Through running I have re-discovered the joy and exhilaration of being in my body and swiftly moving one leg in front of the other!
I first met Jill buying new running shoes at the Frontrunners store in Nanaimo back in December 2013. We got to talking about running as most runners do, with each other and with the sales staff. As it turned out both Jill and I had recently registered to run in the 2014 Vancouver Island Race Series. Neither of us had run in the series before, but our shoe fitter, Cheryl, had and she told us about how much fun it would be.
Well, indeed it was fun. Jill and I met again at the first series race in Saanich and several other races after that. She encouraged me to run in the Mother’s Day Oceanside 10K, which she was part of organizing, and amazingly in which I won a first place medal in my age category. Talk about a moral boost. Good call, Jill! Apparently I also won the running shoe draw, but I was not there to collect the prize. Considering all the other post race events I attend and don’t win, that was disappointing, but just as in other events in our lives, we move on and hope for better luck next time. That seems to be Jill’s motto for much of her life.
Jill is such an inspiration, winning her age division in all the races that she enters. She gleefully bounds to the winners circle at each medal presentation like a teenager. Such joy and spunk. We’ve become fast friends and often warm up together when we can connect before a race and then I take great pride in cheering her to the finish line as she pushes to break the age group record or to reach a new PB.
I hope that Jill can continue to run for at least another couple of decades, injury free and to provide much motivation to many younger runners, including myself, to keep following in her speedy footsteps. Just reading her Tips for aspiring runners should help anyone who wants to run and keep on running for many years to come!
What is your running history?
Have I always run? Of course I have always run. Because that’s what small children do! And I was one once (and hopefully still am). Children don’t walk. They hop, skip, jump and run. And that’s what I guess I did. I grew up on a farm in the UK and was always outside, playing, making camps, climbing trees … At my elementary school we had a little track and I remember that I always loved to run there. On sports day I think I usually won the 200 and 400m races.
When I went on to secondary school we played lacrosse and, in time, I became house games captain. Games, gym, swimming were always my favourite periods.
I had my first child when I was only 19, so for a few years my personal commitments fully occupied my time! Family, home, looking after a large garden with vegetables, animals, running a pre-school and generally keeping our heads above water seemed a full-time occupation. Running didn’t cross my mind until I was in my late 30’s. We were living close to a small town in Wales called Monmouth. My husband Trevor and I started running, usually together, over the National Trust land that lay behind us on The Kymin Hill. I remember doing a charity run – I think it was 3K and winning that, however I don’t think I was running very fast – just quicker than some of the others.
As my children became teens I started my own business and began to run from time to time. I didn’t really get back into running consistently though until after Trevor died. I had joined a gym and they started a Sunday morning running group. When the warm summer weather came around there were 3 of us who wanted to run earlier so we separated out from the group and ran every Sunday morning, probably between 7 and 15 miles. As we all know, lots can be shared on a long run and when I go back for a visit to the UK now I nearly always link up with Jan and Elaine. In fact, in September this year we are planning on running the Swansea 10K together!
During this time of my life, in my early 50’s, we ran the Cardiff 10K a couple of times and the Swansea 10K once. Although I was a little quicker each time I never ran the distance in less than an hour! Maybe this year!
In 2005, in my 60’s, I started to wind down my business. By this time I was in Canada for most of the time, though still returning to work in the UK several times a year. I used to loop around Beachcomber Point, in Nanoose, a couple of times a week running between 3 – 5K.
It was only in 2011, recovering from some health issues that I decided that I would still like to run a 10K in under an hour. I found a local event, the Oceanside 10K, right nearby, and decided that would be perfect. In the first flush of enthusiasm, a training plan gleaned from the internet initially improved my speed however, with 3 weeks to go I over trained and the subsequent injury led to my withdrawal from the 2102 event. I biked all summer and in the fall started to train again for the next year’s 10K. This time I talked to my son who is a runner and then followed my instincts managing my training differently.
In May 2013, I won my age division (65 – 69) and ran a PB that was still just over the hour. After the race, some ORCA TEAM runners in Parksville/Qualicum, invited me to join their club. So began, at the age of 68, my first real experience of being part of a running community and committing to some structured training sessions.
In September of that year I ran the Oak Bay 10K in well under an hour. What joy! Since then I have continued to train twice a week on a regular basis with Laurie Ritchie and Heather Beatty and also enjoy the long Saturday club runs. I love the ORCA community that I now share.
So began, at the age of 68, my first real experience of being part of a running community and committing to some structured training sessions.
Why do you run?
I run because I love running. It’s what I did as a child. Through running I have re-discovered the joy and exhilaration of being in my body and swiftly moving one leg in front of the other! I also enjoy the discipline that committing to training brings to my life.
I love being outside in all weather; I love the beautiful country side we are privileged to enjoy in BC.
When I am running I love the way I can empty my mind of whatever is buzzing around in there. I love the way, when I am not thinking hard, great ideas pop into my thoughts to be better processed later on!
