet someone better than you, someone stronger than you, and that’s okay. You learn that actually the only person you need to impress is you and you’re in control of that. So when I step into that gym or that Barry’s class or on the streets at 6am in the dark and cold; I remember I have goals I want to achieve so I can either give it my all, or watch those pass me by and be disappointed. 

As hectic as London is, I think it is one of the best places to take a breath and relax. Do you have a hidden gem, a secret hidey-hole, or a space which you absolutely love where you can relax and recover?

Apart from nap time when I’m lost in my duvet of fresh sheets?  I love getting on top of any hill. I think it’s a great place to reflect and remember you are a small part of a bigger working system. My favourite is the top of Greenwich Park by the observatory on a clear day – helps your give your life some perspective.

With London ETC I want the ETC part to go beyond this city. Is there anywhere else (and this can be anywhere in the world) where you love to be? What is it about this place that makes you smile when you think of it?

I LOVE CANADA. For me it’s a country with so much diversity from race to nature. I’m lucky enough to have been to Whistler in the mountains seeing grizzly bears in the wild as well as to beautiful islands like Vancouver Island where I got to see orca and grey whales in their natural environment. It’s an incredible place where nature blows your mind. City life is also very close by to nature and respects it amazingly. Truly my favourite place, where life seems so much simpler!  

You can follow Emma on instagram and twitter – show her some love! She also blogs at Her Shoes, Her Fitness – have a read!

Emma, I loved having you as part of my LondonETC series and thanks so much for answering my questions! Next week’s LondonETC is going to be hitting Rosh ETC on Monday and it’ll be starring the one and only Meera!

Images courtesy of Emma Kirky-O

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