Number of runs: 148
Number of different events visited: 30
Number of volunteering stints: 12
How did you get started with running and join the Billericay Striders?
I didn’t start running until later in life (42) and it was on New Year's Day 2013. I’d decided I wanted to lose some Christmas excess. I hadn’t ran since I had been at school. I think I managed about 20 minutes. I kept at it though, slowly building up my endurance and it wasn’t long before I was hooked and it was only in April that year I ran my first race, yes a half marathon, the East London Half for the Tessa Sanderson Foundation.
I was thrilled to just complete it in 1.53 and to meet Tessa herself. I carried on running by myself into 2014 and ran my 1st marathon, Loch Ness that year. I was happy with my 3.48 finish and in May 2015 I got a place at the London Marathon and to me, disappointingly ran 3.48 again, it was then I decided I needed some help. The next day I looked up my two nearest running clubs, Thrift Green Trotters (now Brentwood Running Club) and Billericay Striders. I emailed them both but only Billericay replied. I went along to a few sessions, enjoyed them and thought they’d improve me (which they have, last year I got a London marathon GFA time) and became a member.
It’s a very friendly club, with all standard of runners, good coaches and good social too. I’m also a member of the Vegan Runners UK running club.
How did you hear about parkrun and start coming to Billericay parkrun?
I heard about parkrun from someone at the club and my first one was Basildon in 2015. I wasn’t gripped though and it was probably a couple of years later when my shorter distance improved I got really hooked.
I started running them every week and a couple of years ago I ran about 43 out of the 55 you can do in a year. I knew about Billericay starting a while before it did because people from the Striders were involved. I ran the first one and have since ran there 38 times, the most out of the 148 I’ve done.
You've volunteered lots of times at the event as a sighted guide for visually impaired athletes. How did you become interested in being a VI Guide and what do you enjoy about that role?
I started guide running 4 years ago when a friend of mine who is blind told me his regular guide runner was unable to run with him for a while. He was training for a half marathon so I didn’t hesitate to say I’d step in.
We went for a run in the streets tethered together and I was nervous, their life in your hands. I’ve since learnt that guiding around a park is far easier than on the streets where there are far more hazards.
After guiding my friend a couple of times, I decided it was in both our interests to sign up for the England Athletics Sight Loss Awareness and Guide Running Workshop. It was only a few hours but helped me learn a lot more. We tried out different glasses that let us see what it was like to have different types of sight loss, not everyone is totally blind, some could be misty or tunnel vision.
The main questions I ask now if I’m guiding someone new are, what is your sight like, have you any other medical conditions I need to know about, which side of me do you want to run on (don’t assume for them) and how fast do you want to go.
Billericay parkrun a while ago had a lot of sight loss and visually impaired runners attending and one young man I guided who was a very good runner before losing his sight, ran exceptionally quick, about 23 minutes, real bravery and faith to go that quick. I talk the whole way round, I describe wherever we are on the run, the pace, time and always checking they’re ok, along with everything in front of them. The thing I enjoy most about guiding is giving back something to help someone else enjoy running.
What have been your favourite memories from Billericay parkrun?
I enjoyed the last New Year's Day when a few of us ran Billericay then ran to Chelmsford parkrun to do the double.
I also enjoy the yearly parkrun tourism trip Billericay do, I couldn’t make Barry Island but I did go to Bushy and this November I think was meant to be the Severn Bridge parkrun which I would have attended. (Editor: Hopefully next year!)
I liked guiding there and how Billericay was at the forefront for introducing more sight loss and visually impaired runners to parkrun, I hope this will return. I just enjoy going there because I know I will see plenty of people I know there from the Striders and it is a chance to catch up.
What are the most memorable races you've done?
Last year I did the Berlin Marathon and went with a sports company called 2.09 events, this is owned by Mike Gratton, former London marathon winner in 1983 who won it in a time of 2.09. He came on the trip and it was a pleasure to spend an evening in his company after the marathon just chatting about running and his career.
The Melbourne half marathon was good because the finish was inside the 100,000 capacity MGM cricket ground. I also enjoyed running for the Striders in a relay competition that finished on the track inside the London Stadium.
I’ve grown to enjoy cross country through representing my club and last year running the South of England Cross Country Championships at the Parliament Hill, the iconic home of it was a great experience, hilly and very muddy.
The Grizzly down in Devon was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done, 20 miles of hills, sand, cliffs but I loved it and can’t wait to do it again, the Striders take a good 20 runners down there every year and it’s a good week-end away. I did the British 10k dressed as a tiger with Michaela Strachan and lots of others. I love doing Santa runs every year too.
Lastly the 24 hour Spitfire Scramble relay race in Hornchurch, I’ve ran this the last 3 years, the last two I organised Strider teams. This year we would have had 3 teams of 8 and it’s a fun week-end of camping and mixing with lots of other teams along with a superb relay race. Perhaps Billericay parkrun could organise a team or two when things are back to normal?
You've visited a lot of different parkruns. Which ones stand out?
I love visiting new parkruns and have been to 30 so far. I often go to new parkruns with a few friends from the club and we make a social of it, have a coffee and cake after, if you do Colchester parkrun, right next door you can do a 3 mile run that is a nice piece of Elephant Strava, we did that too.
I’ve been to the biggest Bushy twice but also the smallest in London, Pymmes, at one time it was getting under 40 runners. I’ve also visited the 3 of the fastest courses in the country, Dulwich, Hackney & Victoria Dock, I can tell you Dulwich is super quick. If you’re after a tough one then Lullingstone in Kent was 7th hardest. The only one outside England I’ve been to is Malahide in Dublin, a beautiful setting in Castle grounds.
What do you do outside of parkrun?
I worked in insurance for 18 years and I left to pursue my passion for horticulture. I work on a beautiful 27 acre private estate with hundreds of plant species and wildlife.
My other big passions are conservation and animal welfare and being a vegan sits alongside all of these.
I’ve been a West Ham fan all my life and had a season ticket for 29 years, my first live game was in 1981 against Brighton and a certain Paul Allen was playing, the same Paul Allen who is now a member of the Striders and a regular at Billericay parkrun!
I love visiting new countries and have been lucky to have visited some fantastic places but my favourite is Italy and in particular Tuscany where my mum’s side of the family are from and I got married there in Lucca.
What are you most looking forward to when parkrun comes back?
I’m looking forward to running two more parkrun to get to 150 and then pushing on and getting to the magical 250 along with visiting lots more parkruns and getting Saturday’s back to park life.
Thanks very much to Anthony! If you'd like to read more profiles, here are the others from this series so far:
The Billericay core team are:
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