Runner Profile: Sally Solomon
Thanks for the nomination Alastair, I think! I’m way more of a reader than a writer, but I’ll try and give you all a small insight into my running world. Here goes…
For many years in my adult life there was literally no sport. Back in the school days, like I’ve read from several former Runner of the Month writers, I too was always the last one to get picked for team sports. We were subjected to cross-country running, and this was delivered by us all starting together, before some of us like-minded pupils at the back were able to duck into bushes and then re-join towards the end when all the (full course) runners came back past. This all happened on Rushmere Heath, near to Copleston High School in Ipswich and was never monitored by teachers, so easy to hide! Amazing to think that running in general, even if not cross-country specifically, has become such a large part of my life as an adult after such an inauspicious start.
So that was the extent of my sporting career until I found Indoor Cricket at about the age of 18. This went on for a few years, regularly playing in a mixed team. Then as with lots of other people, work, marriage and eventually children, took over and squeezed out certain non-essentials.
IN THE BEGINNING
So, many years on, and the children were now fast becoming adults. My Daughter Genni and I decided to tackle The Race for Life (2007). It was O.K. but probably one of the hardest things I had done (at that time!). I won’t lie, I didn’t enjoy it, and my sedentary lifestyle resumed.
Winding the clock on still further and a new component was about to have a profound affect on my life. As I was soon to discover, and not just restricted to me, Saturday mornings were never to be the same again. (P)parkrun had arrived, unplanned, in my life. This was in the wake of the 2012 London Olympics. My Brother (Club Captain Robin Harper) encouraged me to go along. “I’ll be last”, I said. “It will be embarrassing”, I said. But nevertheless, I went along and have been going ever since and have watched it go from strength to strength in this time. I’m now quite happy to describe myself as somewhat of an addict.
Incidentally, my husband (Dave Solomon) dismissed this new running fad at the time, citing that Saturday was his “rest day”, so it was not for him. He encouraged me to get stuck in though, and soon re-assessed his own weekly programme once he began to realise what he was missing out on! Nowadays we joke about “going off to our church together” on a Saturday morning, as to us agnostic types, it’s the closest thing to it. The sense of community I can embrace and the wide-ranging group of friends I now have since becoming a parkrunner really can’t be understated.
JOINING ROAD RUNNERS
I think it was during the summer months prior to parkrun taking off in Suffolk that I’d made my FRR training night debut. By this time, my husband and brother had been members of FRR for a couple of years and all they ever talked about whenever they got together was their enjoyment of club life and all the friendly characters I felt I almost knew by proxy. Of course, when I say I knew, I would later have to endure some confusion around actual names as opposed to nicknames that the fools tended to refer to most of the club by! Anyway, by now both of our children had left home, university-bound, and I’d suffered periods of low mood. So, encouraged by the husband to go with the boys on a Tuesday night, off I went. I won’t say it changed my life that first night, because it didn’t, but I can honestly say, it didn’t take long for it to happen. I met and was encouraged by some lovely people.
By the spring of the following year I was ready to have a go at 10K race outings in quick succession by entering Alton Water and then (the first of what would become many appearances at) Woodbridge.
I think Alton Water was the first race that I wore my brand-new club vest at for the first time.
And so, it continued, entering races and quite enjoying it. I was never going to win anything and was always right near the back, but I WAS DOING SPORT!!!
MOST MEMORABLE RACE: FIRST MARATHON (ONLY ONE!!)
Who would have thought on that October evening in 2015, my Brother was going to change the next six months for me, for the better, by pulling my name out of the hat for a club London Marathon place! Disbelief wasn’t the word for it, and I think after a couple of days, realisation started to sink in about this enormous thing I was about to embark on!
Panic, “I can’t do this”, “I’m not a marathon runner”, you name it, I had every negative thought under the sun.
