Meet Kate Giles, Founder of Crewroom

I was fortunate enough last week to have the chance to interview Kate Giles. The first thing I learnt was that it’s not a good start to insult your interviewee. In my defence I honestly meant ‘tough cookie’ as a compliment.

Photo of kate Giles
Kate Giles. Photo credit  Pandora’s Thoughts Photography

To build a solid case for the defence I’m talking about a Team GB rower who caught pneumonia whilst training in foul weather, but who only found out when coughing and hearing a ‘pop’ that turned out to be three ribs cracking. This is a woman who, whilst taking a year to recover, comes up with the idea of creating performance sportswear so that no other athlete has to suffer the same fate as her. Anyone can come up with a good idea, but I’m talking about a woman who acts on it by forming a company and setting about revolutionising sportswear. As if that wasn’t enough, this ‘tough cookie’ is the sort of person who, when struggling to get people into her shop doesn’t give up but sets up a juice bar inside to tempt them in, and when that doesn’t work offers fried breakfasts instead. In my eyes that’s someone who’s a tough cookie, although Kate very politely suggested that ‘resilient’ was maybe a better word.

Kate Giles on the road
Kate Giles on the road. Photo credit Pandora’s Thoughts Photography

The company Kate set up with a friend became Crewroom, and she recently bought out her partner to become the sole CEO. She leads a company that designs performance sportswear that looks as good as it feels to wear. It’s not only the designs that are innovative, but the company has developed their own fabrics to ensure the products come up to their high standards. Kate said the main focus for her clothing has always been the materials, so much so that she became involved in developing her own fabrics. Their shirts made from “Vapour-X” fabric each contain about 10 recycled water bottles, as well as bamboo charcoal, which means they’re also nailing their colours to the environmental mast as well. I will be looking more at the fabrics in my next post where I review a couple of Crewroom shorts and vests.

For men as well
For men as well. Photo credit Pandora’s Thoughts Photography

Obviously the function of the clothing is very important, but looking at the Crewroom website they also look really stylish. I’m impressed with how they look good without any of the silly fripperies that some companies seem to think women need to have in their sportswear. I don’t want laces to dangle and annoy me, nor acres of loose flappy fabric to make me look huge and rub me raw when it’s hot, thank you very much. I am also impressed that the women’s specific clothing, whilst it does have some pink for those who want it, also has a wide range of other colours. Kate said she has to have pink in the women’s range – she had a group of six women who came into the shop and just said “Where’s the pink?!” However the designers have chosen a strong shade, and thought about how it will look when you’re hot and sweaty.

A refreshing change to pink!
A refreshing change to pink! Photo credit Pandora’s Thoughts Photography

Crewroom use designers from the London School of Fashion who work on site, in the same building as the shop and the rest of the business by the river in Putney. How interactive is that? They get to see and interact with the customer base right at the point of sale. Kate said that as a smaller brand they have to listen to their customers, who in turn give them great feedback. The brand is growing by word of mouth with “people saying how much they like the product”.

I asked Kate what she thought was more important, the look or the function of her clothing. She said that all of her designs are fabric led. Once the fabric is right, then her team of designers look at the style of the clothing. “What happened to me, was because I was wearing inappropriate fabric. I am fabric led. My mind actually works towards when someone’s training, always making sure they’re well protected.”

The success of the Crewroom designs means that it is now a sought after brand for elite athletes, with Crewroom supplying kit for Team GB rowers and canoeists. Seeing as I felt a little star struck to be talking to Kate, I asked her if she got the same buzz out of seeing ordinary people wearing Crewroom products, as opposed to Elite athletes and famous people. “Way more!” she immediately and exuberently answered. “It’s my biggest excitement!”

Kate thinks the biggest change in the market is more people doing non competitive sport. “A big part of our target audience is people in their 30s and 40s, who’ve maybe had their children, maybe never done any sport, but who start with running and get a bit of a buzz.” (I was smiling at this, because this is *exactly* how I started!) We chatted about how it is now normal for people of all ages and abilities to get out and exercise. Growing up in a small Wiltshire village (not far from where I live, co-incidentally) it was unusual to see people out exercising. “If you’d seen a 60 year old woman running in the village you’d think she was Mad Alice. It just didn’t happen”. Kate also has a healthy attitude towards aging. “I don’t think middle age exists anymore. No one thinks of themselves as old at 30 or 40. It’s like saying it’s all downhill from here. You might not run faster but you can get happier and happier”. She believes getting older is just about being more relaxed and “growing into our own skin”. These days she likes nothing more than to meet up with a group of friends, go for a run and then go to the pub!

That's my kind of post run refreshment
That’s my kind of post run refreshment. Photo credit Pandora’s Thoughts Photography

Her main sport now is running as it’s the easiest thing to do. Rowing takes a lot of time to get organised and she simply doesn’t have the luxury of time at the moment. As she is obviously a very hard worker I suggested that she didn’t sound like someone who could be happy just sitting around on holiday and doing nothing. However apparently she’s quite happy to do that on holiday, as long as there was the sea or a pool. Sounds ideal to me.

So is she really a ‘tough cookie’? I asked Kate if she thought taking part in sports taught people how to have strength and a ‘backbone’ or does it show you what’s already there. Kate replied with a story about a tough rowing coach who told the women’s rowing team “Just when you think you’re about to die, you’re only about 25% there”. This gave them the self confidence to carry on and push themselves further, and ultimately go on to win Olympic Gold.  “You realise how capable you are, the more you push yourself” Kate added. This sounded to me like a good motto for life, as well as for sport, and I think it sums up how she’s living her life. I wonder if she’d prefer ‘inspirational, resilient cookie’ as a description?


