The REAL reason I started VALA
You might already know that I started VALA because my boyfriend Dann - who is a keen marathon runner - struggled to find a gel that didn’t make him feel awful during his training and racing 🏃🏻♂️
Like so many runners, Dann almost ‘fell into’ running. What started as a few 5ks around our local park in Melbourne after work quickly evolved into 10ks, half marathons and eventually full marathons. (If you’re thinking “I thought she’s Welsh, why is she talking about Melbourne?” 😂 I moved to Australia 🇦🇺 in 2017 for 18 months, which is where I met Dann!).
As Dann’s running ability progressed, he learned a lot about kit and tech but looking back, his pre-race nutrition game definitely needed some attention. It was only when the mileage increased that he really started to realise the importance of adequate hydration and nutrition.
The night before a half or full marathon, I’d watch on as he stuffed his running belt full of shop bought gels, often wondering what they were ACTUALLY doing. I quickly found out that they were an easy way to take on carbs and sugars mid-run, but I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t use something more natural. Surely natural foods like dates and maple syrup were just as effective?
My brain couldn’t reconcile the fact that Dann was eating a healthy plant based diet everyday and being physically active, yet he was consuming a sachet of what was basically chemicals mixed with water on the reg several times a week. However, it seemed like there was no convenient alternative, so I resigned myself to thinking that perhaps this was just how it would have to be.
I let the gel issue slide until the fateful day that was the Sydney Marathon 2017 expo. Whilst collecting his bib, Dann picked up a few well-known gels in a variety of artificial flavours and set them aside for the next day’s race. I can’t help but laugh when thinking back on this, as now we now know that trying new nutrition products on race day is the biggest rookie error! But alas, you live and you learn!
Fast forward to the end of the following day’s race. Not only was Dann’s body in pain but so were his insides 🥴 For hours after he complained about feeling sick and having stomach cramps. We ran through what was different and that’s when the penny dropped... it was the gels.
I decided then and there to find out more about exactly what he had eaten in those gels. Once I started researching, I couldn’t stop and I knew then that I quickly needed to find him an alternative. Hours of research ensued - at one point I was so obsessed I was researching at the poolside, during my lunch break at work and on the weekend. We ordered countless gels online in a bid to avoid a repeat of Sydney, but none of them really fit the bill.
Dann was looking for something natural that was in a pocket-friendly sachet and that wouldn’t ooze all over his hand between the miles. Long story short, his dream gel didn’t exist... so I decided to create it.
And that my friends, is how VALA was born!