But, armed with my training plan, it began and led me to doing my first race longer than 10K (The Beccles Turkey Trot) just before Christmas. Finishing that I was telling myself that I only had to do another 16 miles on the day, how hard could it be?! But I came home happy to have done my first 10-mile distance and armed with my Christmas pudding. What a trophy.
I did a few lovely races in the run up to the Marathon, with a lot of help from Amanda Smith, Rachael Miller and Nicola Stevenson. Tarpley 10, when we did 3 miles before the off and 2 at the finish. The Colchester half, probably one of my favourites with Rachael and Nicola. The Stowmarket half, again with Amanda and Rachael.
One of my most memorable training runs was a drab, very cold Saturday in February. Amanda drove to mine then we got a lift to Ipswich parkrun (Christchurch park). We ran the parkrun, then ran to Chantry park, ran the course there, back through town, up through Christchurch park and out on to Henley Road. Here we turned onto Valley Road with the intention of running to Kesgrave and doing the parkrun course there too, a total all in of 18 miles. That particular morning it rained, it was foggy, it snowed and sleeted on us, and it was about -1C. We made it to Kesgrave and decided against the parkrun course and headed back to mine. A total all in of 15 miles. I think it took us the best part of the rest of the day to warm up properly, but 15 miles in the bank, now the furthest I had run.
One of the other training runs Amanda and I did together was as part of JJ’s Hard and Fast relay. We ran from Harleston to Ipswich Hospital, a total of 16 miles, with the odd pub stop, oh and a lift up Woodbridge Road by Jo Harper’s Mum and Dad. Shhh, don’t tell!
So finally, race day dawned. Genni and Kelmend picked us up at stupid o’clock in order to catch the coach in Felixstowe. Halfway to the meet I realised I had left my Garmin at home! Doh!! Much banter on the journey down, porridge eaten, then before I knew it we were off the bus at Greenwich, quick photos and hugs, and we were in to our relevant start zones. I remember hanging around and getting coffee with Adrian (Goode), Chris (Sugars) and The Haymaker (David Mayes). Not sure much had sunk in at this point, cue call from my son George, who as far as I was concerned was tucked up in bed in Manchester, where he lives. “See you on Tower Bridge, Mum” he said. “Eimile and I will be there”. A few tears followed this surprise phone call and three blokes not really knowing what to do!
Finally, last wee stops done, old clothes discarded and we were off. “Slow and steady”, I kept telling myself, but before I knew it there was The Cutty Sark. Next landmark Tower Bridge. I made the big right turn onto the bridge and what a sight, with all those people. I remember thinking that I must stay on the left as that’s where the FRR posse were to be found, and there they were. Cue cuddles with family and inevitably more tears, before I was off again, turning the next corner and soon into the second half of the race.
Then it got hard, a bit of run/walking from 18 miles, but the crowds were amazing and here was me, a part of it all. I pushed on and at about 22 miles I caught up with a lady who was really struggling. We did the next mile together, chatting and generally trying to keep our minds off the pain we were suffering. She thanked me as I left her and pushed on alone again.
With a couple of miles to go, in the distance I could see someone hanging from a set of traffic lights, “here she comes” I heard someone shout. Jo Whelan (hanging from the traffic lights), Amanda and Rachael, what a welcome sight they were, and having them jog along side for a bit was great.
With roughly a mile to go, I now saw Dave (long since finished himself), Genni, Kelmend, George and Eimile at the side of the road, shouting at me too. And what a proper sight for sore eyes (and sore legs) they were!
Soon I was turning the corner to see the finish, and 5 hours 53 seconds later, I was done. Medal safely round my neck, bag collected and a portaloo in sight. I hadn’t actually stopped on the course, and didn’t really need to go, but knew I was straight on to the coach, so thought I’d better try. So, got in loo, sat down, then wasn’t sure how I was going to get up. Took some time, I can tell you.
Out of the loo, then headed towards Trafalger Square to be met by Dave and George. Big hugs and a few pictures, then I was pretty much carried to the coach. Hurried goodbyes to George and Eimile and we were off, back to Ipswich.
