How did you get into running and why?

I’d done bits of running in the past, but I’d enter a 10k or the Great North Run, train a little bit, do the race, wonder why I found it so hard, then not run again for ages! A friend of mine wanted to try the Quakers, so I agreed to go down with her on a cold February evening.  I was looking forward to taking part in a structured session, as opposed to running 3 to 4 miles on my own. I took part in a fartlek session and received great support from people I did not even know, and that was it, I was hooked.

What kept you going when you first started running?

On my first session a coach asked me what my 10k pb was. I think I said about 55 minutes. The coach told me that if I kept coming to the sessions, and put the work in, I would get to sub 50. This sounded way beyond anything I felt I could do, but I was determined to give it a go, and I think I broke the 50 min barrier about a year later. I think it was the lure of pushing myself, and being able to run faster that initially lured me, but it’s definitely the new experiences and all the friendships I have made that have kept me coming back.

How much training do you typically do each week?

Four to five runs a week. At least one Quakers session, two if I can, then a couple of steadier runs. During COVID I have found some nice trail runs near me and have enjoyed running these, especially at the tail end of a day. I have found it the perfect way to unwind. Also Mr Chapmans’ challenges have been a lot of fun, and got me out doing long runs most weekends. In non-COVID times, I would also try to participate in a parkrun on a Saturday morning, and inevitably, there would be a race most Sundays.

Be honest, do you enjoy training?

I love training, especially the Quaker sessions. They are very well organised and running alongside like-minded people gives me that extra motivation.  I love the social side of being a Quaker too; it’s a chance to see your friends twice a week also. Marathon training was a tough challenge, knowing I had to get out and complete long runs every weekend, but again, Quakers helped massively with this, you can nearly always find another like-minded person who will join you.

Do you do any other sports or fitness activities?

Not really, I have been an on again off again member of a gym, currently on.  I appreciate the benefits of cross training, but struggle to make time…massive excuse I know! I have friends who bike often, but that is something I have never managed to get into.

Do you manage to fit in any other hobbies?

Outside of running, not really. I’m a massive film and TV geek. Also during normal times I am a keen fine of live entertainment, be it a live band, comedian or good show. I also enjoy chilling out with a book, something I’ve done a lot more than normal in lockdown!

Tell us about some of the races that you’ve done in the past

  • Where do I start? I know it’s not for everyone, but I do love the Great North Run. I think it’s such a great occasion, and a very special atmosphere, and I always have a lot of fun on Great North Run day, right from getting the train with fellow Quakers on the morning, to enjoying the beer tent afterwards!
  • Trail Outlaws Night skies – Me and fellow Quaker Lisa Jenkins took part in the Dark Skies half Marathon around Kielder. It was a very special and different kind of race, running in the dark with a head torch. The sight of a line of head torches for miles ahead of you, and the moon reflecting on the reservoir made quite a sight. I’ve enjoyed a few other of Trail Outlaws events, such as Penshaw Half Marathon, and Branches and Bays 10K, they are quite a challenge!
  • Speaking of challenges, I’m very proud of the two marathons I have done so far. It’s an extremely challenging, and time consuming distance to take on, but leaves you with a massive feeling of achievement, hopefully I’ll take on my 3rd next year…….
  • I love a lot of the local 10ks, especially the village based ones, Ravonstonedale is a treat. A lovely, challenging course ran on a brisk day and you get the chance to win a sack of logs at the end! It’s always great to see and support fellow Quakers at these events, and exchange stories, always a great feeling of camaraderie. Speaking of which I do love our hometown 10k. Yes, it’s not the most exciting course, but it’s a brilliantly arranged event, and always well supported. I had a particularly good run at last year’s event, and managed to set a 10K pb, and beat my arch nemesis Rob Gillham by 2 seconds!! (sorry Rob, couldn’t resist!).
  • I love the Quaker days out. Jumping on the fun bus for Whitby Cross Country is always a lot of fun. A tough, hard run, followed by fish n’ chips, a few pints, and a lot of laughs!
  • Last race I’ll mention is Blaydon Races. Always a great atmosphere, again always great support from fellow Quakers and again, it normally involves a drink or two after!

What’s your current running goal?

Currently it’s just to enjoy my training and running. This year was due to be a year spent doing different races, and more trail. I have 3 trail races coming up in the next couple of months, none of which I have done before, so am looking forward to the unknown challenge these will present!  It’s hard to set goals at the moment, but hopefully races and runs will be back up and running soon!

What are your longer term running goals?

Marathon number 3, and to break the 4 hour mark (I came quite close last year in York). Also, and I might live to regret saying this, I’d love to take on the challenge of a nice, hilly ultra! I completed a 20 mile run around the hills of Swaledale recently with Tom and Claire Chapman, which was tough, but very rewarding and this wetted my appetite to possibly enter the Lyke Wake next year…..

What is your favourite race/distance/terrain?

