Disciplines: 60m, 200m indoors, 100m, 200m outdoors – occasional 400m
Years competing in Masters: 24 years
Age group: 80-84
My first Masters Athletics event was indoors in Birmingham in 1997. I’d managed to persuade my friend Betty to come with me and was entered in the 55-59 age group for 200m and the long jump. I was very nervous because I’d never run indoors in my life and the indoor track is banked, which is a very different running experience to what I was used to. When I got to the 200m start there was a woman warming up with her coach and I thought, “oh my goodness, what have I let myself in for! Warming up? What’s that?” When we got on the start line, I was in lane 6, right on the outside, up on the top by the barrier. They put the start blocks in front of me but I didn’t know how to use them, so they had to move them out of the way. I came 4th, which was also last. The long jump was no better because I was so nervous that I didn’t hit the board correctly once!
A couple of years later I heard about an international outdoor event in Cescenatico, Italy. It was the European Championships and there were organised tours, so I suggested to my husband that we should go. I was really excited to go and race the 400m because every time I went training I was beating my previous times. It was a straight final, so our lanes were drawn randomly and I was given lane 8 which I wasn’t happy with. I had a coach then who was also at the event so I asked her what I should do, and she said “just run, don’t think about anyone else, just run” and so that’s what I did and I came first.
I also came 3rd in the 200m and 2nd with our relay team. Those were great games: I got to stand on top of the podium and my husband, Hugh, was there to see me. I was so pleased because that was the first and last time he actually got to see me compete. That was the best moment of my competitive career, I’ve got all the pictures and it’s great to look back.
Where it all began
I had loved athletics when I was at school and as a teenager joined the Ruislip Northwood AC. I did high jump and long jump and also middle distance running. I was selected to run for the county (Middlesex) in the 880 yards and made it to the Women’s AAA championships in White City. After a short stint in the WRAF as a PT instructor I got married and it wasn’t until many years later that I took up running again. A friend at work had joined a group called the Lincoln Gas runners and was struggling to keep up with them, so I said I’d join her. I ended up doing the Lincoln 10km and then the London Marathon in 1993. After that I decided to join a running club, Lincoln Wellington in 1994.
Getting started in Masters competitions
Joining Lincoln Wellington club was what got me into Masters Competitions. My first big event was just before my 60th Birthday in Birmingham. It wasn’t a great success but being part of the club gave me the confidence to try again.
Training or racing
Racing because I love being with my group of friends. I train on my own mostly because I live in Weymouth now. It’s not as much fun as when I was in the Lincoln Wellington club. I still have a coach though and she gives me three lots of training per week, but I like to try and do something every other day.
Summer or winter
Summer, I love being outdoors and the summer racing season.
Outdoors or indoors
Outdoors. I like being out in the fresh air and I prefer the feeling of running outside, seeing the trees and hearing the birds. If I do a longer run, I’ll go to the Rodwell trail and then I get a view of the sea, which I love.
The indoor track has become an issue for me since I had my stroke. I can’t keep my balance so well on the banked corners, so I prefer racing outdoors too.
When I don’t feel like going training I think of my friend Pat. I think “Pat will be out now, perhaps I ought to go!” It’s hard at times though because I train on my own, whereas Pat has a group, but we talk on the phone at least a couple of times a week and share what we are doing.
I was 12 and we went to the pictures to watch the London Olympic Games (1948). I saw Fanny Blankers-Koen win 4 gold medals and it absolutely made me want to take up running. I can still remember how I felt, I was sat as far forward on my seat as I could. If I could have got into the screen I would have, I was so inspired.
Nowadays, my friends inspire me. I met Pat at my first international event in Italy. She was in the same hotel as us but I didn’t know her then. She won every one of her races and I was in absolute awe of her. I used to point her out to my husband! I got to know Pat a couple of years later when I went to Pottsdam with my friend Betty; we were friendly with Eva too and she sat next to Pat at dinner and then we all got together. Now there’s Anne too and Iris joined in with us when her friends stopped competing. This group has been a lifeline since my husband died. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
It’s the social side of Masters Athletics that I love. I usually travel to events with Pat and we have such a laugh with all the other friends we meet there.
I don’t really know how much longer that I’m going to be able to do this. I am getting a lot, lot slower than I was, but I’m aiming to go to the next World Indoor Championships in Edmonton and then the outdoor champs in Toronto. Then we’ll see, I ache a lot now and I feel very heavy on the right hand side where I had my stroke in 2013; it seems to be getting worse at the moment. Ideally I’d like to at least compete in the 85 age group, that will be the year after next, then we’ll see!