A day I will never forget, just call me a Marathon Runner. Oh, and I found my Garmin on the way home, it had been hiding in my bag all the time!
I still rate this as the hardest thing I have ever done, but I loved every minute of it.
It was a week of massive highs and lows, marathon runner on Sunday and gradually settling back into normal life routine before one week on, the following Sunday, I lost my Dad very suddenly. So horribly mixed feelings when I look back now to Spring ‘16.
Obviously, my favourite race is The Woodbridge 10K. Why? It was my first proper road race, the people that come out to watch and support, particularly the girls who play their cellos at the top of Drybridge Hill, those hills and that iconic Market Hill finish. Also, the huge FRR support around the course, naturally enough outside various pubs!
Other notable favourites in no particular order. The Twilight 10K, again a great atmospheric race. The Bournemouth half marathon, I’ve only done this once, but another great event and I wouldn’t rule out going back some day.
The Saxons 5, with its quirky start-line warm ups, the hill through the estate, and the fantastic array of cakes at the end. Oh, and don’t forget the handwritten results that appear slowly from a little room. Gutted to have missed it this year, although I hear it’s modernising somewhat, with chip-timing and digital results, finally!
The Framlingham Friday 5, beautiful surroundings and scenery and a really friendly race.
Ekiden, now there’s a day. Basically, a mass team picnic with a bit of running involved. But seriously, if you’ve never done it, go for it, it’s a great few hours. There’s even ice cream.
The Vitality 10k in London, I’ve done it twice now and loved both times but time to find a new one next year.
Oh, and The Colchester Zoo 10K, a new event this year. I had a great run, even though Nicola did nearly kill me. Thinking about it she’s done that a few times this year, but she’s been a great friend and running companion in recent times, and another typical friendship I’d have never found without running and FRR in my life!
And who can forget Thunder Run. I think I had panic attacks both years that I did it. Twenty four hours in a field, camping, and running 10K every four or five hours on a most challenging off-road course! But here I am planning to go solo in another 24 hour race next year!
I could go on……
This year started pretty badly for me. I had entered The Manchester Marathon with Nicola and had started training back in November. I found I was constantly running in pain and discomfort. I made an appointment to see Bridget Read in January, a change of therapist. She urged me to see an NHS physio and between her and an awfully nice young man at The Riverside Clinic, I was diagnosed with a very weak hamstring, right where it joined other fibres, just under my buttock. So, with that diagnosis, there was to be no running until further notice. The decision was made to pull out of Manchester, which was hugely disappointing for me.
I continued to have regular physio and while I wasn’t running, I was clocking up the miles on my bike, supporting Nicola on her long runs, in some of the most horrific weather.
Finally, after many weeks, I was allowed to start gently jogging. Having already entered the Good Friday Sudbury 5 mile “fun” run, I targeted that as my first race back, aiming to finish in about an hour. I came in at 53 minutes and had no pain!
And so my year took off, I gave myself a few targets; the elusive sub 30 minute 5k, a sub 60 minute 10k, a sub 50 minute 5 mile and The Vitality mile. Running was going well and I found myself running quicker than I had ever done. Who’d have thought it?
The Twilight 5k came around and I knew this was my chance for the sub-30. Sure enough, one target completed, 29:27, boom, tears at the end, but I had done it. A huge achievement for me.
Colchester Zoo 10k (hilly!), pushed round by Nic again, trying to get in under my current time of 1.03:15. Sure enough, even though I thought I was never going to make the last hill, a new PB of 1.02:30. Could all my goals happen, yes, it was a PB but two and a half minutes was a lot to take off for the sub-60.
At the Friday Five races I had plenty of chances to attempt my sub-50 min 5 miles. The first one was new to us all, Sudbury. I enjoyed this one even though there was a hill from hell that seemed to go on forever. I think the first two and a half miles was all up, and then down all the way to the finish. I turned into the sports centre and round another corner to see the clock, 49:21. I’d done it. A new PB and I’d broken that 50 minute barrier.
