Believe me when I tell you that nobody is more surprised than me that I have become a runner later in life. At school, in Sheffield, I was the archetypal ‘last boy to be picked’ for the football team, being the skinny one who was usually to be found at the back, avoiding the gaze of the team captains. My only claim to fame on the school sports field was to garner the nickname of the ‘unidentified flying object’ due to my speed and prowess in the sack race – a moniker that friends and family still remind me of to this day.
For decades, sport held little interest for me, and whenever I spotted an exhausted looking runner pounding the pavement, I used to wonder why they were doing it to themselves. What could
possibly be so good about putting yourself through such pain? Ironically, it was a bout of back pain in my mid-forties that forced me to re-evaluate my lifestyle – it seemed that years of driving to work and sitting at a desk all day wasn’t conducive to good health. To counter this inactivity, I joined a gym, where I discovered, to my great surprise, that I actually quite enjoyed frantically moving my legs while going nowhere, i.e. running on the treadmill.
Aware that my back pain had receded, I wondered what I might do next, and I began to consider
whether real running might work for me, despite years of aversion to the idea. A trip to a sports
shop and a gait analysis later, I surprised myself by paying a small fortune for a pair of ‘proper’
running shoes. Of course, my first attempts at running were pretty poor, however, things soon
began to improve, albeit slowly. Starting running at the age of 47 was more challenging than I had
My first experience of racing came in early 2014 when I saw an ad for Sport Relief and figured, “well,
why not”. A few weeks later, on a freezing cold March morning, I arrived at a sports field in
Biggleswade, ready for my 3-mile challenge, and a little while later, the deed was done. Despite my
exhaustion, I was elated to have raised over £200 for a very worthy cause and couldn’t wait to sign
up for my next race.
The next logical step was the Standalone 10k, and it was at this point that North Herts Road Runners
came onto my radar. With perseverance, I managed to shock myself by completing the race in 52:48,
which was much faster than my training times. It wasn’t long before the Greenway Challenge half-
marathon beckoned, and I managed 01:55:09, which I was over the moon about. On both occasions,
I remember being most impressed with the race organisers, who I felt had done a magnificent job.
Though the seed of an idea to join a running club had already been planted, it took a few years for it
to finally blossom. My brother, a life-long runner, had always extolled the virtues of being in a
running club, and after joining me for my third Greenway Challenge in 2018, pointed enthusiastically
towards the ‘North Herts Road Runners’ stand, telling me to “get a form and join now!”. Though the
membership form remained untouched that day, a couple of weeks later, everything had changed. I
had become a member.
My first experience of club running was at the First Saturday of the Month run in June 2018, and
although I was apprehensive and didn’t know anybody, I felt warmly welcomed. Training nights soon
followed and now the club has become such an important part of my life, I can’t imagine being
without it. 2018 wasn’t the easiest year for me personally, but NHRR was a shining beacon during an
otherwise challenging time – proof, if proof were needed, of the mental health benefits of running.
At the age of 53, I don’t honestly think I’ve been fitter, and my race times for 5k to 10k have
certainly improved since becoming a member. I’m hoping that faster half marathons and more PBs
will soon follow.
So, a big thank you to North Herts Road Runners for helping dust down the old ‘unidentified flying
object’ and getting it airborne once more, rusty warp drive and all. You’ve really made a difference
to my life.