Could you please tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in England in 1959 and grew up in the East Midlands (mostly in Loughborough, Leicestershire). After leaving school I qualified in Hotel and Catering Management and met my husband while working as a Domestic Bursar at the Agricultural College where he had been a student. We have two children – Joseph (33) and Bethany (30). We moved several times in England for my husband’s job in Agriculture. In 2000 we moved to Romania. We were there until 2015, when my husband was transferred to South Africa – a move we both very much wanted and hoped for!
What got you started running?
I came quite late to running, even though I am from a sporting background. My father was a games teacher and a very good tennis player and cricketer. I was sporty as a young child, but unfortunately that all fell away during my teenage and university years. It was after having my first baby that I got back into fitness, I am afraid mostly due to vanity. I was overweight, couldn’t fit into any of my clothes and felt miserable!
I started doing a lot of walking, pushing the pram and going to local aerobics and step classes, and soon I was hooked. So much so, that I decided to re-train as a fitness/Gym instructor at the age of 33. A day of running activities was incorporated into one of the practicals on the course, and to my complete surprise I really enjoyed it. When I couldn’t make the leisure centre classes, I started jogging round the country lanes where I lived. Once I started work in my local gym, I was surrounded by staff that were runners and tri-athletes, and they persuaded me to enter a local 10km run, and the rest is history!
What do you enjoy about Comrades?
I was 55 when we arrived in SA and had been running for over 20 years. I had done 20 x 42.2km marathons all over the world – (London, New York, Paris, Istanbul and Athens) – to name just a few cities. I decided I was ready for a new challenge, partly due to my marathon times dropping, and age not being on my side.
I had read and heard a lot about the famous Comrades and felt the best way to feel truly involved in my new country was to take part in this iconic race. I absolutely loved my first two Comrades, due to the wonderful emotional start and the fantastic camaraderie between all the runners and spectators, and of course the beautiful scenery. It is also extremely well organised, which is so important in such a long endurance event.
How do you prepare for an event this big?
I am very fortunate that I live very close to Irene Athletics Club – a super organised large club. They are used to helping and motivating many of their members to run Comrades.
My key sessions are the 8km Time Trial at Irene, a 10-16km “Tempo” run in my estate, and at the weekend a long run which builds gradually to 42km. I also like to do a 50km race (Loskop Dam this year), as a practice, which reassures me that all is OK with my shoes, clothes and eating and drinking strategy.
Who are your biggest fans/supporters?
My husband (although not a runner himself) has to be my biggest supporter. He cycles with me on my long runs, handing me drinks and gels. He seconds me at the comrades (which he reckons is harder than running it!). I saw him 3 times last year, which really lifted me. Also, all the friends I have made in SA – on Midstream Estate, The International Women’s Club in Johannesburg, and at my husband’s work. My family and friends in England, Canada and Romania are all hugely supportive and encouraging.
What is your favourite food before and after a run?
I “Carb” load for 2/3 days before a long race, and always eat pasta with a simple sauce the night before. In the morning the early starts of SA races make it a bit tricky, but I normally manage some toast and honey, a Banana, Energy bar and drink. Afterwards anything non-“carb” – a steak or something spicy, with a good glass of wine!
Do you enjoy running alone or prefer a group?
I enjoy both. Running alone has always been my “me” time – time to think things through, make plans, resolve problems, etc.
I have 3 great girlfriends in my Estate, who I love to run with, while having a good chat. Their friendship and support has really helped me settle into life in SA. I love running in races round the world, the fun atmosphere makes it such a good way to see a new place and absorb the culture of a new city or country.
How has running changed your life?
In many ways! Firstly it has helped with the self image issues I had after my first baby. My weight has stayed healthy and stable, due mainly I think to running and a (mostly) sensible diet – though I adore the food and great wines here in SA!
My husband and I (and often family and friends), have visited many interesting and beautiful places due to my running in races. We have been to Dublin, Prague, Stockholm, Vienna – in fact just about every capital of Europe, plus further afield – including the USA and Australia. It is such a great excuse to travel! I have met so many interesting people and made lifelong friends along the way.
Is there any particular reason why you chose hospice?
The main reason I have chosen Hospice in my 3rd and LAST Comrades, is as follows:
My Mother was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer when she was 67, soon after we had moved to Romania. When there was nothing more the hospital could do, my mother asked to go home for her final days. My Dad and I were nursing her to the best of our ability, but our local doctor on one of her home visits suggested that Mum would be made more comfortable in our local Hospice. This definitely proved the case. The staff were wonderful in their attitude and care. The atmosphere was so calm, which allowed her to die as peacefully and with as much dignity as possible. This in turn allowed my Father and I much comfort.
Hospice and Palliative care professionals do a superb job, often in difficult circumstances. As this will be my final Comrades, I am very happy to raise funds for this great cause.