Runner Profile: Daniela Elstone
I’ve been reading past runner’s profiles to get some inspiration to write mine this month and many start by thanking the person who nominated them but I’m going to save my thanks for later!
When I first saw that I’d been nominated, I was overcome with fear, and wondering how I was going to follow my predecessor as I’ve only been running in earnest for a few years. I was also offered advice by fellow club members, to quote ‘make shit up’ but I’m not very good at keeping up the pretence of lying. I still can’t believe that I took up running, am a member of a running club and it has become now a huge part of my life.
Originally from Grantham, my love of sport began back in school, I played netball, hockey, tennis, which of course involves running but never long distance running. Netball had been my main focus in the winter and I even made it to the All England Championships twice, with a team two years my senior. (I guess my PE teacher saw something in me and still to date, the school hasn’t made it back to the championships.) So quite an achievement. Athletics took up most of the time in the summer but not running. I concentrated on the field events (didn’t have to run!). I became school champion at javelin and discus, setting school records, much to my sister’s disdain as I broke her records.
My interest in sport continued when I went to college, still playing netball but it widened to basketball and I started playing for the Peterborough ladies team. Yes, I know running is part of playing these sports but it wasn’t long distance; running around a court was enough for me!
After leaving college and into the big wide world of working for a living, I moved to Bury St Edmunds and sport very much took a back seat. Working in hospitality, my career took me all over the UK, Ireland and Europe. With my career progressing I had little time for any kind of sport, and down time was spent catching up on sleep and partying! Running came into my life later down the line and as things settled down with my career, I found time to go to the gym, and had the occasional jog on the treadmill but still no long distance running.
Move the clock on some 8 years, Race for Life came about and I thought it was a great idea as I could raise some money for such a worthy cause. So in the first one in 1994, I dusted off my trainers and ran (and then crawled the last 100 metres). That race (or pootle) each year would be the start and finish of my running calendar.
That was until 5 years ago.
PARKRUN HAS A LOT TO ANSWER FOR!
A simple innocent call to a friend to meet up for a coffee on a Saturday morning began my new found interest in running. She said that she was meeting some other friends who were doing this 5k thing called parkrun. ‘Why not join us’ she said, ‘it’ll be good fun’ she said, ‘you’ll get to meet some great people’ she said, and the rest they say is history. I was knackered after that first run but I also felt great at the same time. The support and encouragement from the other runners and volunteers was overwhelming and I wanted to do it again (not straight away of course!). Week after week, I went back and slowly began to improve. Running was great both for my health but also for my mental well being too. Sometimes, you can forget that just being around people is just the tonic you need.
Then, whilst running one week I went over badly on my ankle and was sidelined for a couple of months. Not being able to run I still wanted to be in this running environment so what a better way than to volunteer at parkrun. It allowed me to still be part of an activity my friends were taking part in and more importantly kept me interested in running.
During this downtime, a couple of my running buddies mentioned that they had entered the Ipswich Twilight 10K and suggested that I should enter too and have something to work towards. So race entered, training began.
Helped by people I had met through parkrun, I began to improve and run further each time. It was during training that I ran (no walking) my first 10K. I was so ecstatic and amazed with myself, I burst in tears overwhelmed at achieving it.. Never had I dreamed of running that far! In fact, it was 11.34km (according to Strava) in 1:19. But it didn’t stop there, the following week, I ran further, 15.47km in just under 2 hours! How the heck did that happen. But I began to believe in myself and I completed my first 10k Twilight race in 1:10. I know that this time didn’t break any records but it was such a milestone for me. That was in August 2017 and I was happy with running distances of around 10k. ‘What next?’ people asked, ‘half marathon for you?’ Nah, I said not gonna happen!
But then a month later, life took a turn for the worse to change my mind; my eldest sister passed away from a rare form of mouth cancer. Naturally this knocked me for six as I had already lost both my elder brother and my dad to cancer.
Shortly after her death, I received an email from the charity Sarcoma which announced they were taking nominations for the Great North Run (GNR). I wondered, could I do that? Could I run a half marathon and raise some money too? So I applied.
I received an email back stating that they had a few places but weren’t allocating them until the New Year and advised that I should apply via the normal ballot. As a backstop thinking I might not get a place, I decided to enter the Great East Run (GER) to buffer any disappointment. Both races happen in September and both were half marathons, yeah if I didn’t get into the GNR then GER would be just as good.
