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London Marathon Inspiration: Optician to Olympian

07/04/2014 14:52 BST | Updated 06/06/2014 10:59 BST

Ten years ago, we had the great fortune to meet a lovely English woman, Tracey Morris, an optician from Leeds, who had a passion for running. A recreational runner, she entered the London Marathon in 2004 for the first time at the age of 36. To everyone's astonishment, not least her own, she finished tenth with a time of 2:33:52.

Having beat the Olympic qualifying time, she was instantly anointed the fastest British runner in the race. Twenty-four hours later, Morris officially joined the British Olympic team. That summer, at the Olympic Games in Athens, Morris finished a highly respectable 29th - just 15 minutes behind the winner.

Since her unexpected rise to international athletic stardom, Tracy has used her passion and expertise to train amateur athletes, particularly those running on behalf of charitable causes, such as bone cancer research.

Nearly a decade after her London Marathon adventure, Fit to Inspire caught up with Morris again. Here, she shares advice, inspiration and training tips for women of all ages.

What other exercise do you do now regularly, aside from running?

Swimming and spinning. Recently, I did the Outlaw Triathlon in Nottingham, a half-Ironman race. It's a brilliant way to keep fit!

You began running in your 30s. What health and fitness advice do you have for women in their 30s and up?

Don't aim too high and don't over-compete. Find something you like and have fun with, and break it down slowly. Take baby steps and enjoy it. That's how I started out.

What tips/advice do you have for beginners and improvers?

My advice to beginners: Take on a training partner; don't compare yourself to others; don't set goals too high, but above all, do not give up!

You have to take lifetime opportunities within the life of the opportunity. So, if you have a chance to run with a friend today, go for it! You may not get this opportunity in two weeks' time.

To improvers: Challenge yourself by going beyond your comfort zone. Set new goals, even if that just means sprinting to the next lamppost.

As an inspiration to women everywhere, what's your take on being inspired?

First of all, be open to trying new things and not being intimidated by others. I was petrified at the thought of going from fun runner to Olympic runner in Athens, and I was twice everyone else's age. Yet, the moment I put all my fears behind and truly believed in myself, everything became so much easier.

What is your idea of a perfectly 'fit and healthy' day?

Getting up early, going for a nice, long run off-road followed by a healthy breakfast and relaxing for the rest of the day (if it's a weekend, of course!) I feel so much better when I eat healthy.

Do you follow a strict diet when training? What do you eat before and after a long run?

It's important to fuel properly. I usually have porridge 3-4 hours before a long run, or a piece of toast if I don't have much time. After a run, I have a protein drink and I always drink electrolytes during a run.

Do you have a personal ritual or motto?

'If not you, who? If not now, when?'

What is your biggest fitness and well-being obstacle ever?

An Achilles operation only 12 weeks before the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Yet I managed to come in forth in the Marathon with a PB of 2.33:10.

What is your all-time greatest fitness-related achievement?

I feel lucky and honored to have run in all major athletic events: The Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, the European and World Championships. I never thought I could do all these between the ages of 36-40!

How do you balance your personal life and strenuous training?

I work full-time so I have to fit in my training early in the morning and after work- I usually run home from work. My family and friends are very important to me and I always make a special effort to be with them. After all, these are the people I need the most in my life.

What would you say to people who have not yet discovered the mental and physical benefits of a regular fitness regime?

Fitness keeps you physically and mentally strong. Try to set a personal goal (a walk, a short race) and keep your motivation up without aiming too high and giving up too soon. Start with a 10-minute run, then after 2 weeks increase to 20 minutes. In a couple of months you could be running your first race!

What is the best fitness / well-being advice you've ever received?

Believe in yourself and your abilities.

Who has inspired fitness in you? And how will you inspire others this year?

My father instilled fitness in me at a younger age. He loved athletics and we spent a lot of time outdoors.

I always try to inspire the girls at work to walk or run. This year, we will do the Race for Life, the largest women-only fundraising event for cancer research in the UK.

How do you re-charge and relax when you are not training?

I watch a film with a nice glass of wine.

What is your favorite snack?

Scones!