* Catch up with Crewroom ( at the London Triathlon Expo 2014, on Saturday & Sunday, August 2 & 3 at the ExCeL Centre, east London, where the team will be on stand 32 exhibiting their brand new ranges.

Hair Troubles

Flop, flick, swish – is your hair annoying when you run? Or are you one of those perfectly groomed runners who can run, even in the middle of summer, without their face looking like a sweaty beetroot and with hair looking like they stepped straight our of a shampoo advert? Sad to say, and you might have guessed it, but I’m not one of those people. I’m more the sort of person who has posted pictures of her strange ‘tummy sweat’ marks and who has amazingly bad hair on a windy day.

I was once running in a 10K race behind a woman who had the most amazingly long, swishy blond ponytail. I was green with envy of her and her hair the entire way around, as I could see her just ahead of me looking trim, fit, fast and gorgeous. I will confess to being a bad person who felt inutterably smug, when, on the final sprint to the finish, I passed her throwing up by the side of the course.* (Confession’s good for the soul, isn’t it?)

Maybe in judgement my hair seems to have been possessed by a series of different characters this week. It was recently cut into layers and hasn’t quite decided which way it wants to go. First I spent a day with Justin Bieber’s hair on my head (which resulted in near whiplash from the associated head flicks throughout the day). Then I woke up with Morrissey’s quiff atop my head (this was pretty cool, but sadly I frightened it away when washing my hair after running). Things went downhill from there, where Bryan Ferry’s greased back look was followed by Gail from Corrie.

Today I ran 6 miles. I pushed my hair back with my faithful hairband from Decathalon, it was humid after last night’s amazing thunderstorms, and I had been sweating. A lot. I peeled the hairband off when I got home, and low and behold my hair was suddenly transformed into a 1970’s Charlie’s Angels’ style flick.

I am sure that I’m not the only one with difficult hair. I enjoyed reading Vikki’s blog over at “If you can’t move it, climb it” where she reviews a head band and visor. I’m still wondering if either would sort my hair out.

If you want to make me feel better please feel free to comment below and share your hair disasters. Alternatively let me know how you keep your hair looking fantastic as you run. And if you’re the girl who was sick at the Longleat 10k several years ago, I hope you were okay and wow I loved your hair.



* Don’t judge me – I’d been following that perfect hair for an hour by then, and racing for an hour on a hilly course does strange things to me

“Walk up the hills and there’s plenty of food”

Sounds like a great combination, doesn’t it? As a running event I’d always vote for walking up hills and having lots of food. Oh and small events where you’ll always know someone. These were the best bits about ultra running, according to @abradypus (otherwise known as Louise). On Friday afternoon I was delighted to be sat in our local farm shop and cafe with the very lovely and chatty Louise and her husband. They were on their way to Wales and suggested we meet up for a coffee (which turned into a cream tea. Yum). She was telling me what she loves about ultra running, amongst many other random things we chatted about. It was all sounding great, apart from the actual distances you have to cover. For someone who only started running in 2011 she has come a long way!

This weekend Louise is competing in the 100Km ‘Race to the Stones’. I’d like to wish her a great race, with people she knows, lots of uphill walking and good food at the pitstops. I’m sure she’ll be blogging about the race over at so do pay her blog a visit.

Chippenham 5K River Run 2014. Data wrangling.

It had been another beautiful day, and the weather was just perfect for racing in the evening. After last week’s 10K disappointment I felt like everything was riding on tonight’s 5K. No pressure then.

I wrote last year’s time and pace onto my hand, put my running kit on, cooked dinner for my children, raced around looking for car parking money and shot out of the door with about 45 minutes before the start time. Fortunately I don’t live far from Chippenham, and even more fortunately as I crawled around the packed car park I managed to nab a space. I bumped into a good friend at the start, so was feeling in high spirits.

The Start

From the off all went well. I survived the usual crush at the start, I kept an eye on my pace to keep it close to last year’s. I overtook when I could (not easy on this course) and tried not to hold anyone up when I could hear them coming up behind me. I crossed the line and my Garmin said 26:47. Checking my smudged hand, last years time was 26:46 – so close! I was aware that in non-chip timed races it’s vitally important to keep in the same order in the finish ‘funnel’ as you crossed the line in. Just after I’d crossed the line, two guys were racing hard over the line, and shot past me. I got one of them to move behind me in the funnel but I wasn’t 100% certain that the other chap had crossed after me so I left him where he was.

Provisional results were out the next day, and gave me a time of 26:49 – 3 seconds slower than last year. I was a little disappointed, but to be honest I still felt very happy with my race as I’d run the best I could on the night. To be that close to last year’s time (when I had trained really well for it) was actually pretty amazing. Looking closely at the time of the chap recorded as finishing in front of me (in case he had ‘pinched’ my place) then my time would have been 26:48 – shaving a whole extra second off. 

I uploaded my data to Strava and was pleased to see some good results on segments on the route. Various friends gave me kudos and one (who had also run this race last year and this) made a very interesting observation. He pointed out that the course we ran this year was actually slightly longer than last year. On coming off the riverside path last year we cut straight up onto the road whereas this year we ran a little longer by the river before angling up to the road. For last year’s race my Garmin recorded 3.09 miles, whereas this year’s was 3:11. Now, here comes the data wrangling bit! If I look at this year’s data and stop it at 3:09 miles, it gives me a time of 26:40  Woot woot!!

Anyway, even without funnel line pushers-in, and slightly longer routes, I am very pleased with this year’s time. Even with my data wrangling I can’t really claim it as a new PB but I am still very pleased with my time and not at all disappointed.

I received proof positive that I’d worked really hard in the race when I returned home. My teenaged daughter proclaimed that I ‘stank’ and I was leaving a ‘trail of stink’ as I walked around the house. Lovely!