London-based ‘Auntie’ Dora Atim is a Nike + run coach whose running experience spans everything from short distance events to marathons and beyond. In 2017, Dora was part of a team that completed The Speed Project, a non-stop relay 340-miles from LA to Las Vegas. Not put off by the experience, she then returned to do it all again the following year! Dora also knows how to rock a look and we love the big dose of personality and style she injects into our Instagram feed.
Earlier this year, Dora founded Ultra Black Running with the aim of increasing representation within trail running, mountain and ultrarunning, while also creating a community for black women and black non-binary people.
You can find out more about Ultra Black Running in the interview below where we also dive into Dora’s training, love of style and her experience running The Speed Project.
Dora, tell us when and why you started running?
I started boxing many years ago and wanted to improve. My boxing coach then told me that in order to improve my boxing fitness, I should start running. As a complete novice to both of the sports, I gave running a go and it was super-hard. As I progressed and started to hit small milestones, I grew to start loving running and continued to do it much more than boxing.
You’re big on community. How did joining a running club/community change your running?
Community for me is absolutely everything! Running is just what brings us all together. I initially started running with Nike run Club in 2014 in West London. This was my first ever group running experience and it was so fun! It took away the seriousness of running, and also allowed me to meet like-minded people.
Tell us about your experience running the insane The Speed Project?
The first time I completed The Speed Project, I had zero expectations and WOW! The whole experience blew my mind completely, even gave me the insane idea of doing it a second time the year after. The first year I completed [it], I ran with 7 others and the total of 50-60km each segment ranged from 1mile to 9 miles. As a team, we constantly had to adapt to the heat, the route, and complete and utter darkness, and ran the distance we saw necessary at the time. The second time I completed it the same principle applied, I had a smaller team and I ran a total of 100km which was even more than previously. This time around, it really took it out of me, to the point where I think I am [only] at peace with that race now.
When it got tough during The Speed Project, what got you through?
Ha! When times got tough during The Speed Project, I literally had to use prayer to get me through. I also have a ‘we move’ mantra which basically means that it may be tough and sometimes catastrophic, but the only way to complete it is to well, move. That very mantra has not failed me yet and I use it for many aspects of my life. TSP became very tough, especially at night for me, the team and I were extremely tired and at one point, I actually think I was hallucinating! But the team spirit was great and we actually laughed through our pain and exhaustion and knew that eventually, we would be sipping cocktails and beers by the pool soon…ish.
You’ve run everything from Red Bull Quicksand to the Athens marathon and Ragnar Relay. Do you have a ‘happy’ distance that you prefer?
Distance is a funny one for me because I go in and out of phases of liking a particular distance, for example, 2016, the marathon distance was my absolute favourite! For a long while, anything up to 10 miles is my sweet spot, I must say that is increasing by the week, so who knows, my favourite distance may probably be the ultra-distance very soon!
Tell us about Ultra Black Running and your own experience that inspired it?
Ultra Black Running was inspired by a wholesome run through the woods and my favourite house playlist. During the first lockdown and the Black Lives Matter movement, running and music became and remains one of my coping mechanisms for when I am feeling overwhelmed.
What are your hopes and plans for Ultra Black Running going forward?
My hopes for Ultra Black Running is to hopefully help more Black women and Black non-binary people to come and explore the world of trail running and be the representation that is needed. This safe space that has been created will hopefully help build confidence and inspire others to give things a go! The outdoors is for everybody and it’s time to make it happen.
What can the non-black running community do to make trails and races a welcoming space for BIPOC runners?
I think that non-black people should be understanding of our lived experiences in the trail and running scene in general. It is hard to grasp or understand why we feel we are not seen or heard without listening to the marginalised communities that remain underrepresented. Once listening to us, it will become clear on how and what help is needed in order to work towards trail running to become more inclusive for all.
What does a typical week of training look like for you?
I currently run 5/6 times a week, around 50km+ weekly as I am in training for a race. My schedule consists of one speed/interval run, recovery runs where I would run at a conversational pace, a hill session and a long run on the weekend. I will do maximum 3 strength or mobility-related sessions in a week which involve weight training, a HIIT session (will only limit to one a week of HIIT) and pilates which I have recently got into – absolutely loving it so far. I will have one day of no movement at all, balance you know?
You rock the best running looks! Does having kit you love help you get out the door?
Thank you! Without sounding shallow, if I do not feel that I look good when running, then the run is going to be tough. I feel that confidence in running comes from having confidence within. When people ask me how I chose my outfits or what inspires me, I am obsessed with bold prints and colour clashing – I feel that represents me as a person, so if I can reflect this through my outfits, I feel vibrant and full of energy, then boom I am ready to go! We have the Auntie D ‘lewk’ nailed!
How important is music in getting you motivated – do you always run to music?
I run mainly with music, however, I do have days where I will run without any music, any GPS, watch or any gadget, just get out the door and go mainly on feeling; that can be 20 minutes, can be 2 hours. I am a house music lover, so I would often search for new and old house music, and create playlists that I can run to.
When it’s safe to race again, do you have any big plans?
I tend to not make any big plans, I like to train for the idea of running something crazy and lengthy. However, I would love to get some ultras under my belt, hopefully travel to a few cities and explore some more trails. I am excited to check out some more desert races or some ultras along coastlines.
What are your favourite items of running kit?
I have so many favourite running items, but in particular, I am obsessed with running shades (even in the rain) and anything with bold prints, I’ll wear the hell out of it.
Are you sponsored by anyone right now?
Most of the work that I do currently is with Nike.