Runner Profile: Rachel Crisp

Firstly thank you to Dan Clark for nominating me, when I read that he had I spent two weeks thinking about where the hell I should start. I kept coming back to the only answer there ever is really and so I will start where all stories do, at the beginning.

I joined FRR in 2011 as I was training to cycle LEJoG and someone had suggested running may help.  My then husband Lee had recently joined and encouraged me to do the same so I thought I would try it out. I struggled with the one mile warm up at my first FRR session and hated running but loved the feel of the club and the people so I kept coming back every Tuesday.

My first race was the Kirton Five in 2012 and although I still felt like it was a struggle, I realised I no longer hated running and I loved running a race. The support from the fellow FRRs out on the course was incredible and I realised then that I felt a part of something and I felt like an actual runner.

Crossing the Clifton suspension bridge during LEJoG 2012

I did my LEJoG ride in 2012 then decided I needed a new challenge so entered a half iron distance triathlon and used this as motivation to learn to swim. I upped my running and in March 2013 I ran my first half marathon at Colchester. I spent many weeks drinking more chlorinated water than was healthy and later on battling with panic attacks as I moved to open water swimming. However, somehow in September 2013 I managed a good swim at the Vitruvian and finished with a half marathon PB. This was all a massive relief as I had already entered a full Ironman for the following year!

I was starting to get serious about my training, probably too serious looking back, but I was taking nothing for granted. Growing up I was not sporty at all. I was always the chubby kid, the heaviest in my class and the last to be picked for the netball team. I was also taught that I was a quitter so I was battling against both these things to be the best that I could be, so I trained like a trojan. I battled against the demons in the water, biked a ridiculously long way and did a few half marathons but I was still petrified as I stood on the start line of Ironman Copenhagen in 2014. As it turned out, I actually loved it and finished in a dream time of 12 hours 16 minutes.

I needed all the lessons I had learnt during my Ironman training about motivation, determination and endurance as I faced new challenges heading into 2015 as I received a diagnosis of salivary gland cancer.  I thought that the club London Marathon place I had gained would be wasted but a few weeks later I heard that I could delay my surgery and treatment until after the marathon.

The run in Copenhagen had been my first marathon distance but I felt a real pressure about running a standalone marathon. Thinking that my year would be over after London and with persuasion from Shabba (Daniel Gould) I decided to also run Brighton marathon which I had entered as a plan b and was two weeks before London.  I ran a 4:10 in Brighton and a 4:02 in London which remains my PB

Once I had recovered from my surgery I ran my first trail marathon at Bewl Water and loved the peaceful contrast to the busy streets of London. I found running off-road to be like a complete escape which is what I needed to distract me but also focus me. I needed to keep running and so I needed to keep eating, without this motivation I believe my mind and body would have suffered more.

I survived on by eating Muller Rice, Jelly and Complan and kept running. In September 2015, a few weeks after finishing radiotherapy I ran my first ultra, the Dig Deep Ultra Tour of Suffolk. I ran nine marathons and five ultras in 2015 and finished the year running five marathons in five days but I also finished the year with horrendous anxiety. The emotional impact of the cancer and the coinciding end of my marriage had caught up with me and suddenly coming to FRR was virtually impossible.

I officially left FRR the following year and although I ran the Brighton marathon and did the Vitruvian again, it was all such a struggle. However, in October on a trip to support Shell (Michelle Gordon) at Ironman Barcelona I realised I needed something to pull me out of this, so I entered the race for the following year in one of my classic ‘fuck it’ moments.

I struggled through the Ironman training to start with and probably didn’t really do enough, but I had found a balance in my life that I needed. I wasn’t obsessive over it anymore and as a result I found I enjoyed it more. My anxiety improved, my confidence started to come back and I felt healthy again. Crossing the finish line of Ironman Barcelona with friends Shell, Shabba and Terri Gould cheering me on to the sound of Come on Eileen was a turning point for me. I was ready to face forwards again to another new challenge.

I had already entered the Lakeland 50 prior to doing Barcelona and so my focus went straight back to trail running and I started by running the Stort 30 a few weeks later.  My running was then hampered by unexplained dizziness and a diagnosis of vestibular migraine. I lost confidence in everything including my running and felt unable to venture out alone. I tried to train but was constantly struggling with the dizziness and felt like I was going backwards. I couldn’t drive, had to give up work but was again clutching on to my running to stay sane.  I struggled around the Geneva half marathon in May 2018 but as this was the furthest I had run, I decided to DNS the Lakeland 50.

I had booked to walk the Lakeland 100 route and was persuaded to still do it with a promise that my companions Shabba, Jimmy and Magic would help keep me upright. I found walking with the dizziness easier than running even though at times I was scared I was going to literally wobble off the side of a mountain. I realised I could walk the 50 and get round in time so I decided to give it a go.

In July 2018 I unexpectedly managed to run a lot more of the Lakeland 50 than I ever thought I could and as I ticked off the miles I realised I was going to be well within the cut off, and my target time of 24 hours. To finish in 15 hours 36 was beyond my wildest dreams and as I found out a few days later, it was a time that qualified me to enter the Lakeland 100, so of course I entered.

I returned to FRR in March this year and in May I walked the Lakeland route again this time with Dan Clark joining the group. In July I stood alongside Dan, Magic (Simon Merrick) and Jimmy Russell on the start line of the Lakeland 100, once again absolutely petrified as I said goodbye to the FRR party that had formed to see us off.

Walna Scar Road, the first climb of the Lakeland 100

I didn’t need to be scared as I very quickly found myself feeling comfortable with being uncomfortable and absolutely loved this race, it was by far the hardest race I have ever completed but it was also the most incredible experience and a true escape that lasted a whole 39 hours and 19 minutes.

Running through Coniston to the finish, 39 hours later

My next challenge is a return to triathlon with two events entered for 2020, Epicman half iron distance and Lakesman iron distance, and so it continues………

On to Decembers nomination and I would like to nominate the person who without his encouragement and support I would never have joined FRR in the first place and that is Lee Crisp.

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