Soon after, I met Carrie Kemp through work. Whilst chatting, the subject of running came up and after mentioning where I lived she suggested I should try training with the lovely people at FRR. I had been living in Felixstowe for 18 months after moving down from Aldeburgh and had heard about the club but I thought that you needed to be a good runner to be part of a running club and it wasn’t until the New Year that I decided to put on my big girl pants and went to my first training session. I needed to get help from people who knew how to train for a long distance run and I soon found out that Tuesday nights were never going to be the same.
Then it came at the end of February. The email. The email congratulating me on my successful entry into the GNR. Happy Days. Then the penny dropped when I realised that I had also entered the GER, holy crap, that was a week later. Which one should I do now?? Decisions, decisions?!? Can I do both? Seven days apart? Could I? Why the hell not!
With training on a Tuesday and following a training plan, my running was going well and I was enjoying my running. I say that again, I was enjoying my running! Then, there I was minding my own business, walking down the street and caught my foot on a raised paving slab and turned the ankle I had injured the previous year. Mother of God it hurt (that isn’t exactly what I said but let’s go with it!) I hobbled back to my car and thought that after putting some ice on it, it would be ok. I went back to work and walked around on it for a few days (even did the parkrun very slowly on the Saturday), but by Monday, it was still badly bruised and the swelling hadn’t gone down by much. So off to the doc’s I went and I was immediately referred to A & E to get an xray as they thought I had broken it! Argghhhhhh! Thankfully though I had only badly bruised my ligaments but I had to have complete rest from standing at work and running, which put paid to training for a couple of months.
I started back up again around May time and I added another running group called Goodgym to my training. For those that don’t know, Goodgym is a group of runners who meet once a week, run to charity and do things from decorating to gardening, to rearranging furniture, to cleaning all in the name of charity. Goodgym had a very strong link to FRR too, Ian (Duggan) was the group leader and there were other FRR club members who also were part of the group. Happy to be part of another running group, I settled into my favourite role as tail runner each week.
Training regularly meant I was getting stronger by the day and this showed as a month before the GNR, as at Twilight 10K. I took over a minute off my previous time. Not a huge gain but a gain. Now the main event being a month away, I was now looking forward to running my first half marathon!
MY FIRST HALF MARATHON!
The weekend came around quickly. I had travelled up with some friends as we weren’t able to get a hotel close to Newcastle, it meant getting up at stupid o’clock to get the Metro from Sunderland but that didn’t matter a jot, I had been awake for most of the night, excited to be taking part in such a famous race.
Travelling on the Metro to the start, the excitement built, I was nervous but a good nervous. Eventually I found my starting pen, (which of course was at the very back), and by chance I happened to bump into an old work colleague who I didn’t know was running so we ran it together. Waiting for the race to start, I soaked up the atmosphere, I still couldn’t believe what I was about to do. Finally, the starting horn blew and the race began. Well it did for those at the front. It took us ‘fun’ runners some 45 minutes to cross the start line. But it was far from boring waiting around, there was entertainment all around, even a fly past from the Red Arrows. Eagerly, we inched forward towards the very same start line Sir Mo Farah had crossed earlier. I was going to enjoy this and who else can say that they’ve been in the same race as Mo Farah! (Ok, I know he was so far ahead of me but again who cares!)
What struck me about the whole race was the sheer number of people and the number of people who were running in fancy dress. The weather was somewhat on the warm side for September and so the welcome relief from the roadside rain showers helped me along the way. It was such good fun and what a great introduction to the world of long distance running. However, with my energy flagging, I upped my game as a man in a canoe overtook me! The aim for me was to complete my first half marathon and I had hoped to get back under the 3 hour mark and I did. 2:54 – by the skin of my teeth. It was hard and I thought that it was never going to end but I did it and I survived. My legs were holding up too! Travelling home, I had an array of emotions, but I didn’t have time to rest on my laurels, I had another half marathon to do in 7 days.
MY SECOND HALF MARATHON – IN 8 DAYS!
My Monday started with an ah and an ooh and the occasional, ‘seriously you’re going to do it again, pull yourself together’. I did also wonder how I was going to top the experience of such an amazing race like the GNR but I did, as this time I was with my running friends and I was near home. The prior week, I had run in a Sarcoma charity shirt but this week on home territory and I had on my club shirt. Little did I know what an honour it was to wear an FRR vest. The support from the spectators was amazing but more importantly so was the support from fellow club runners some who I had never seen at club before. This spurred me on and with the help of everyone, I knocked 25 mins off my time from the GNR. I was exhausted but once again on a runner’s high. I couldn’t believe it, a new PB and I had raised over £1200 for the cancer charity too! But just as important to me, I had run two half marathons in 8 days!!
