Runner Profile: Caroline Stafford

Thank you to Peter Woods for stitching me up, you are a hard act to follow but I will try my best.

I first joined FRR in 1990, I know, I am really old!!!!!! Club used to be based at the hut next to the British Legion and the juniors and the adults would all start off together. I would turn up with my start us off with a Jane Fonda aerobics workout of warm ups. Leg warmers and the sound track “Lets get physical”, would not have been out of place. The junior coaches Mick Sears and Dean Robinson would then take us out. Normal sessions would be running up and down every hill in Felixstowe five times and doing press ups or star jumps at the top. Back in those days I can’t remember us having fancy trainers, watches or even sports bras: so, I am blaming FRR for loss of gravity.  Running was always a social event for me, and I was never competitive, nothing has changed. So, while my friends went off to championships, I was more interested in learning to play guitar and pretending to be alternative.  I did continue running as I got older. At university the rugby club would run some considerable miles around campus every Wednesday evening. I joined in with these hot hunks purely in the interests of maintaining my fitness levels.

Running took a back seat while I raised a young family and worked but in 2010, I got my passion back. This was mainly due to a divorce and needing time to think and focus on myself. Running gave me a new outlet and I decided to re-join FRR. Facebook messaging was not yet a thing, so I picked up a phone and called Sallyanne Pearce. Sallyanne told me to come along to club where herself or Annabel Bennett would take me under their wings. She explained that they would be the two people talking to everyone so I would easily recognise them. Club was then at the top at the stairs at Brackenbury as it was a much smaller crowd.  I nervously went along and was truly welcomed into my new family. Sally and Annabel taught me that it was actually possible to run really quickly and talk the whole time – I was inspired.

I began entering races and was lucky enough to train with Sam Linassi.  Poor Sam had to listen to a lot of my waffle, but we encouraged each other and covered a lot of training miles.  In 2010 we both completed Felixstowe half marathon and Sam dragged me around Stowmarket half where I got my first sub 2 hours. Sam then moved to Kesgrave and her running just went from strength to strength. I battled on and was awarded best female newcomer, club really was small then!

With Sam out of town I began training with Lucy McAlpine and we entered a lot of mucky races and obstacle courses.  Poor Lucy had to push my large bottom over a lot of walls and keep her patience while I attempted the monkey bars. After extensive training in the local park from my kids, I still fell off on the first rung.  We had great fun at these events and managed to escape catching weils disease.  My sister and I also entered my first national event, The Great South Run. I could not believe how this race differed from the tractors, lawn mowers and no spectator’s at Stowmarket. Suddenly there was bands, gel stops and crowds of people. The major highlight for me was meeting Ben Fogal. When I say meet, he just smiled at me, but I was beyond excited and running just got more interesting.

Most Challenging Race – London Marathon 2015

Like Paul Schwer I have been entering the London marathon ballot since I was a small child. When it was still sponsored by Flora, you were guaranteed a place after your third rejection. I was due to receive this when Virgin took over and abolished this rule. Every year since I have been rejected.  However, I was lucky enough to win club place in 2015, when the pots were much smaller.  I had been injured and was struggling to run a mile, so I really was starting from the beginning. Matt Howe very kindly took a charity place so he could train with me and I think he quickly regretted this   Once on a long run, I sat down on the ground after 17 miles and refused to move.  We still had three miles to go but I was having such a tantrum that he had to run on alone and come back for me in the car!!!!! Richard Farnworth gave me loads of positive encouragement during this period and I will fondly remember him presenting me with my London Pride plant. 

On the actual day I was a nervous wreck. It was cold and raining and I lost my nerve.  I was standing alone in the toilet queue on the verge of tears, when an apparition appeared from a port-a-loo. Shabba emerged, gave me a hug, told me to pull myself together and I manned up.  Matt was in a different start to me, but we arranged to meet a mile seven and run together. I had to wait for ten minutes at the side of the road for him as the charity start is much slower. In this time, I watched a man dressed as a diplodocus, try and get in a port -a -loo. It was so funny watching him trying to get his tail and head in and it melted my worry away. I then enjoyed every step of the way (well not mile 20-26, they just hurt).  What an amazing run in the most beautiful city, it is truly magical.

Favourite Races

FRR girls on tour races can’t be beat. Running, drinking, dancing and laughing. We have been to Berlin and ran the 25k which starts and finishes in the Olympic Stadium. The race passes many great sites including the Berlin Colum, the Brandenburg Gate, The Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charley. It’s a great city to explore and our beer steins stayed full as we made the most of the Germany hospitality. Another fantastic trip was to Dingle in Ireland where we went to run the half marathon.   Dingle is my spiritual home, a small coastal village which has over 30 pubs.  In the day many of these pubs are shops selling hardware, hats or offering shoe repair. At night they are public houses and you can browse the plumbing fittings whilst having shots.  The race itself is stunningly beautiful, along the winding roads of the costal peninsula. Along the way there is traditional Irish music, bands and DJS and the finish is at a pub.  We all had such a great time and girls we must plan another race for next year.

Being an FFR

Being part of FRR is very important to me. It allows me to push myself and enter new challenges and brings new people to train with. For many years I was a junior’s coach alongside Mark Goodwin and Nigel Dabb. It was brilliant watching the children thrive and grow.  I gained so much from helping and now I get the same feeling being a Run Director for parkrun.

FRR has provided me with the best group of friends and acquaintances.  Some of those friends have literally become family and we have had such fun together.

What’s Next

On the 20th Oct 2019, a mass group of us are off to Amsterdam to run a marathon.  Its been a journey watching everyone’s training and planning our take-over.  Some of us are beginners, some plodders, some more advanced and some super speedy.  Some of our group are going to spectate and support, of course they will be doing that from a bar. As I write this, I have nearly completed my long runs and I am ready to tackle my next marathon. Good luck guys, this will be epic.

Next month’s nominee…

Someone who makes marathon running look like it’s a small jog along the prom is the legend that is Dan Clark. So over to you …….

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