Firstly, a thank you to Clem for inviting a mere mortal to join the ‘In the Spotlight’ gang.  I remember well the shout out from Janice and Clem on that Castles run – I turned off the Taff Trail to see a ridiculous hill and was just about to grind to a halt when I heard their yells, and yes, that got me up that blinking climb!  The newly acquired nickname ‘Bad Mandy’ was me trying to be a smartie pants for the virtual relay challenge, organized by Builth and District Runners.   I thought I’d make myself a last second running number……

When did running begin for you?

I did little sport as a child, my greatest achievement was coming second in the 100m, aged 11, but once my peers overtook me in stature, they also overtook me in the 100m and I was finished with all that nonsense.  After pottering with the odd aerobics and step classes (remember those?) through my twenties and thirties I did absolutely nothing apart from having my two children.  Rolling through my early forties and when I had gone up two sizes in jeans I realised emergency measures were needed.  This was March 2008, Race for Life was well-established and caught my attention, so I looked at their couch to 5k type programme.  I wanted to run it that June and was determined to run, not walk it.  I managed to run every step of that 5k in 33 minutes, how proud I was of that medal – you even got a medal, and I do love a medal!!  I’m since reflecting on this and opting for more sustainable rewards, I know some will not believe that….but I’m trying to beat the addiction.

My running developed further after a chat with a teacher at my daughter’s school who had run Race for Life previously, followed by Cardiff 10kCardiff Half and then London Marathon, a seed was sown.  That same week I went into Lush’s Butchers and the lovely Marcus gave me a good telling off for never waving back at him when he saw me out running and I embarrassingly had to explain it really wasn’t me (I obviously have a doppelgänger!)  Finally, my friend Lorraine told me about a new running group starting in Cosmeston and this group, led by the amazing Erika, became Women’s Running Penarth.  I dragged myself along and that was it, I was hooked.  I went on to complete Cardiff Half 2009 in 2hrs 13mins, again I was thrilled, but started looking for a new adventure.  I moved to Penarth and Dinas Runners in early 2010 after meeting the welcoming and wonderful Mr Chris Nellins who gave me the courage to dare to try!  And what a gang I was to become part of…….

Why do you run?

You’ll not be surprised to read I don’t have many tales of derring-do but I can tell you of fun, friendship, challenges and personal achievements.  After being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in July 2001, I knew my life was changed forever. However, it brought forward a bloody-minded streak in me.  I refuse to let it stop me getting on with whatever I want, but it is a total rollercoaster.  Thank you to all of you, Abyd in particular, who has looked after me during hypos and reminded me ‘Have you had your jelly babies?’ when I’m distracted (aka fighting for breath and knackered!)  I have so many considerations – when to drop the basal rate on my insulin pump before a run, how long will I run, how hard, what have I done the day before, what have I eaten, what will I drink later (in Snowdonia it will be lots!), will I spike after a hard session, have I eaten two hours prior to the race (I look enviously at those chomping bananas on the startline), are my levels too high?….and on it flipping goes.  But I feel lucky that it can be managed, and I generally do manage it, with gratefully-received help at times.  So, I run because I can, and the Type 1 can do one!   I have met many other runners with their own demons to deal with, a number of physical and mental issues and I know that running has helped each one of us.

And then there’s the social side, the medals (oops), the beer, the friendships, camaraderie and all-round support from P&D as a Club.  What adventures we’ve had on our trips away.  This to me is as important as the running and I picked the right club for this.  This fun edge to the Club helps me to train, to have targets, to try to beat myself but always without taking it all too seriously!

What moment and race in your running career holds the most significance and why?

Going back to joining P&D I distinctly remember turning up for my first session in Cosmeston which was Group Jog Solo Speed.  After being both mortified and touched to receive a welcome clap at the start of the session, off we set.  We ran loops of the small lake and I thought I might collapse.  I was on one of my speed sets and I heard someone coming up rapidly behind me, Andrew Palmer shot passed.  As he went by he shouted ‘Well done’ to me and that cemented my journey with the Club. The fact that he’d taken time to encourage me in the middle of his own effort meant so much and has stuck with me – big cheers Mr P!

Then onto Florence Marathon, my first 26.2 miler in November 2010.  What an experience!  Run mostly in the rain, stood on the startline with a 25 minute delay in a vest, blue with cold and shivering.  On the way round I met an American woman and South African man and we ran the second half together.  They left me to crawl the last half mile and we have a wonderful CD of us meeting together as they waited on the finish line for me.  I’d managed 4hrs 13mins and was astounded with that.  I bought a CD of the race – they captured you going through 5K markers, halfway and at the end, I still watch it now and then, much to my children’s chagrin!  As for the after-race party…10 euros included all food, wine, 80’s tribute band and a photo with the winner….you don’t get a better recommendation than that from a P&D Runner!

