I liked to run at primary school, and I remember being desperate to take part in the 100 yard sprint on sports day (yes – yards, it really was that long ago). Instead, rather ignominiously, I was entered for the egg and spoon race. Refusing to be discouraged, I took part - and won! My first (and only) podium position. I also ran in a mixed relay team for County Athletics in my last year of juniors – we were a poor third on that occasion, but it was very exciting to be there nonetheless. Once I got to secondary school, other pursuits claimed my attention and I didn’t run competitively again for over 30 years.
My running story proper started around 2003 when I took part in my first ‘Race for Life’ in Bedford. Now in my forties, I decided to try and get fitter and had joined a gym about a year or so before this. At about this time, some of the fitness instructors at my gym started a beginners’ running group. This was well before the days of Couch to 5K, but we followed a similar programme and I found, somewhat to my surprise, that I started to enjoy running outside. Our target was to take part in a Race for Life that summer. On the day of the race, I was so nervous I felt sick! My target was to finish in under 30 mins, which I just about managed. One of my fellow runners in the group was a bit faster than me, so my motivation was to try and stay with her. By 2005 we were no longer beginners, and it was time to take on a ‘proper’ race. Our choice was, of course, Standalone 10k.
My target this time was to finish in under an hour – I managed this fairly comfortably, and I still
have the black (cotton) finishers’ T-shirt to prove it. The following year, I ran Standalone again, but was a bit disappointed to take only about 30 secs off my previous time. I’d also recently joined the online running community, Fetcheveryone.com, and my virtual running buddies had encouraged me to enter my first marathon. I knew I’d got to start doing some proper training, so I looked for a local running club. Having run Standalone, my first choice was NHRR.
In those days we used to meet at Letchworth Corner sports club, and I remember my first training session, running reps around a Cloisters Road loop in the January dark – I tried to keep up with Lindsay, but it was hard work! We all ran together at training in those days – there were no Blue, Green,Yellow or Purple groups. I started training regularly and noticed a steady improvement. I often did my longest runs out towards Preston – if you know the route you will know that there is a big hill to climb up into the village. At the time I was training, my mum was ill with cancer and undergoing gruelling treatment. If I struggled to get up that hill – and I always did - I told myself that if my mum could endure her cancer treatment, then I could run up a b****y hill!
In October 2007, I ran my first marathon – at Loch Ness. Possibly not an ideal first marathon – it’s certainly not flat – but a superbly organised and friendly race, with the best race-day scenery I’ve ever seen. I was disappointed with my finishing time of just under 5hrs 12mins, and had struggled during the race due to lack of long distance training. I crossed the finish line and burst into tears! I was in such a sorry state I forgot to pick up my finishers T-shirt, and had to contact the organisers later to request one. I’ve since run Loch Ness twice more (and faster) and have loved it every time – it’s still my favourite marathon.
I was determined to better that first marathon time, and the following year I ran Abingdon marathon – a lot flatter and faster than Loch Ness, although without the spectacular scenery. I improved my time by a whopping 35 mins, and I was hooked! Since then, I have run eight more road marathons, one trail marathon and one trail ultra. I finally broke the four-hour barrier at Abingdon in 2011 with a 3:59:23 – a long-held ambition. I had one final go at another sub-4 in 2015, again at Abingdon, running a best and final marathon time of 3:58:29.
Two of the things I like best about being a member of NHRR are the Midweek League and Cross Country. I was hesitant about taking part in MWL initially, thinking I was too slow, but I was persuaded to participate and found I loved it – also discovering an unexpected competitive side to my personality. It’s hard to choose between them, but I think I probably love XC even more than MWL – if anyone had told me, when I dawdled reluctantly to school PE lessons, that one day I would enjoy battling through thick mud, up hill and down dale and through rivers and smelly cow puddles – all on a freezing cold winter morning - I’d have thought they were mad!
Since hanging up my marathon shoes, I have concentrated on shorter distances and have been
content to see my WAVA scores go up along with my advancing age. There have been a few club records won – and lost. There have been a few medals and trophies for age-group placings along the way. At the end of last year I qualified to run for England Masters as an F60 athlete at 10k – and I have a shiny England masters vest of which I am very proud. None of this would have happened had I not decided, back in early 2007, to join North Herts Road Runners. So, thank you NHRR – it’s been real!