Runner Profile: Helen Duggan

Thank you for the nomination Helen Hollingsworth, but I feel quite a fraud writing as Runner of the Month! I am a fairly inexperienced runner in comparison to the majority of Reds reading this, particularly compared to the other half of the Duggo Duo! But I will do my best!

Born the older of 2 girls, I was the “unsporty” shy one!  My sister was athletic, a gymnast, runner, county hockey player and I was the dumpy “musical” one in the school band who rarely participated in sporting activities unless under duress! Always the last to be selected for netball or hockey teams in the days when the elite sporty kids were allowed to pick their own teams!  Should have been banned, horrendous idea, I’ve been scarred for life!!

My 100m time in the 1st year at the Harwich School was about 23 secs so I was never a likely candidate for the Victrix Ludorum!

In my early 20’s I became interested in the gym, became addicted to step aerobics and then met Duggo who was more of a footie player who ran as a training aide. Under his influence I had a stab at running but didn’t particularly enjoy it at the time! We lived in Harwich then and I joined Harwich Runners but only went a few times as found it quite cliquey.

Apart from periodically jogging around the block, I didn’t really take running seriously apart from the odd few K on the treadmill at the gym. We moved to Ipswich and I joined Martlesham Leisure, finding early mornings were the best time for me – making some good friends and really enjoying gym training and classes. I was there most days at 5.30am (and still am!).  I made a good friend there and we started running together and even did the Felixstowe Half Marathon in 1998 in just under 2 hours.

In 2006 I decided to do the Race for Life at Suffolk Showground thinking it would be a challenge. I amazed myself by finishing 10th overall, which was a total surprise and I actually loved it

When parkrun arrived in Ipswich I began doing a few parkruns at Ipswich (Chantry Park) and loved the community support and general “feel good” factor particularly the volunteering aspect.

This was the turning point too for Duggo. After a bit of a running break parkrun gave him the opportunity to run every week and he met some of the regular parkrun Reds which would lead to him joining FRR……. a life changing moment for both of us!

He joined us as family members and tried to persuade me to come along to the sessions but I didn’t feel good enough to go to a “proper” running club and do “serious” running!

Kesgrave parkrun launched in September 2014 and this gave me the impetus to throw myself into running (being literally 3 minutes from our doorstep)  I very soon got hooked on improving PBs and became competitive for the first time in my life!

But just as my running started to take off, I hit another low point as I was forced into the surgical menopause, which impacted me in every way possible.  Miserable, grumpy, achey, pained and constantly tired, I typified the 7 dwarfs of the menopause!  I decided to combat it by changing my diet and training regime, incorporating more pilates and core strength training. It helped significantly and has led to me recently completing a Nutritional Diploma and becoming a qualified Pilates Instructor so I can impart what I’ve learnt to others! Kesgrave parkrun, as this took off along with the other changes I made to my lifestyle, my running took off too. My very first PB was 25:35 and over the years my times have fluctuated (along with my injuries!) but my absolute best at Kesgrave (which is unlikely ever to happen again) is 21:58!

parkrunning regularly gave me the confidence to actually attend FRR Club sessions and start entering races.  My first race in an FRR vest was the Woodbridge 10K in 2015 followed by the Ipswich Twilight 10k and I didn’t disgrace myself!

At the Saxmundham 5 mile race in 2016, I came first in the FV50 age category, the first time I’d ever won anything for running, in fact probably first time I’d won anything full stop!! I was delighted.

My best race ever was the Stowmarket “Scenic 7”, a month later – I had a kind of outer body experience! The day started off badly which is why it was so bizarre that it went so well!

We turned up to collect our numbers and found that Ian had inadvertently entered us in for the Stow Half Marathon and not the Scenic Seven.

Ian was injured so wasn’t going to run and the kind Stow Strider Race Director put me on the waiting list for any returned entries – so my head was all over the place. Luckily a place became available but I hadn’t warmed up and headed to the start line at the very last minute. As we waited to start my garmin went flat. There was no option but to run without a watch….. and it was amazing!

