Runner Profile: Anne Oliver
How I got into running
I started running in 1991 almost by accident and no-one could have been more surprised than me as I’d never been particularly sporty either at school or since.
However, my husband Steve had started running a few years previously having been inspired by the first Felixstowe half marathon and had taken out family membership of FRR in 1988. So, I was already a member of the club when I went to watch Steve take part in his first London marathon in April 1991. I was in my late 30s at the time and beginning to think I ought to be doing something to get fit beyond the occasional swim or keep fit class. The fantastic atmosphere, endless sea of bobbing faces and the magic which is London provided the final little push that tipped me into a pair of trainers.
My first ever run took place a few days later. I went early as I didn’t want anyone to see me – I didn’t even tell Steve I was going. Jogging down the road felt quite strange and some of the flabbier bits of me (and there were several even though I wasn’t particularly overweight!) seemed to wobble rather disconcertingly but I managed about a mile with a little walk in the middle and amazingly and importantly liked it enough to go again.
Throughout that summer I continued with these little one mile run several times a week, enjoying the sense of freedom that running gave me but all the time waiting for the day when it would feel easier – it never did. In the end, I realised I would just have to push on and extend the distance regardless of how it felt so I gradually increased the distance of my outings to two and then three miles.
When I started running, one of the motivating factors had been that I could take part in some of the fun runs, which were often organised alongside the more serious stuff that Steve was doing; the idea of doing any serious races was still as alien to me as a sloth going to Specsavers. So, in the September I duly entered my first fun run – at the Framlingham 10K. I found it quite tough as I had only run the distance (about 3 miles) a couple of times before and although I can’t remember the route, there must have been the odd hill in it. I liked the sense of achievement and being cheered on by some of the FRRs who were there, but the most important consequence of that run was that now my running was public knowledge and people began to encourage me to run with the club and particularly to join the informal sessions known as Tuesday Night Boys. The main club session in those days was on Wednesdays but some of the original FRRs still also met on Tuesdays at the bottom of Bent hill for an effort/interval session along the prom, not to mention up the hilly roads leading off it!
It took me awhile to pluck up the courage but eventually I went along together with Elaine, the wife of FRR Steve Brinkley, who had also recently started doing some running. We soon found that running with other people wasn’t half as alarming as we’d imagined and everyone was so friendly and welcoming we soon forgot any worries about not being able to keep up or slowing others down. Tuesday night runs with the club thus became a firm fixture in my diary and I began to count myself ‘a runner.’
My running career (if I can call it that) progressed slowly and steadily over the next few years, but it was not until 1995 that my running really began to pick up pace both literally and in terms of the number and distance of races that I ran.
Favourite Races and Favourite Moments
Early in 1995 Elaine and I decided to enter our first 10K. This was the Bildeston 10K on 19th March, an out and back course which, as far as I can remember, went straight uphill from the start and continued that way till the halfway point after which it was all downhill. Better that way than the other, of course, but it was rather demoralising to see all those ahead of you hurtling down towards the finish as you were still toiling up on the outward leg. Naturally Elaine beat me at this event as at nearly every other but I was very pleased the following month, when we did our 2nd 10k at Stowmarket, to get a PB by over 2 and a half minutes. This was followed by another PB at Woodbridge 4 weeks later.
Kirton Friday 5
1995 was the year I finally manged to nail a 5-mile PB at Kirton (40:08) in a time I’ve never actually beaten since, but perhaps the most important race of the year for me was my first half marathon (so much for that sloth now!).
Felixstowe Half Marathon
Again, this was a joint decision with Elaine (helped along it must be said by a certain quantity of red wine) and we started training for the Felixstowe Half. Sadly, Elaine didn’t really enjoy this training and even before the race I think she’d decided longer races weren’t for her. At the actual event, I finished several minutes ahead of her with mixed feelings, partly pleased that for once I had beaten her but also sad that she hadn’t enjoyed the race as much as I had. A small consolation was that we were part of the ladies team who came second (I think!).
The next significant event for me was precipitated by a throw away comment from the late Mike Todd one Tuesday evening. We were chatting away between intervals when Mike happened to say, ‘of course you have to do London at least once!’ At which point I almost felt a physical ping! in my brain as I suddenly realised that, like it or not, I was going to have to do a marathon.
I was lucky enough to get a ballot place for the London marathon at my first attempt and I started training for it in Jan 1996. That winter was a particularly hard one and I remember several runs in freezing conditions battling against biting wind and dodging snow drifts down the track beside the Kingsfleet. Luckily, I had some company on a lot of these runs as Christina Howland, who’d been with the club and a regular Tuesday Night-er since before I started running, and Sheila Dolan, who was quite new, were both doing London too. I think it was around this time that Annabel and Richard Bennett joined the club and I had Annabel’s company on some of my runs too.