I run because I totally enjoy the company of others in this fabulous running community up and down the Island.
I run because I love to eat. And I love the way it helps me stay fit and healthy as I get older. It means that I think more carefully about what I eat and how I cross train.
Running certainly keeps me fit. I like how I feel these days. And at 70 I have a huge investment in staying fit and well.
Do you compete?
It was at the suggestion of co-runners that I registered for my first Vancouver Island Running Series in 2014. I was told that entering a new age division (70 – 74) should offer some advantage! I totally enjoyed the series, enjoyed the extra stretch and challenge of training and racing longer distances and in doing so I met some amazing, encouraging and inspirational runners along the way.
Running certainly keeps me fit. I like how I feel these days. And at 70 I have a huge investment in staying fit and well. My weight has dropped to a healthy 112 lbs, back to where I was when I was 20. I teeter on the edge of being pre-diabetic. So running, together with a greater awareness of what I eat and how I look after myself, is helping me manage the condition without medication.
- Find a club because that’s where you will get all the support and encouragement you need not only to start but also, and this can be hard when you are entirely self-reliant, to stay on course.
- If you are starting out, join a ‘Learn-to-Run’ clinic because that is where you will find a structured and incremental route to becoming a lifetime runner.
- Find a goal. Maybe look for a five or 8 k race and work towards that. People who set goals tend to achieve at least 90% of what they want.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C. S. Lewis
- Listen to your body.
- Age is just a number! I’m 70. Ignore contemporaries who think you are crazy!
- Enjoy the company of others in the running community. It’s healthy to be around people younger than you and inspirational to be around older runners.
- Don’t be fazed by being slower than lots of other people. Because you will probably be quicker than the majority of people your age! And at least you are still moving and enjoying life.
- If you can find people with whom you can happily share a long run, the kilometres will fly by and you will make some great friends along the way.
- Make time for other things in your life as well. Family and friends are a privilege and create balance.
- Life is not a rehearsal – enjoy! After all, it is only a temporary condition so don’t take yourself too seriously. And spend time with people who laugh a lot!
What was your last best/favorite race?
My best race this year was the Island Series Cedar 12K. This because it was the first personal best following some injury last year and the only PB so far this year! I ran the Sooke 10K for the first time in April and I enjoyed that too. I always enjoy The Victoria Goodlife 8K because there is such a great atmosphere in this beautiful harbour city at Thanksgiving weekend.
This year I have been a few seconds slower in most of my races. My daughter says “For goodness sake Mum; you are a year older. Divide 365 days into 40 seconds”. Personally I don’t see it that way! I am still challenged to run faster and will be working on that during the next twelve months! I definitely prefer the shorter 8 -12 k races. I think they are just right for my body! And I probably haven’t the discipline to train for a marathon! All those early nights…
…I am still aiming to be a few seconds faster than last year!
What is your next race?
I have already entered for 2 races for this coming the Fall. I shall run the Swansea 10K with my old running friends back in the UK in September. It is a lovely run with the second half back along the sea wall from Mumbles to Swansea. I know I can run it faster than I did 12 years ago. I have also entered for the Victoria Goodlife 8K once again. I will still be jet-lagged from my UK flight 3 days earlier and, post-holiday, maybe not as fit as I should be however I am still aiming to be a few seconds faster than last year!
What type of training do you do?
I run on average probably 35K a week in the winter race season and during the summer maybe 45K. This includes always a tempo session, an interval session and a long run. The tempo and interval sessions both include, of course, timed, distance and speed runs. From time to time we work on increasing hill repeats. The weekly long runs build endurance, mental and physical strength and body conditioning. In the summer, I include a ‘run for fun’ through woods and trails’ once a week.
I totally believe in cross-training. For me this includes in the winter, yoga, core and weight training and walking. In the summer I bike (I love my Marin hybrid – more than some people I know!)) and also swim in the bay most days.
While I definitely prefer to run early or at least in the mornings, I will also fit a run in when I can rather than not at all. I prefer trails especially in the summer, and think that Rathtrevor Provincial Park is just perfect with both forest and coastal trails. Back in Wales I used to love the run through the water meadows along the River Wye upstream, over the little swing bridge and back along the disused rail track to Monmouth (for anyone planning a visit there its highly recommended!).
In fact, although I don’t particularly like cooking I make what I can these days because I know then what I am putting into myself.
What kind of food philosophy do you follow?