Kirton 5 next, accompanied round by Karen Eaton and I managed to come in once more under 50 minutes (49:45).
On to Framlingham, one of my favourites, off I went and this time all on my own, no one to shout at me. I managed yet another PB (48:29). This was getting silly. My final one of the season was Great Bentley. Again, one I enjoy, a largely flat course, so could I maybe go for an even quicker 5 than I had already done. The answer was yes, 47:14. Project Sub-50 had been pretty successful and probably far better than I could have hoped for. The running was still going really well.
Twilight 10k, this was going to be my chance at the sub hour. I didn’t have the best prep, the day before I had taken a heavy fall on horrible gravel whilst running with Jasper the dog (Adrian’s). I had three very deep cuts, but dressed them all well and just hoped for the best. Off I went with Nic, she soon left me and I was on my own. The crowds were great and I got lots of shouts from FRRs on the route. I soon felt the dressings on my knee flapping and didn’t dare look down as I was convinced blood was running down my leg! Anyway, the end was in sight and I soon saw Mr S shouting that “it’s a great time”. The time, 1 hour and 33 seconds, a new 10k PB but not the sub hour I had hoped for. But all in all, I was still pleased, maybe next year!
On to my last challenge of 2018, The Felixstowe Coastal 10 mile. A few months earlier, after the disappointment of not being able to do the Manchester Marathon, Nicola suggested that I get on a plan and train for the Coastal 10.” I suppose I could do”, I said, even though I had vowed to run no more than the 10k distance for the rest of the year. So, I went to enter, only to find it had sold out, fortunately I was able to have one of Jason Taylor’s corporate places. Thanks Jason.
I downloaded a 12-week plan to get me up to the distance and so it started. Training went well, Nicola was with me pretty much the whole time, she was training for her three half marathons in September. We trained all the way through the really hot weather and finally I felt ready.
Race day dawned, cold, very windy and very, very wet!!! We both ran the first two miles in plastic ponchos! We were soon halfway through, Nicola urging me on all the time. Up to the ferry was pretty grim with the horrible head wind, it was a relief when we finally turned out of the wind. Three miles to go. “I can do this”, I set myself a target of anything under 1 hour 50 minutes. With just a mile to go, I started flagging. Nic kept pushing me though, and finally The Pier started to get closer. Boom! Done! 1 hour and 45 minutes. A new 10-mile PB.
Cue head to changing rooms to wring out my sopping wet clothes.
So that’s 2018 so far. If I did no more running for the rest of the year, I think I’d be happy with what I’ve achieved. However, I may just try a stab at one final PB at Stowmarket Scenic 7!
I cannot pay enough of a tribute to Bridget Read and Nicola Stevenson, not sure where I would have been without them. Bridget for keeping my legs, hips etc moving, and Nicola, for just being Nicola and running with me all the time. I owe you girls.
THE FUTURE (WHAT DOES IT HOLD?)
Well, who knows. I have completed my 250th parkrun this month and as someone pointed out, I will be nearly 60, by the time my 500th comes around!
Just keep plugging away I guess; there’s always that sub 60-minute 10k goal to work on and as mentioned I need to keep reminding myself I’ve opted to take on the challenge to go through the ROC24 (24 hour race at Culford next summer) event, along with several other FRR lunatics, as a solo entrant.
Just grow old gracefully. But where’s the fun in that?
NEXT MONTHS NOMINATION
Selecting December’s Runner of the Month spotlight recipient is quite a challenge in itself. But after careful consideration and with several hot contenders coming close runners up, I’ve decided to pass the baton on to someone who I have got to know much better through our Friday afternoon swim club and after-beer gatherings. A member most of you will know, very active in a broad range of club activity and a thoroughly nice bloke with it. Over to you BEN JACOBS.