Runner Profile: Joanna Blyth
First off, a big thanks to Dave Church for the nomination! It was a bit of a surprise. I still feel like a fledgling FRR this only being my second year in red, but here goes…
How I Got Into Running
I’ve never been particularly sporty despite growing up in the Suffolk countryside where we made our own entertainment mostly out in the fresh air. At High School I gave everything a good go, but didn’t really have any sporting talents! I particularly enjoyed hockey and cross country and even 1600m but on leaving school for college and the world of work, sport was never something I thought about much, although I was always reasonably active.
There have been times over the years when I’ve tried exercise, fitness classes and gym memberships but they never were a good fit for me. At some point back in Hastings I did become aware of ‘Park Run’ as one of my friends had started doing it. Both my husband Steve and I invested in some new trainers and did a few training runs together before completing our first Parkrun on Feb 27th 2016, but we only clocked up 3 Parkruns there before we moved.
In July 2016 we relocated back to Suffolk and made a home in Felixstowe. Eventually we settled into new routines, all the children were at school and I started to run again.The more I ran the better I felt and once I could run 5k without stopping I booked my first 10K race.
There were so many races already booked up months in advance that finding races to enter was quite difficult. My first 10k race was the popular and flat Little Bromley and I was quite excited to finish in less than an hour!
After this I had my first trial session at FRR, I came along on a Tuesday night in late April where we went over to the Grove. You didn’t manage to scare me off altogether but on the way home I developed a nasty calf twinge that meant 2 weeks resting and I kind of lost my nerve about joining a club and just carried on, running alone and building my miles back up.
I had already managed to secure a 10k place for Twilight, and bagged a Coastal 10 for September. Then I entered Martlesham 10k, followed by the Saxons 5 mile. I’d managed to book myself a Colchester Half Marathon place for the following March but it really felt quite a long way away. Thanks to the power of facebook, I saw the Snetterton Half Marathon pop up on my feed and with much encouragement from Steve we set off to Norfolk and I finished my first year of running off with a half marathon! I also discovered that I’m someone who doesn’t mind running laps!
After the false start the year before I finally decided to join Felixstowe Road Runners, with the idea of improving my running and to train with like-minded people. At local knitting group I met Angela Soames and she offered to come along to my first FRR session to help me settle in which was a great help.
For me as an autistic adult, large groups of people can be overwhelming and frightening at times. Many of us are dealing with mental health issues, low self esteem, or struggling with anxiety, especially socially, but I’ve managed to keep all of that contained enough to feel comfortable coming to club nights and I really enjoy the sessions.
Racing in red
2018 was the Year of the half marathon for me. My first race in red was Haverhill Half which I absolutely loved and 2 weeks later I was finally off to Colchester. It makes such a difference being part of a club, because as soon as a race opens someone will post online about it, then of course it’s up to you to grab your place if you can.
I really enjoyed some of our club running events. I took part in the Ekiden relays and had a lovely day at One Lap to Ultra where I completed 5 laps. This was my longest run at that time. I’ve always said when asked that I didn’t feel ready for a marathon, and to be honest, I’m still not sure if I’m ever going to be ready, but I had entered the London Marathon Ballot every year since I started running so the seed was always there in the back of my mind that I would run a marathon at some point.
In November 2018 I took part in Dazza’s Dangleberries Challenge. It was a brilliant way to stay motivated through December and I decided to use this opportunity to build up my mileage with my eyes on the possibility of booking the Flitch Way Marathon on 31st Dec. I also didn’t tell anyone. It seemed like a great way to end the year, but I was dithering, and suddenly Flitch Way was fully booked, so I had to use my fall back reserve marathon which was the last of the Great Barrow Challenge Christmas Triple Tipple Races, on the 30th Dec. It was a definitely a challenge!
For anyone who wants to set out to run your first marathon, unless you are running one of the big marathons, some of these small local events mean you are out there running on your own. (This isn’t a particular problem for me unless a course isn’t well marked!) I did have some great company and support from Dan Clark and Peter Woods early on, but as soon as we hit 20 miles I began to struggle more with hunger and fatigue than anything else. There’s nothing worse than having to run past well stocked aid stations when you are hungry. I finished it though, and what a fabulous feeling once you cross that finish line and everything else fades into the background. You’ve run a marathon! I guess you could say that’s when I got hooked. Every time feels like an achievement, you are battling so many things out there, conditions, terrain, mental demons, fuelling and it’s this experience, pushing the boundaries and carrying on that keeps me going back for more. Running has grounded me in so many ways! It amazes me when I’m up at 5am running in the cold dark mornings of Winter, I hardly recognise myself but it completely balances me and I can’t imagine my life without it.
Into 2019 we go and the first thing I do, is to book my next marathon (Haverhill). Having races booked always helps to keep me motivated, so I try to have at least one event booked every month.
I also won a leggings design competition with Tikiboo, and now my limited edition design is being worn all over the country! I was also very surprised and pleased to win the Female Newcomer Trophy at the FRR Awards night!
By the time you get to read this on August 1st I will have clocked up 1000 miles for the year and completed 8 ‘official’ marathons. My goal for the year is usually 12 medals but I’ve already exceeded that. I am just enjoying running and running as many marathons as I can.
My biggest achievement, and favourite races so far, are the Hare and Tortoise Star Wars themed May the 4th and Revenge of the 6th double marathon at Brightlingsea. Which I then followed with Halstead and Essex Marathon. You just don’t know what you are capable of until you try and I look forward to an opportunity at some point to push further with multiple marathons.
There are loads more races I’ve really enjoyed for many different reasons, and you hardly ever hear me say “I don’t want to do that one again” although I do like to have a little moan about some of the shorter distances, I’m usually very happy to be running and it’s even better if there’s a ‘shiny’ medal involved.
Next year I’m turning 50 (along with quite a few other members of FRR). My basic plan, like every year, is to stay fit, keep running races and most importantly eat lots of cake. I’m in the ballot again for London along with far too many other people, so If I don’t get lucky I’m thinking about a trip to Bostonto run the flattest marathon in the UK instead – possibly a PB opportunity, but as I have already discovered you really can’t plan too much in advance when you are running 26.2 miles, anything can happen!
Next month’s profile…
I’ve thought about my nomination for September long and hard, and did a little bit of research, reading through all the previous runner profiles. We are a big lively club and there are many members who haven’t had the opportunity to write their piece yet, it was difficult to choose, but I did!
So without further ado I’d like to turn the tables on someone who likes to put us through our paces on a Tuesday Training night, and our webmaster, Peter Woods over to you!