I flew round (for me!) but ran without any idea of pace or time …….. but just felt amazing. I overtook Ozzy (he must have been having an off day!) and finished just behind Mr Seymour, that’s when I knew I’d done alright!  No pain, which these days is rare for me, and I just felt comfortable throughout .

My time was 51.40 and first woman in my age group. An even bigger accolade was being awarded AOTD by Solly!  I was so delighted and I swore I’d never wear a watch again but that didn’t last!  Note to self, must try that again! (Glad I’ve got a photo as I later smashed the trophy, the catalogue of errors continued!).

Scenic 7

My most disappointing race has to be the Manchester Marathon last year, so near yet so far!  It was my first marathon and I’d been plagued with an achilles injury from day 1 of the training programme.  I nearly pulled out on each week of the training plan, which started with 4 runs a week, but soon went down to 2 runs a week and then 1 run every 2 weeks from about 8 weeks in, trying to manage the injury.

I did manage to maintain my general fitness by swimming, gym and the all-important core strength work which I swear by – if you don’t do it, give it a go!  I started marathon training with the lovely Carrie Kemp, she was doing the Bungay Marathon on the same day, but we trained together, compared notes and we had a hotline between Bungay and Manchester just before we both kicked off!

We both had a target of sub 4 hrs but Carrie was definitely much stronger than me.  In my training, due to injuries, I actually only managed 2 x halves, a 16 miler with Erika, an 18 miler and Tarpley 20 so not much mileage at all but I wasn’t going to give in!

The plan was to run  Manchester on my own, which was a bit scary, but on the day the plan changed when I suddenly gained some new running buddies on the start line. Shabba along with George (Solomon), Magic and Ozzy came to the rescue and told me I’d be running with them!

Once I was psyched up to run with them it was a case of try not to lose them in the massive crowds getting to the start pens.  Once in the starting area they all decided to go for a last minute “slash” and walked over to the side of the road.  This set me off needing to go too – I looked frantically around for a portaloo. With none in sight and not wanting to lose the boys by heading off to look for one, I decided I had no option but to do a “Paula Radcliffe” . Moving to the side of the road another lady runner saw my predicament and held up a foil blanket to protect my modesty (only just!) I dropped my leggings on the side of the road and went for it!  What the hell! was never going to see these people again!  Mission accomplished I joined back up with the FRR peleton in the middle of the pen – I’d not lost them!

We all stuck together for the first 6 miles, and then Ozzy disappeared off into the distance (going on to achieve a huge marathon PB) and then Magic dropped off (feeling unwell) but I stuck to Shabba and George literally at the hip throughout with Shabba – Mr Cool Calm and Collected at the helm.

Dan’s experience and discipline meant we ran a very precise 8.51 minute mile pace for 24 miles with no issues at all.  I cannot imagine doing that again now – we were so consistent.  I couldn’t believe I was on target, no pain, all was going swimmingly. But you just never know what’s waiting round the corner.

Out of no-where cramp seized me and I had to stop to stretch and ease it.  With just two miles to go I had to say good bye to Shabba and George and watched them speed off confidently into the distance whilst I was clutching my calf – trying to stretch out the cramp.

The final 2.2 miles were painful and emotional, I hobbled along in tears, still hoping I may make 4 hours as we had been ahead of schedule.

I ran over the finish line still in tears, as I saw the time on the gantry showing 4.10…. but then I remembered it had taken nearly 20 minutes to get over the start line when I would have started my watch.  I looked at down and saw The time starting with a 3…. and started crying again with jubilation!

Hunting Shabba and Ian down in the baggage reclaim area I met them with tears of glee.  They looked at me sympathetically as Ian told me he had seen the official time on the App tracker – 4.00.30. I had missed the good for age time by 30 seconds!  30 BLOODY SECONDS!  My watch was set on auto pause so when I stopped to stretch it stopped too – school girl error!

Gutted doesn’t cover it!  But 18 months later, I am really pleased with the time I achieved, given the build up and injuries. I just need to make GFA next time and I have taken auto pause off the watch!!

