Twenty-four years of running! If some of you do your calculations, you will work out that my running started a few months after the birth of my second daughter, Katie. I was a postnatal wreck, overweight and a bit lost. Rich and I decided I needed to find an easy way to get fit between feeding new baby so we visited ARO Sports to kit me out in a pair of shorts and some trainers. A bad attitude meant that the only way I was going to actually run further than the front path was to drive our Astra Belmont some distance from home, chuck me out and then follow me home in the car. Fun times, and how hard was that?
Kit was a bit more restricted in those days, and I can remember my shorts flapping in the wind. I can also remember feeling so much better about everything and a cloud lifted every time I felt myself go a bit further. So, I was getting my mojo back but needed to check out this racing lark. Royston 10K was my first race. My friend Hayley held the baby, I breastfed ten minutes before the start and finished the race to the sound of a screaming pink Katie. But, I had done it. Time? No idea, I had found a new hobby.
Rich found me a running club who happened to be holding their AGM at Letchworth Rugby Club where he still played. I joined, I stayed and I have loved it ever since. I ran a few good times, well good for me, and my greatest running achievement is probably the London Marathon in 3 hours 41 minutes. I still sleep with the medal. But, times and stuff are not for me. I love running midweek leagues, cross country and relays. I also love running with my club mates and get a real kick from seeing my daughters loving their running as well. Although the day we ran the Pirton boxing day fun run and both overtook me was a bittersweet memory.
I cannot write about my running journey without mentioning Katrin Rippel, a lovely lady who ran with Karen and I back in the day. A very generous person who always congratulated everyone and encouraged us all, she was my nemesis in virtually every race we entered together. The gloves were off when we ran, and the three of us were frequently close together. Three very competitive ladies who took no prisoners. At the finish line however, all was forgiven and we would congratulate the winner on that occasion. Katrin sadly died very young and I still miss running with her.
I’m still running, slightly slower but still loving it. I have lots to thank this wonderful club for: great friends, fabulous memories, huge laughs and so so much I could tell you about, like stopping at a water stop for 20 minutes with lightning during the Welwyn 10K, running through a huge pile of excrement thinking it was a solid pile of tarmac, Smiler as a jockey at the Gilbey Gallop, running down the Mall to the London Marathon finish feeling like I had actually won, and running in the pitch black for the Round Norfolk Relay listening to Voodoo Doll on full blast. Many more memories to come no doubt.
I have also had the huge privilege of helping with our races, in particular the Standalone 10K, which I have seen change over the years in so many ways. The First Saturday of the Month also has a special place in my heart. It’s a great start to the weekend, seeing people run, and a good chat with running buddies. Remember the guy who ran the December one in a pair of swimming trunks? What a moment, but not a patch on the man who ran the Greenway in gold lycra budgie smugglers. I am going to have to stop now and go for a run…
Thank you for reading my story.
I remember watching the London Marathon as a child and announcing I was going to run it one day…my family thought I was mad. Although we were a very outdoorsy family (which explains my love of a muddy, hilly XC), at the time we weren’t a running family and to run that far seemed impossible. I always loved running at school and was even relatively speedy at 800m representing my school in Preston schools competitions and I also enjoyed the schools cross country races but for some reason I prepared myself for it by cycling up and down the hill at the end of our road. I was interested in joining our local athletics club, Preston Harriers, but it was on the other side of town and I have a couple of younger siblings which made it tricky for my parents to get me there so I didn’t join.
I started to get properly into running in my final year at university in Edinburgh where I saw an advert for a new running club and decided to join. Through this friendly club, I discovered I loved running, the places running can take you and meeting likeminded people so when I moved to Hertfordshire in Autumn 1999 for a three month contract I contacted a few local running clubs and North Herts Road Runners were the first to respond. I was living in London Colney at the time so NHRR weren’t the most handy club but I was more than happy to drive up the A1 for Wednesday night training at Letchworth Corner Sports club. I think one of the first people I ran with was Karen Dodsworth and I vaguely remember running the 5km series that used to be on Winter midweek evenings in Stevenage and Bedford Cross Country as some of my early races.
After chatting with a couple of other members in the changing rooms after training and listening them talk about in the bar at Whitethorn Lane, I was inspired to enter London Marathon and miraculously got in at my first attempt. In 2001 I completed the London Marathon like I said I would when I was a child! I have been a member of NHRR for 20 years now and I can’t imagine not being a member. I’ve now run 15 marathons, countless other races of various distances and completed a 40 races in my 40th year challenge but I think my favourite is XC. Although family commitments mean I can’t always make training at the moment, NHRR is a big part of my life and it has been great to have watched NHRR grow with and around me over the last 20 years. I have made friends (and met my husband!), spent time with lots of great people and enjoyed being part of the committee. So what next in my running story? At the moment, my aim is pretty low key, get rid of an injury and get down to the club on a regular basis.
