When did running begin for you?
Running began for me at school. I ran the 200m and 400m for the school athletics team. When I went to university I ran with a campus club, but unfortunately it all came to a stop in my third year after I developed an eating disorder.
Fast-forward about 15 years…
I rediscovered running in my later thirties quite literally as a therapy. A lot happened both personally and professionally in my thirties which led to diagnoses of anxiety and depression, and the beginnings of a relapse into old eating patterns. I’ve always loved being outdoors, walking our dogs, and just enjoying the sounds and colours. A fellow dog owner who lived near us and I often met out and about suggested I join the Cranleigh Sunflowers Running Club. She was a member and said to come along to a session with her. It took me a month to pluck up the courage/run out of excuses before joining her for one of the club’s ‘Walk to Run’ sessions – walk, jog, run, and all in between. I went along, and 5km later thought, ‘I’m loving this!’ Around the same time, through networking for my freelance work (I’m a proofreader and editor) I met Martin Bamford, one of the Run Directors for Cranleigh parkrun. During a conversation involving plans for the upcoming weekend, he said about being Run Director that Saturday at parkrun. I asked what parkrun was (strange to think there was a time when I didn’t know about parkrun!), and he explained and said I should come along. Two weeks later, Martin messaged me to say he planned to run that Saturday and invited me to join him. I went, and I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that four years later, when Cranleigh junior was set up, I trained as a Run Director. Seeing 4 – 14-year-olds walking, jogging and running in an event designed for them, which encourages them to be active and to encourage and inspire each other and themselves is a really special thing.
At Cranleigh parkrun I met London Marathon Ever Present Chris Finill (he has run every London Marathon, with 33/41 runs finishing in sub 3 hrs) who encouraged me to enter my first half marathon, the Surrey Slog, which starts and ends at the school he worked at, the Duke of Kent. I ran ‘the Slog’ in 2017, and then again in 2019 and again in 2021 J (am still working to get sub 2 hours…best time thus far 2 hours 2 mins…).
At this point I was attending Friday and Sunday runs with the Sunflowers, but about four months later I was feeling ready to move on. I’d visited the Fitstuff running shop in Guildford several times and been told about the running group attached to the shop. A Guildford club was a whole new ballgame as something I suffered major anxiety over was driving. Cranleigh running clubs were local and so ‘safe’, but joining a club in Guildford meant a 25-minute drive. I joined Fitstuff’s Wednesday eve and Friday run Facebook pages, and through these got to know Fitstuffer David Corrie, who was also a junior parkrun volunteer, at Guildford, and he said he’d look out for me if I came along to a session. So, after a fair bit of ‘will I be too slow… will I make friends… help…’ I made myself go to a Wednesday evening session, saw David, met others, ran 10km, and loved it, and it all went from there.
Parkrun was also how I got to know Waverley Harriers Harriet Betteridge, Philly Smyth and John McKenna, who all encouraged me to go along to a club run with the Waverley Harriers. Once again, confidence stopped me from acting on it until Covid-19 and lockdown hit, and everyone had to adjust mentally and physically to dealing with the changes lockdown caused our day-to-day living. A Fitstuff friend of mine, Alexandra, and I had become running buddies during the second lockdown. She was a Waverley Harrier, and I asked if I could join the virtual running that the club was organising during the second lockdown with a view to joining up properly once lockdown was over, which is what I did.
Why do you run?
I started running as a mind and brain balancer. Call it a natural antidepressant. And, it gave me reason to eat well to fuel my body when intrusive thoughts had started once again telling me I shouldn’t eat. I still run for these reasons, but also, more and more I just love being outside and active, be that walking or running. Fresh air. Colours, Greenery. And, a body with working limbs and the ability to move – a huge gift.
What race or moment in your running career holds the most significance and why?
May I have two races?
The first race I ever ran after rediscovering running was the Surrey Hills Challenge 10km. I finished to find I’d come first lady. I loved the event, and that achievement gave me confidence.
The first time I ran the Vitality London 10km, raising money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. I remember finishing and thinking: ‘this was for you, Grandpa.’ I’ve run other races for the charity since, but that first one was special. And one day, we WILL find a cure.
Who is your running inspiration?
Goodness. Tricky one, as a lot of people inspire me.
May I have two?
The first is Chris Finill. To have run every London marathon is legendary, and for 33/41 to have been sub 3 hours is just incredible. But, more than that, in the 2018 marathon, he fell at 2 ½ miles when another runner crossed in front of him, and he broke his arm in 4 places. He was patched up by the first aiders and continued running, finishing in sub 4 hours. He was asked afterwards how he’d managed to keep running. His response was that his legs still worked, and if he hadn’t finished, he was no longer an Ever Present. Not finishing, despite the pain of his arm didn’t occur to him. The mental over the physical is a massive part of running.
The second is another fellow Cranleigh parkrunner, Alison McKenzie. This lady has had breast cancer twice, gone through chemo twice, and recovered twice, and last month ran the London Marathon for Breast Cancer Now to raise money for the cause who supported her. She’s amazing.
What event, past or present, would you like to take part in and why?
The London Marathon. Having volunteered twice at the finish line and felt the atmosphere and seen people come over that finish line, I want to run that course.
What golden piece of advice would you give to other runners?
Run your own race, to your pace.
Hopefully the London Marathon, but if that doesn’t happen, then something else will. In the meantime, strength training, and enjoying whatever I do.
Who would you like to nominate?
Sarah Atkinson please.