Profile #4 – Alexa Joel

As we can't hold our event at the moment, we're taking the opportunity to hear from some of the people who make up our brilliant parkrun community.

This week our profile is from Alexa, who is one of our Run Directors as part of the core team of the event. She is also our female course record holder with an incredible time of 17:59 - and in fact, she often records one of the top 10 female parkrun times each week across all parkruns nationally.

Amazing person and amazing athlete, thanks Alexa :)


parkrun vital statistics

Number of runs: 69
Number of different parkruns visited: 8
Number of parkrun course records held: 2
Number of volunteer stints: 48

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Can you tell us about how you first started running?
I was an active child, I enjoyed lots of different sports but always enjoyed running the most and did well at school sports days. My cousin joined Basildon Athletic Club and asked if I wanted to join with her, which I did aged 10. I was initially put into a sprint group and the coach soon saw I preferred, and was much better at, running longer distances. He took me across to meet one of the endurance coaches and the rest is history.

I trained every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday growing up and competed for Basildon right up until I went to Loughborough University in 2002, when I then joined Havering Mayesbrook AC. I was always proud to put on my African Violet vest and compete for Loughborough, it was here that my passion and love for running really took off. Running has allowed me to make so many lifelong friends many of which I met during my time at Loughborough.

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Alexa competing for Loughborough

What are some of your race highlights during your running career?
Having been running for over 25 years now I have so many wonderful highlights. I've been to the English Schools Cross Country Championships three times and I also went to the English Schools Track and Field Champs once, agonisingly finishing in 4th place - of course it was the end of the world at the time!

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My proudest moment was running for Great Britain U23 in 2005 and 2006. I would say my best race was winning the National U23 5000m in 2005. I wasn’t expected to win and one of the girls I was up against was the clear favourite, so I couldn’t believe it when I beat her and I had won!

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Another highlight was running for the South of England in Prague in a 5k road race in 2008, I came 3rd and ran 15:53, at the end of the race I had to do a press conference and I felt like a celebrity!

These were all fabulous memories that I will cherish forever.

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What is your usual training routine and what are your upcoming goals?
I usually run 6 out of 7 days and average around 40-45 miles a week. When I am marathon training I run around 55-60 miles. I do two interval sessions a week, one with Billericay Striders and then my Saturday parkrun. Sometimes I’ll do a few reps before or after parkrun and sometimes I even do parkrun twice, but that’s only if I’m marathon training as I need to get my miles in!

Since being in lockdown I’ve started to do strength and conditioning exercises and core at home every day and I hope to carry on with this once we get back to normality.

It’s hard to focus on upcoming goals at the moment as we don’t know when races are likely to start again. I have entered the Great Baddow 10 in September and all being well I will be running the London Marathon in October. I previously ran London in 2018 when it was a heat wave and ran 3:10 so my goal is to break 3 hours.

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How did you first start running at parkrun?
My first ever parkrun was at Southend in 2013. My coach suggested that I went along as he wanted me to run a fast hard 5k as part of my training. I remember really enjoying it and went along again a few weeks later. I still hold the course record of 17:12.

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When did you start running at Billericay?
I initially found out parkrun was coming to Billericay through my mum, Kathy. She was involved from the very beginning when they were asking for volunteers and she actually went along to the very first parkrun meeting before it even started.

The year Billericay started I went along to the first four parkruns but didn’t really take part regularly. It wasn’t until the year later that I started to take part more frequently, now it’s part of my weekly routine unless I’m racing elsewhere. I would feel completely lost without parkrun now!

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Alexa setting her current course record on 7 September 2019 - 17:59

What are your favourite memories from Billericay parkrun?
I have so many lovely memories from Billericay parkrun. Being asked to be part of the core team last year was a real honour and privilege and I love being involved in the organisation of the event. My first time as Run Director will always be memorable, but other fabulous memories I have are the Billericay Striders takeover event, the Christmas and New Year events and of course Billericay parkrun birthday celebrations.

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Why is volunteering important to you and how did you feel when you were RD for the first time?
I love volunteering at Billericay parkrun and giving back to the community. I think it’s really important. When I was injured last year volunteering made me still feel part of parkrun even though I couldn’t actually take part. Volunteering is a great way to see the event from another perspective. I love cheering people on and encouraging people regardless of whether they are running 18 minutes or 58 minutes.

The first time I was Run Director I was petrified. Speaking in front of all those people was really daunting and I could feel my legs shaking underneath me. I’ve done about 5 RD stints now and I definitely feel more at ease in the role now. I certainly have learnt to not call it a ‘race’! :D

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What do you do outside of parkrun stuff?
Outside of parkrun I am a PE teacher and School Games Organiser at a school in Grays. As well as teaching PE I work with primary schools in the area and put on competitive events in pretty much every sport.

My main hobby is obviously running so I don’t get much time for anything else. I love going out for meals with my boyfriend, going to the cinema and just chilling out at home with a nice glass of red wine and a box set.

My guilty pleasure is Neighbours I have watched it since I was in primary school. As soon as I get in from work I settle down with a cuppa and my favourite show. My cousin lives in Melbourne and I actually went and did the Neighbours tour when I visited her, I even met Karl Kennedy!!

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What's the best thing about parkrun?
The best thing about parkrun for me is the amazing friends I have made. I know so many local people now, even when I just pop up to the high street or out for a run around the streets I nearly always see some one I know from parkrun.

I also joined Billericay Striders through Billericay parkrun and I’ve made great friends through the club which wouldn’t have come about if it wasn’t for parkrun!

I love how parkrun brings people together and has given so many people a love for running. My mum always hated running all the years I tried to get her running and failed but through parkrun she has finally found that love. She has gone from running 42 minutes to under 35 minutes now, I even said to her she looks like a runner now! I’m so proud of her! There must be hundreds of stories similar to my mum's out there and that’s what I love about parkrun!

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What are you most looking forward to when we get back?
I miss everyone so much, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again and getting back on our 3.8 lap course that we haven’t been able to do for so long! After all this solo running it will be so nice to just run with people again!

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Thanks very much to Alexa :) If you'd like to read more, here are the other profiles from this series so far:

dh linda and james parkrun3

If there's someone you'd like to nominate for us to profile, drop us an email at billericay@parkrun.com

Until next time!


The Billericay core team are:

David Hayday : Rachel Varnam : Samuel Hill : Dave Sweet : Maggie Topliss : Alexa Joel

Please check our Volunteer Roster to see if you are able to help out at anytime, there are plenty of roles available to do and all are rewarding and great fun. If you want to volunteer, email us at billericay@parkrun.com

As well as checking on this site regularly for the latest information and updates, don't forget you can also find us on Facebook.

Have you got a question? Try the FAQs section on our website. If you are still stumped send a lovely email to billericay@parkrun.com and we will do our best to help.

Why not trade up your paper barcode to some of those snazzy plastic barcodes and wristbands? You can get them at the parkrun barcode website and never worry about soggy paper ones again! ICE details can also be printed on them as well.

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If you would like to donate to this parkrun you can find out more HERE