Most of my experience has been on roads so far, I do love the challenge of a road 10k, 10 mile or half marathon, and pushing myself for a pb. But I have found over the last year or so, I have enjoyed the Trail event I have done more. It’s a different challenge and way of thinking for me, dealing with what is in front of you, instead of being stressed about keeping my pace below a certain time.

What are your proudest running achievements

I mentioned this already (sorry Rob Gillham!), but Darlington 10km last year.  It’s the best I’ve ever ran in my life and it was so unexpected as I was training for a marathon at the time. I just went out feeling strong, but with no expectation, and it was a rare occasion that I felt I got even stronger towards the latter part of the race. It was also great to get my PB at my hometown race too.

York Marathon last year was also pretty special. Yeah I finished outside of my target of sub 4 hours, but I knocked off over 45 minutes from my Edinburgh marathon time of couple years previously. I also felt my training went a lot more smoothly and felt I had put the work in more leading up to the race. Lou Trainor once said to me, the marathon itself is the easy part; the hard part is getting to the start line. Very wise words!

I’m also very proud of what I have achieved as part of Quakers Running Club. I’ve won a couple of 10k leagues in closely fought battles. The last one involved a head to head, winner take all showdown between me and Phil Clarke at Ravonstonedale 10k a couple years ago. I don’t think I was never more than 25 metres ahead of him the whole way, it was tense!

Anything in your running experience you regret?

No regrets, just lessons learnt!  However, seriously, I think every runner has a few regrets from different races. I think a recent one was from Dewsbury 10k this year, where I was going for a pb which I was capable of. I think I put too much pressure on myself, causing too many stresses during the race about pace etc., and I believe, as Ed Griffiths, who spent most of the race trying to stop me from stressing, will testify, I pretty much talked myself out of a pb that day. I learnt that sometimes you just got to put a bit of faith in your own ability, and just run and try not to overthink too much!  That day also taught me that as much as I love the challenge of pushing myself and chasing a PB, it’s also important to not forget why I run in the first place, because I do genuinely love it, and the positive experiences and friendships it has brought me.

How many pairs of running shoes do you have and do you have a favourite pair?

I own a couple of pairs of road shoes and a couple of pairs of trails. I wear Saucony, it’s the only brand I’ve ever worn, they seem to work for me, and I’d be scared to try something different!

What’s your idea of running heaven?

A day out with friends covering a new scenic route or taking on a nice Village 10k for the first time.  I’m taking on my first Lakeland Trail events soon, and I’m hoping these will become firm favourites.

What’s your idea of running hell?

I don’t really have one! I think every run brings its own challenges and rewards. Yes, Aycliffe 10k or Pitsop 10k might not be high on my list to enter, as they can be a bit repetitive and not very scenic, but they do allow you the opportunity to push yourself, and not get distracted by the scenery! For me, it’s all about preparing yourself for the race you are doing, and concentrating on getting out of that what you want!

What is the best piece of running advice you’ve ever been given?

Too many to mention! A lot of fellow Quaker runners and coaches have given me a lot of advice over the years. I always remember being about half a mile into the Redcar half marathon and Gary Read encouraging me to slow down as he went past me. As I glanced down at my watch, I noticed I was doing a pace more suited to a 5k, and adjusted accordingly! I‘ll never forget Lou Trainor’s wise words about the marathon that I have previously mentioned. I have learned a lot from my fellow runners and coaches and still feel I have to plenty to learn!

Any advice to newcomers to running?

Listen to the coach’s advice and don’t be scared to try something out of your comfort zone, be it a main session, track session or cross country. But most of all enjoy it! Yes it’s a great feeling when you get a PB, or run a distance you have never managed before but sometimes running just needs to be that opportunity to get out for yourself and have some of your own headspace, or an opportunity to catch up with friends over a few miles.

What keeps you going when the going gets tough in a hard race?

I remind myself of what I’ve already done, how many miles I’ve already covered if it is a longer distance. I have a habit of working these out as fractions and imagining them in a pie chart. Then I can visualise the pie chart getting smaller. I used this tactic a lot in my 2 marathons. Strange I know but it works for me!

I also find it helpful to just forget about my pace for a moment and concentrate on my running form. I sometimes find this helps me get back on track if I have begun to struggle. Also sometimes, you just need to forget about the watch and concentrate on what is around you, set a target of gradually catching up with a runner who is ahead of you, or concentrate on reaching a visual point in the distance.

How do you relax/reward yourself after a race?

A good coffee or pint with fellow Quakers!

If you could run anywhere in the world, where would it be?

There are loads of places in the UK I’d still love to run. London Marathon is a must for me. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the trail runs I’ve done in the last year or so, so looking forward to taking on more of these and seeing different parts of the countryside I’ve not seen before. On a bigger scale, I think the ultimate for me would be the New York Marathon, such an amazing city. I’d also love to do a half or full marathon in Barcelona. I have never competed in a race outside the UK before, so I’d love to change that!