At school I hated cross country – I enjoyed team sports, but never really ran, although I knew I had some running ability. Mum and Dad were sporty, but as they grew up during the war they had little opportunity to pursue sport. I used to run alongside my Dad while he cycled!
Some years later, a gym I belonged to started a Sunday morning running club, so I started running with Richard and a few others. That led to my first race, the Great North Run in 1995. A little time later, Richard got a job which involved working away a lot, so I joined the Quakers – that was over 20 years ago!
What kept you going when you first started running?
I had a long term medical problem (Endometriosis) and I found that running really helped with pain control and recovery after surgery, so that kept me going. I’m also a very competitive person, and I found I enjoyed racing more than training (and I still do) so the competition keeps me going too.
A long time ago I had a club number for London Marathon (back when nobody else wanted them!) and someone at Quakers said to me: “Well, you’re not fit enough to do a marathon!” Challenge accepted – it worked, and I did about 4.5 hours for my first marathon.
I’d been running quite a long time before I realised it had to hurt… I’d done the Great North Run a few times, and I was struggling to break 1:50, when someone told me “If it doesn’t hurt, you’re perhaps not running hard enough.” I realised I would have to push myself a bit harder to get the improvements I wanted.
Tell us about some of the races that you’ve done in the past?
Obviously that first London Marathon in 1998 was memorable, as it was my first time doing that distance, and all my family were there.
The New York marathon a few years ago also stands out – I got a ‘good for age’ time. It was cancelled the first year I was supposed to do it, so I deferred for two years. My Mum died – she suffered from Alzheimer’s, so I decided to run the New York Marathon for an Alzheimer’s charity. 6 weeks before the marathon, I got a nasty ankle injury, and the physio said I couldn’t run! So, going into the marathon having not run for 6 weeks, and feeling the pressure of running for the charity, I was apprehensive. The weather was iffy on the day – Richard had got an entry through the ballot, so we were taken to the start, and it was SO cold, I’m sure I had hypothermia! It was the most mentally challenging start of a race I’ve ever experienced. I ran the first 3 miles in a ski jacket, and I was looking longingly at the discarded clothing around the start!
I really like the Brass Monkey – it’s one of the first half marathons I ran really well, I’ve done my fastest two HMs at the Brass Monkey. I always see people I know on the way around, it’s lovely to see them in the villages as we run through, feeling tired.
I’ve also done a couple of 5k races in America – one was in Boston a couple of years ago, and I ran for Motor Neurone Disease. It was held at MIT – a lot of the people in the race were motor neurone researchers, and lots of motor neurone sufferers and their families were there to cheer us on, so the atmosphere was very positive, I really enjoyed the experience. I love running in America, they seem to organise events so well, even the smaller ones.
I don’t do trail running. I don’t do night running. I don’t do cross country. So, last year I did a night run on the edge of Dartmoor! Luckily it was nearly all on paths, and I actually really enjoyed it! I was running through the dark on my own, and all I could hear was my own breathing. The course was marked, but not that well, so I was following a vague headtorch in the distance! I was third woman, but they hadn’t scanned my chip, so they gave my case of cider to someone else – I was mortified!
At least once a year, I try to do something I’ve never done before.
How much training do you typically do?
At the moment, as I’m training for a marathon, I’m doing 50-55 miles per week. I do a long run on a weekend, train with Triathlon Club Monday evening, Quakers Tuesday and Thursday, Track sessions on Wednesday. I also do Pilates, yoga, speed flex and body attack. Luckily I only work part time!
I’m very focussed on what I am doing, so when I go to the gym I’m efficient with what I do, I don’t waste time. The gym is boring enough without messing around! I don’t do weights – I never turn left at Bannatynes. I’m lucky, I have a great yoga teacher, and I’ve realised in the last few years how important it is, as a runner, to build a strong core.
Be honest, do you enjoy training?
I do enjoy training, I wouldn’t do it otherwise, but I’ve become very self-motivated and disciplined, and I’ve got much better at listening to my own body and only doing what works for me. My favourite session is probably 800m reps – I don’t enjoy fartlek sessions very much, though! I really do enjoy racing, and training is necessary to race.