Yifter the shifter they called him…….
This was the start…..
A 10-year-old watching the Moscow Olympics on the telly in 1980. This guy just took off on the last lap. Wow! – The drama of it all - the others seemingly going backwards, all anguished faces and flailing arms as this guy sped off into the distance.
And there I was – miserable summers spent indoors, suffering severe hay fever, all puffy eyes and wheezing lungs. Frequent hospital visits for treatment were the norm. No running outdoors for me.
School athletics often saw me side-lined with a sick note. Yifter the shifter had gone, replaced by Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett at Los Angeles 1984. The London Marathon featured on the telly. More drama, more excitement, but now, thanks to an inhaler and weekly hay fever injections, I was able to participate. Sports day yielded a 1500m time of 5:20.6, and my 800m time was 2:48. Trying to replicate Coe and Ovett’s performances on the track, the reality was a bit different – being able to breathe at the finish was enough! However, the whole concept of endurance running fascinated me.
The inevitable loss of interest in my early work years followed as I discovered wine, women and song – a familiar story to many; and a fairly sedentary life beckoned.
Then working in Germany in my late 20s to avoid spending every night in the bar, I was talked into going for an occasional run with a colleague.
Our route went up “the hill”. Short and sharp, my first attempt to run up it I was almost sick! Legs like jelly at the top, it became the focus of each subsequent run. Eventually able to run without stopping, it became enjoyable, and I started spending more evenings running rather than drinking.
This was the start (again)!
Fast forward through a few years of sporadic running, with no real idea of what I was doing and with plenty of injuries, and I found myself at my first Standalone. With a proper training plan from Runner’s World I became a runner!
A discussion with a club coach met at work convinced me to join a club (he actually tried to get me to join his club!). He said it would work wonders for my running.
The weekly paper showed results from local clubs – NHRR seemed to be the best performers, and finishing the Buntingford 10 just behind one of their top guys (age group triathlon world champion, no less!) convinced me this was the right club.
The first few club sessions were great – the atmosphere was so welcoming and inclusive, and a great bunch of people made fitting in very easy. A structured training programme set by the club coach meant things started to improve…….
I asked one of the faster club runners at a midweek league race how many times a week he trained.
“Two……”, he said hesitantly “……times a day”
“Really!!”, I said, in awe. This was extreme! And I was hooked!
Now - this really was the start!
Now in my 6th year at NHRR, running for me today is as habitual as cleaning my teeth, a consistent, daily thread running through the sometimes ruffled, twisted fabric of life. It sets the agenda for my day, every day. In the background, NHRR, and the greater running community, provides the structure and network of like-minded individuals, who, just like me, wouldn’t want to be without it.
I was one of the kids at school who would do anything to avoid PE. Being overweight, it was my idea of torture! It was a theme that carried on throughout my life until the age of 43. But then, having been inspired by a fellow slimmer, I signed up to North Herts Road Runners’ Couch to 5k course, primarily to help me continue losing weight. I must admit, as someone who was still five stone overweight, I expected people to laugh at me, but I honestly received nothing other than support and encouragement.
I completed the Couch to 5k course and was immensely proud when I ran my graduation 5k. The club were there to support us and gave us certificates and the biggest cheers. Approximately 30 of us graduated and we felt like we were part of something special. And then the club asked us if we would like to join. I couldn’t believe it. My first 5k took over 45 minutes – there are runners in the club who complete 5k in a third of that time! Why on earth would they want someone like me as a member?
It speaks volumes for NHRR that they were willing to commit not only to putting on the Couch to 5k course, but also to nurture a core group of novices going forward. Tens of club runners volunteered to operate a rota of running leaders to train us and we have grown in confidence, strength and ability as a result. We proudly wear our club vests and some of our group are now posting very respectable times themselves. I still regard myself as a plodder, but I’m close to a 30-minute 5k now and that will do me!
Being part of the club is about so much more than running. I’ve learned that volunteering as a marshal is just as important (and rewarding) as running sometimes and I’m always proud to go and cheer on our faster runners at important races. Since I’ve joined, even the fastest of our runners have found time to shout words of encouragement to me as they have whizzed past me on their second lap – they’ll never know how much that means to someone who only discovered a passion for running later in life. And our coaching is superb, the time and dedication that is put into the club is frankly incredible.
If you’re considering joining a club, please do. I’ve made friends for life, I’m inspired by the people I run with (behind mostly!), I’ve accessed expert coaching and I’m immensely proud to be part of this club. How I wish my PE teachers could see me now!