Many other races have captured me but none more so than the ones with the crew.  Do not take lightly a beer tour (sorry, running tour) with LisaSimon GDebbieSimon GAndrewSimon GAbyd and many, many others.  The Snowdonia weekend is top of the shot (you get a slate, a slate, I remember being practically devastated on learning this, Paul and Abyd won’t let me forget that), Marathon Du Medoc was bonkers (you get a bottle of red wine, a tee….and a medal!), London – what can I say except it just has to be done.  Edinburgh gave me my PB of 4:03:07 and sub 4 is on my radar still, Berlin was the worst marathon I’ve run (time-wise and experience though it’s an amazing city to visit) and Manchester is truly as dull as they get.  I love Richard Burton 10k, it has a keen ascent to start but that cruise back down feels so good.  You don’t get a medal but a slate is my new favourite.   There have been many memorable trips and I need to say here, Simon Grant, you absolutely need to come to Lanzarote with us next year!

My time on the Committee has been hugely rewarding.  I started, I think, in 2012 and after copying an idea I saw in work for hoodies, I was made Kit Secretary.  What a task this is, massive kudos to Debbie Williams who now does this for us.  A mammoth task and it drove me to distraction.  I had a couple of years’ break and returned when I missed that side of Club.  I now enjoy my role as Social Secretary and simply cannot wait to get the P&D social gatherings going again.  Anyone up for a beer, a barbecue, a ceiledh and a quiz?  I cannot believe all of the work that goes on behind the scenes, big respect to all of the Committee teams, past and present.  It’s actually mostly good fun too!

Who is your running inspiration?

I’ve mentioned a few club runners but there are two others who stick out for me.  Yvonne Williams, you are a truly amazing woman.  I ran at my best when I trained with you.  Your refusal to stop, the way you just carry on and get over the hard parts, your gentle nature, your stories, attitude to life and your experiences make you a crazy and brilliant friend, thank you.  Lisa Cleary you is nuts too!  You recently messaged me after one of these virtual shenanigans and your encouragement inspired me to get on and enter the others.  It was just what I needed and I came away feeling very smug!

Tom Williams and Martin Yelling of Marathon Talk fame are simply faultless, as is Tony Audenshaw, my main man outside of Club and a total inspiration.  He genuinely enjoys running, is an all-round nice guy and has a sense of humour that kills me (a listen to podcast Marathon Talk with Tony’s Trials is recommended).  Here’s me practicing my selfie stalking, though not yet up to certain Club member standards.

What golden piece of advice would you give to other runners?

My top tip would be just keep chipping away (again thanks to Abyd for that reminder).  I know I get faster when I’m getting out and running faster, so get out there and run!  I need to repeat this sentence often.  My other top tip (I couldn’t decide which of these should be toppest!) is just throw yourself into Club life.  Take inspiration from others, use your running buddies, join the challenges and just give it a go.  I’ve so enjoyed the virtual running we’ve shared these last couple of months, it’s reignited my zest for running and I’m now looking forwards to getting some good old-fashioned Monday sessions on the go again.  And it absolutely isn’t all about speed or I’d have to leave Club immediately, so be grateful, savour and enjoy, mostly enjoy!

This motto, from Brian Williams (Marathon Talk fans will know him well) sums it up – TRUST THE PROCESS, I love that.

What’s next?

So, in these weird and wonderful times I’ve loved the Club running challenges and virtual races.  It’s made me consider having the courage to try Cross Country again, eek!  I’d like to concentrate on parkrun once that returns, it’s such an effective training tool, alongside the social aspect and cake.  A sneaky marathon or two?  ……of course!

Traveling and running is a great combination and now I’m semi-retired, working just two days a week, I’ll be hoping to combine these two favourite pursuits again.  Marrakesh is my target next January, it was wonderful running the Half at the end of this January and such a great way to meet other runners (Rhondda Valley and Forest of Dean Runners were a great find this year).  Now that would be a P&D tour…….

Who would I like to nominate?

This was an easy one for me, the aforementioned Andrew Palmer has, from the get go, encouraged and advised me and many other Club runners over the years.  Unlike me, he does have tales of derring-do and I’d really like to hear some of them.  So over to you, Andrew, and we look forwards to you being able to run with us again soon (but only in short shorts, obviously!)