On the day of the race itself the weather did an about face and gave us unseasonably hot and sunny conditions, the complete opposite of those we’d trained in. Before the start we were hurriedly slapping on the sunscreen and discarding the long-sleeved tops and bin bags intended for protection against cold and rain. It was too hot for me really and by the time I reached the Cutty Sark at about 6 miles I could happily have stopped. Sheila and I ran together for as long as we could but eventually I lost her and found myself slowing to a walk over the cobbles of the Tower of London. After that I managed a run/walk for the last few miles to the finish. I was on cloud nine for days afterwards even though I was a bit disappointed with my time: 5:07-something officially and 4:57:41 by my watch – no chip timing or Garmins in those days!
The miles and effort I had put in during my marathon training stood me in good stead for the remainder of the year and I got several PBs (most of which still stand).
Between 1991 and 2012 I went nearly every year on the annual Club outing to London for the marathon, once to run but the rest of the time to watch and it was on one of these occasions in 2004 while sheltering with Christina and another girl called Kate under an umbrella and warming our insides with a nice drop of red, that Elaine said ‘why don’t we all enter London next year and we can train together? We’ll make a pact.’ Well my jaw must have dropped a mile as ever since that first half marathon Elaine had consistently maintained that half marathons, never mind full ones, were not for her. As it happened I had applied to do the London marathon again both in 2004 and 2003 without success so once I’d regained the power of speech I was more than ready to agree and the other two did as well.
Elaine said later that when she woke up the next day and wondered what on earth had possessed her to make such a suggestion she had at first been comforted by the thought that with all the red wine we’d been drinking it was unlikely that any of us would remember – and then (according to her account) she remembered that I’d been present and knew she wasn’t going to get away with it so lightly!
In the end, we did form a foursome to train for a marathon but it was Elaine and me, together with Jayne Farnworth and Helen Challis (Chris and Kate sensibly deciding that agreements made under the influence were not binding) who became ‘the Cackling Four’ – a nickname bestowed on us by Nigel Dadge who had been the club’s first qualified coach and instrumental in introducing a more formal coaching system to the club. He agreed to be our coach for our marathon training and put a lot of time and effort into producing a training schedule for us, leading some of our long runs and generally keeping the show on the road as one thing after another threatened to de-rail it.
None of us succeeded in getting an entry to London through the ballot but Jayne and Helen were successful in the Club ballot and with Elaine and I entered for the Paris marathon we began a rollercoaster period of running successes and disasters memorable mostly for the camaraderie and laughter that we had along the way.
When Elaine and I did our marathon Jayne and Helen came with us to Paris together with Christina, another long-time FRR member Sylvia Scott-Laws and Steve Brinkley as our support team. Elaine and I had a great race in Paris. We stayed in a hilariously awful hotel only a short stroll from the start and the only downside I recall was the lack of loos at the start, thus necessitating a not very discrete pee behind a very skinny birch tree. Elaine beat me as usual by a considerable margin but I was used to that by now and was thrilled to get a PB by over 10 mins 9 years after my first marathon.
After Paris, although I was still running, my annual mileage dropped off again and some years I hardly did any races at all. During this period though Elaine and I became joint race directors for the Felixstowe half marathon and steered the race through 3 of its most successful years (2006-8). This success wasn’t down to us personally I hasten to add, but down to the ongoing popularity of running generally and to the tremendous support we had from the rest of the club. I also took over the organising of the Two Rivers Run from my husband Steve in 2009.
My running was reinvigorated somewhere around 2011 or 2012 by which time all 3 of my daughters had been well bitten by the running bug, parkrun had started (with my eldest daughter Ali closely involved with the setting up and running of the Ipswich one) and FRR was continuing to go from strength to strength with the injection of new blood and the stalwart support of a few of the old-timers who were still around – and still are! The arrival of Facebook has also influenced my running as I’m sure I’d never have entered the Cambridge Half in 2013 if I hadn’t seen it mentioned on the FRR FB page. Since then I’ve entered quite a few more races through seeing them mentioned on there!
FRR remains the friendly club it was when Steve and I first joined and the running and the friendships, old and new, continue to be an essential part of my life.
Plans for 2017
The main plan I had at the beginning of the year was to concentrate on parkrun, try to reach my 50th and improve my times. I’m also hoping to reach the 1000 miles for Cap’n Harper’s wallchart though I’m a bit behind schedule with that at present. I’ve entered the Coastal 10 for the first time this year and the half marathon at the new St Ed’s Running Festival in October so training for those should help with the mileage.
Nomination for September
is a much-loved member of FRR, who has given freely of his time and efforts for the club ever since he joined, having been both chairman and Race Director for Kirton for many years – Richard Farnworth.