Manchester marathon

Post Manchester, I decided to give myself some time off running as I’d pushed myself hard and the achilles was far from good.  I took up cycling to maintain fitness without the same impact, but disaster struck in on June 3rd @ 9am now clearly etched in my memory!  I was out for a training ride for the Dunwich Dynamo with Clarkey, Shaun Good, Dave Seymour and Carita Farthing.  Only about 8 miles in, as we were approaching Martlesham, coming downhill, both Shaun and I skidded on some oil and came off, Shaun was the luckier but still came away badly grazed and bruised but I came off a little bit worse!

With a broken shoulder in 4 places, it was pinned and plated and I had to have 12 weeks off work and another 3 months off running!  This was a very low period for me, nothing in comparison to what others have to contend with, but I found it incredibly tough. I was a very impatient patient and struggled big time, mentally as well as physically. I didn’t realise how much I had actually grown to enjoy running!  But I had great support from all my friends and family and lots of Reds so thank you all again!

I started back running again in September last year, very cautiously to begin with for fear of tripping over and damaging my shoulder again.  My first race post injury was the Saxmundham 5 and I was delighted to finish first in my age category again .  I also won first in my age category at the Woodbridge 10k race in May this year where I had another great run alongside Carrie.

Woodbridge 10k

I loved the team spirit, atmosphere and camaraderie of the Harwich 24HR. I had heard so much about it the previous year so signed up as a team of 6 with Ian, Shabba, Adrian Hine, Collette Green and Gail Mackie. I wasn’t originally planning on doing loads of laps but pretty much kept up with the others running 30 miles in total – I was ecstatic with that!  I will definitely do the event again and I’m anticipating an even bigger FRR turnout next year!


My running times have deteriorated post injury (shoulder/Achilles/hamstring…….), the list is growing!  I do feel like I have been injured more than fit recently and many times have thought about packing it in ☹

Whilst it’s great living with a fellow fitness fanatic, it has its disadvantages!  They totally understand the commitment required, you don’t have to feel guilty for arranging training sessions and meeting friends early for a run at the weekend which many partners can find annoying. However, it can be very very frustrating when you are injured and can’t train and they are out with training buddies making good progress, in fact it’s bloody sickening!

We did go through a bit of a bad patch during my recovery post shoulder injury when Duggo would be covertly sneaking out of the house without saying where he was going. At first I suspected an affair but then I discovered he was trying to train secretly so as not to rub salt in the wound any further! He even left his trainers and garmin outside the back gate one day so I wouldn’t notice!

A GFA Marathon time is still my main goal and December 2nd sees my next attempt to conquer the sub 4 hour time in Valencia. Currently that seems an extremely unrealistic target as only 2 weeks into my training plan I’m on the bench (AGAIN!) with a very sore hamstring  but I’m used to that so never say never! There is a big gang of FRR’s heading out to Southern Spain for this one, so I’m sure it will be a tremendous weekend regardless!

I have made some amazing friends as a result of joining FRR, especially my lovely running buddy Carrie who has been brilliant support. We are a good match………when I’m going through a strong phase!

Helen & Carrie

As mentioned earlier joining the club has literally been life changing in terms of motivation, fitness, friendships and how we spend most of our weekends!  And when I’m nursing an injury, I must remind myself I have achieved a lot in the last few years, times I could never have imagined certainly not when I was sitting on that school netball court waiting to be picked by the cool kids!  I often wonder what those elitist sporty kids would say if they could see me now!

I now hand the baton to someone who has spent a lot of time running around over the last year particularly with marigolds on!  He has become chief cook and bottle washer whilst his lovely wife has been studying and practicing her massage therapy skills on us all!  Renowned for fairy cakes and his awesome Summer Pudding, he’s not that bad at running either!  Over to you Readie (Alastair Read), who I’m sure has some great stories to share!


FRR v Fram Flyers 5k Track Challenge

Twilight 10k 2018

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