Running? This was just not part of my upbringing. So, bear with me when I am trying to set the scene to my running story. Dad cycled and played squash, and mum played and watched tennis. And for me, at an early age, I stumbled (literally, as I was not very talented) into gymnastics. My younger sister followed suit but turned out to be a natural, quickly progressing to the competition squad. One day a member of my sister’s team was missing for a key competition and for the lack of a better alternative, I was summoned to make up the numbers. After that, I remained in the competition squad. Still not talented, but very determined (stubborn one could say), I slowly earned my place in that squad. I never acquired the grace needed for a beautifully looking beam routine, but I learned that with blood (yes, my hands often), sweat (no comments) and tears (well I was a teenage girl after all), one can achieve a lot and my vault, bars and tumbling routines became pretty decent.
From about 15, I started coaching gymnastics, and by the time I was about 20, while still actively competing, I was a member of the coaching team, sat on my clubs and regional competition committee (no surprise there), coached other coaches and delivered strength and conditioning sessions for the local swimming/triathlon club.
Fast forward to 1998, an opportunity arose to move to England for work. I naturally joined the closest gymnastics club (Marriotts) but discovered that the club’s and regional set up at that time didn’t help with establishing my new UK-based social life (I won the 3 counties over 14’s competition at the age of 27, and on a hangover – say no more). A chronic shoulder inflammation and sampling too many English puddings convinced me that I had to try something else. The work gym was the choice but was mostly boring (I say mostly, as I met my husband Steve there). I joined a Taekwondo club and my flexibility put me at an advantage but didn’t have the desired weight loss effect. So, I started running on the treadmill….
While I had considered myself quite fit, there had never previously been a need for me to run more than 22.25 meters (my run-up to vault) so this wasn’t easy. I persevered, and after a few months, work hosted a 5 mile race that some work friends had entered. Thinking ‘how bad could it be?’, I entered too …. Well, the first mile or so was OK, and then my laces came undone. I stopped to tie them and then sprinted to catch my friends. That sprint happened to be the steep hill in Ware (for those of you who know, will know) and the damage was done. I barely made it to the finish, in pain I had never experienced before. I didn’t run again for at least 2 or 3 weeks after that.
Once the pain (or humiliation) was forgotten, I started running more regularly at lunchtimes and it didn’t take long before some work NHRR folks asked me to join them: Paula Adam, Nick Smithers and Ian Owens to name a few. The perseverance I learned from my gymnastics days certainly helped when they took me along to do hill reps in Knebworth Park or the infamous ‘eight ploughed fields’ loop.
Not too long after, I did my first Standalone 10k and signed up to become a member of NHRR straight after the race. I started training at the club (Wednesdays only) and I still remember my first race for NHRR, the XC in Wootton with everyone calling me Ingrid (some people still do). Despite the name faux pas, I was taken by the inclusiveness and tolerance of the club: it didn’t matter where you came from and what you did, there was no judging. This felt like a family, just like the one I left behind with my gymnastics club.
Now, nearly 20 years later, I could not imagine not being a squirrel. I have met so many amazing people and had so many opportunities, not just running-wise but also by getting involved in club matters. I have learned things about myself that possibly not many other sports could have taught me. But most importantly, I have made many good friends and even more good memories for life.
Thank you NHRR