These days I am probably quite picky about what I eat. Some of my family might say obsessive. I don’t care though. I eat a mostly, though not entirely, vegetarian diet. This does include lots of fish. I very occasionally eat meat. I drink dairy alternatives (soy/almond). I eat loads of vegetables and fruit. I buy mainly organic. I make my own yoghurt (thank you Heather Beatty for showing me how) granola, dressings and hummus too. In fact, although I don’t particularly like cooking I make what I can these days because I know then what I am putting into myself. Sugar is an issue for me these days – another reason to make my own food as much as possible. I try and avoid junk food, although if you put a bag of chips in front of me…
I love an occasional glass of wine or even a beer. Offer me a gin and tonic on a warm summer evening and I’ll most likely say yes! (lots of ice and lime rather than lemon please). These days I actually drink only very occasionally and always socially. I love curries, stir-fries, bolognese, all things that taste good and even better only require one pan to wash-up afterwards! I eat lots of salad too. Right now I am well into bean salads as they are sugar free, high in protein, carbs and fibre and taste good. I also use organic, plant-based iron and protein supplements in smoothies.
Before racing I used to eat toast and honey. These days though I try and eat plenty of carbs on the days leading up to a race i.e. oats in the morning, rice and pasta dishes in the evening. The night before I eat protein, often fish, and pasta and then on race-day I eat a chopped banana with homemade yoghurt and granola at least 3 hours before racing (I get quite obsessive about the bathroom pre-race – I’m sure I’m not alone with this!). About an hour before a race I top up with about half a powerball from our local health food store. They are full of protein and carbs and are delicious.
I also try and make sure I am well hydrated. My last race was our club event. I was involved with the race preparation and allowed myself to be side-tracked. As a result, I was short on pre-race hydration, took an extra water stop and think this made a difference to my time.
My heroes – all the 80 plus runners who demonstrate that running can be for life.
Do you have a running hero/ role model?
My parents were not a running generation. My son has run since he was in his teens and in his 20’s did a 2 ½ hour marathon. He is still super-fit and a great source of encouragement and good advice. My daughter runs, though currently has an issue with a stress fracture that won’t heal properly. My half-brother runs too so maybe it is in our genes.
My heroes – all the 80 plus runners who demonstrate that running can be for life. The skin may be more wrinkly, however it proves that body and muscle conditioning can still stay good. It just takes more time and effort than it did 40 years ago!
How do you relax, when you are not running?
I have always loved to read. For years it tended to be work related – now I read a mixture of fiction and nonfiction. I totally recommend Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales (powerful messages not just about surviving outdoors – also about surviving life). For runners, why not try Just a Little Run around the World by Rosie Swales!
I also belong to a book club, love movies and write features for our local paper. I listen to music at home – my tastes are eclectic and driven by mood. I have a small vegetable garden and grow all my veggies in the summer and much in the winter too. Lots of winter kale!!!
I try and go back to the UK fairly often to visit family and friends. Now my daughter lives in Canada too I shall only go back every other year. I am planning a longer trip next year with my sister – probably New Zealand. The problem I have is that winter here is peaceful and either great for skiing or great for running. The summers are fabulous with lots of places still to explore. I have veggies to plant in the spring so that doesn’t leave much time for travel! And I am retired so I can enjoy all these great things every day.
If I do go away, my running stuff goes with me. Running in new places is a great way to get orientated. Running in places re-visited is a great way to renew past pleasures.
Have you had any running setbacks?
I had some major issues a few years ago and thought my running days were just about done.
These included an encounter with breast cancer, a scoliosis (still there) and a stenosis. Having a brilliant physio (thank you for giving me my life back Vicki Powell from Local Motion in Pemberton), doing the physio religiously, yoga and biking (and giving up aerobics) helped me recover. Running soon followed and proved to work perfectly for my body. Central to my recovery was re-building and maintaining my core. I also injured my foot last year. Once again, I had a good physio in Laurie Ritchie (Qualicum). I lost a lot of my speed last summer and am still working on getting back to where I want to be.
…there are people I run with every week and they too, as runners always do, are generous in sharing their experiences and useful strategies.
Do you have a coach?
I run tempo and interval sessions every week with Team ORCA’s Laurie Ritchie and a small group whose friendship I value. Laurie has been a great source of help and direction. Heather Beatty runs with same group and is an athletics coach. She continues to support me with feedback and sound thinking. In addition, there are people I run with every week and they too, as runners always do, are generous in sharing their experiences and useful strategies.
What is your career/job?
I live on my own and this makes it easy to organise my life. I prioritise my family; I have other commitments within my own community and also freelance so, although retired my time is pretty well occupied. I would be happy to spend more time on my deck with a book, however am probably conditioned to stay otherwise occupied.
I look around as I run the trails, enjoy the smell of the seasons, and listen to the sounds around me.
Do you listen to music when you run?
No I don’t. I would probably get run over or be ever fiddling with ear-buds. Besides, what I love about being outside is being able to enjoy all my senses. I look around as I run the trails, enjoy the smell of the seasons, and listen to the sounds around me. For me that is another reason why I run!
Do you have anything else to add that you were not asked?
I don’t think so. This has been comprehensive and interesting. I think it has provided food for thought and for future use! Thank you for inviting me to share space on your blog with all those other great runners!
It was a pleasure, Jill! It was also a lot of fun spending time with you running on some of my favorite trails on Newcastle Island. We’ll have to meet again soon and you can show me some of your favorite trails.