To get to Boston (Boston Marathon, 17th April) fit, well and uninjured and appreciate that I’m lucky to be doing it – I got in with a good for age time from London (3h46m). I have good inspiration for doing it – I know Boston quite well, and 4 years ago, shortly after the Boston bombing, we were fortunate enough to be running with City Sports in Boston. Some of them suggested I try the marathon. I’m aiming for under 4 hours – this will be my 16th marathon.
What is your favourite race/distance/terrain?
10k. I was gutted when Dewsbury 10k was measured long, as I would have had a PB. I quite like 5k, but not South Park! My 5k PB was in Boston a few years ago, which was an out and back course – I seem to run better when I don’t have to turn corners. I’m like an old car! I like the idea of running for less than an hour. Whilst I enjoy doing some trail training, I much prefer the predictability of tarmac for races. I’ve done about 150 half marathons, so I must quite enjoy them, too.
Which race performance are you most proud of?
It’s not my fastest half marathon, but I got a prize at the Brass Monkey this year, which I was particularly proud of, considering the strength of the competition. I was also very proud of completing the New York marathon, given the problems with the build up, the poor weather, and the pressure I felt.
Which race would you have to be forced to do at gunpoint?
The worst race I’ve done, was Gibside in November – somehow, I managed to stay upright… It was very muddy, so I was wearing trail shoes which were great as long as there was no tarmac, and some of it was tarmac – I was like Bambi on ice! Anything that’s muddy trails, I’d rather not do.
What is your proudest running achievement?
21:15 for 5k at the age of 50. I’ve got quicker as I’ve grown older, within the last 5 years I’ve done PBs for every distance, which I’m delighted with, given that I’ve been running for over 20 years. I think it’s down to training smarter as I get older, but I think I may have hit the peak already. I’m very lucky to have a coach for a husband, who helps advise and support me, and especially helps me to avoid injury.
What’s your idea of running heaven?
Racing all the time – I do love racing. A perfect running day would be racing a 10k, a finish at a leisure centre with showers, then going shopping!
What’s your idea of running hell?
Running for 5 days in my own squalor! I can’t even imagine running anything over marathon distance. Richard tries to encourage me to do an Ultra, just to say I’ve done one, but I think 26 miles is far enough. And I need showers and food. I don’t much enjoy training with others whose pace is erratic – I’ve become good at disciplining myself and managing my pacing.
Any advice to newcomers?
Don’t try to do too much too soon. Strength – you need muscle strength and endurance, so work on those. Listen to your own body. Seek advice, and never be afraid to ask – even the quiet people, their experience is invaluable. Good footwear is essential. And find yourself a good soft tissue therapist, they’ll be your best friend.
What keeps you going when the going gets tough in a hard race?
Chasing down the young lad in Adidas samba, wearing football socks! There’s always someone who goes off too fast, and it’s usually a young lad who’s bragged about his half marathon time… and I love picking them off as they tire. My competitive nature keeps me going.
parkrun is a good one – even though it’s not a race, it gives you a good feel for pacing. One of the best things to learn as a newcomer is learning to pace yourself, regardless of your speed. As you move up to distance racing, learning to fuel and to drink. Learn race etiquette – it’s amazing how many people don’t understand race etiquette: things like dropping bottles on the floor can be quite dangerous. Find a distance that you enjoy, work towards it – and don’t try to do what other people are doing, be your own person and set your own goals. You can’t do everything. As a podiatrist, I see many runners wearing the wrong footwear, and they’re just heading for injury – so invest in good shoes!
Best way to relax/reward yourself after a race?
A hot shower, of course, and I like real ales and Belgian beers. Richard is a great baker, so I enjoy cheese on fresh bread with a beer!
If you were given six months of professional training, nutrition and perfect health – how fast could you run 10k?
Probably no faster than I can now. I might knock a few seconds off… perhaps just under 44 minutes? 10 years ago I might have shaved more off, but I think age 52, it might be wasted effort. That’s not negative, just being realistic.
Apple, Water, Banana or Mars bar in your ideal goodie bag?
None of the above! Cup of coffee and a pack of salt and vinegar crisps. Or some of my vegan, gluten free, home-made treats!