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT??
I got the bug, that’s what happened next. I immediately entered the GER for the following year and another half marathon in March at Colchester. Well, it would have been stupid to let all that training and new friendships go to waste.
March came around pretty quickly and Colchester brought its share of challenges. Two bloody big hills, one just after the start and one 16km in! But once again, with the help of a running buddy and the cheers of the FRR spectators, I knocked another 10 minutes off my time! Happy Days!
May was the next big milestone for me. The Twilight 5K race had moved to a single event, different route and I blasted my way round to my first sub 30 time. I had wanted this so long.
I kept running through the summer, taking part in the Twilight 10k again in August, followed by FRR Richard Bennett 10 mile in September. Special thanks to the FRR train who I ran with as I managed it in just under 2 hours! I thought that this would stand me in good stead for GER but the weather put paid to that, hot, hot, hot! A little disappointed with my performance but I put the GER behind me and the following month I went to Portsmouth for the Great South Run – again a 10 miler. I loved it, and I think it is one of my most favourite out-of-county runs – I managed to beat my 10 mile time by over 5 minutes.
Using the tail end of the season to improve further, I began to push harder with my training and running. The last race of the year for me was going to be Hadleigh 10 which ended a great year for me as again I got a PB with another 5 minutes knock off my 10 mile time! (Thanks Rocket!). However, I started to have trouble with my hips when running longer distances so to keep things ticking over the winter trying not to push myself too hard, I attended club on a Tuesday and ran with friends, keeping it easy. However, an inner voice in me started to wonder what I could achieve next with my running. What could I do next? You guessed it, a marathon. There was much talk about the red army going to Manchester and I so wanted to be part of it and entered!
Training for Manchester started in the New Year. Each week gradually getting further, completing the Cambridge Half Marathon (with a 3 mile warm up and cool down, to and from the race to get mileage in) and then following week Stowmarket half. But my hips were still not any better, in fact they were getting worse. It was during Stowmarket that around mile 9, I broke, I was in agony but determined to finish. I crossed the line and burst into tears, frustrated and in pain, I didn’t like running very much at that point.
I was beginning to realise that perhaps Manchester would have to be postponed. And then lockdown happened and it gave me the time to reset and get things back on track. Happily now after 5 months of working hard with exercises, perseverance and listening to experts and my body, I’m getting back to where I was and I feel stronger too! Sub 30, 5K – I’m coming to get you!
As I mentioned before, parkrun was the main reason I started running and I answered the call from Sarah Fitch to help with the trial of Felixstowe parkrun (thank you Sarah for getting this up and running, it gave me an extra ½ hour in bed on Saturday!) It was fantastic to be helping iron out the creases to bring this event to Felixstowe. It has given people the opportunity to get into running just as Kesgrave parkrun did for me. What a great way to start your Saturday morning! It also set me further challenges for my running when pacers were introduced. I am good at keeping a consistent pace so this was perfect for me. I’m not claiming to be an excellent runner, far from it, but it was great to be able to help less experienced runners to achieve a better time. What made it even more worthwhile, after pacing a lady one week, she sought me out a couple of Saturdays later, to introduce me to her friend ‘this is the lady that helped me to a pb the other week!’ A warm happy feeling came over me!
And so now full circle to parkrun. Still doing 5k most Saturdays via the virtual event, it gives me a purpose to get out of bed on a Saturday.
TIME TO BE THANKFUL!
Now, I think it is time I should thank Ian, not only for nominating me but also for the help and support he’s given me with my running. Additionally, for thinking that I was capable of becoming a coach for the couch to 5K group, it is very much appreciated Ian.
And I would also like to thank you, my FRR running family (I know not all of you are in this photo), what a truly amazing and inspiring group of people you are! I would like to especially thank those of you who run with me regularly, help pace me and encourage me during my races and training too, I am forever in your debt . I don’t hate running anymore and I can now say with confidence ‘I am a runner’!
NEXT MONTH’S NOMINEE
This person I met early doors at FRR, and I can remember her being so lovely and welcoming at the club. I’ve watched in wonder and awe at her progression in running and aspire to be half as good. That person is Jenny Church.