Runner Profile: Kaye Branton

Firstly, a very Happy New Year to everyone, here’s hoping it’s a brilliant year of running for us all!  It’s a new year and a new age category for me (up to the 50’s – how did that happen?)

Thank you for the nomination Jenny, it was a total surprise and one I wasn’t expecting.  I’m always amazed at how quickly people progress from being non runners to running marathons in what seems no time at all!  Both you and Dave have achieved so much in a relatively short space of time.  I’ve taken a lot longer, my running has evolved slowly over 10 years to what it is now.

MY EARLY RUNNING YEARS:

I grew up in a small village in Colchester (yes, Essex girl!) and had a pretty free and active childhood roaming around the village with my friends when not at school.  Although not particularly sporty I think I was fairly speedy as a young child and was always running around.  My dad always used to say that he was never able to catch me and that I’d outran him on several occasions including on my first day at primary school at age 5 I decided that school really wasn’t for me and ‘legged it’ home with Dad in hot pursuit. He caught me eventually and I was dragged back to school much to my dismay! 

Once I was at high school I did enjoy netball and hockey but loathed cross country.  It was so boring running round and round a massive field for what seemed like hours and in my opinion was just an excuse for the PE teachers to have an extended coffee break and leave us to it!  As we were unobserved my friends and I used to sneak through a hedge and ‘bunk off’ for most of the lesson and then return later pretending we’d been running the entire time!

During my 20’s my only fitness activities were a bit of swimming and the gym.  Once I’d had my three children I wasn’t even doing that, my only cardio being running up the High Road to Fairfield primary school pushing a pram if I was late for school pick up! Towards my late 30’s I’d put on a bit of weight and really wanted to lose it.  As well as changing my diet I knew I needed to start exercising in some way but didn’t have the time to spend hours at a gym or doing classes so I started walking every evening to burn off some calories.  I’d been doing this for a couple of weeks when I had the bright idea of incorporating a bit of jogging with my walking (I’d burn more calories that way!), so I started walk/jogging and began to build up the running bit (my own version of couch to 5k!).  I can still remember the first time I ran two miles without stopping, arriving home red faced and out of breath, collapsing in the garden and announcing “I’ve just run two miles!” Anyone would have thought I’d run a marathon – but that first two miles was a big achievement.  When you’ve been running a while you forget how hard it is for beginners and that it’s easy to give up.  I carried on ‘running’ a few times a week and soon built up to four miles in distance.  I’d lost over a stone in weight without even being on a ‘diet’ and was really surprised that I actually enjoyed it and felt much better both physically and mentally so decided to carry on.

My husband worked with Richard Farnworth (ex FRR Chairman) at that time and he’d mentioned to Richard that I’d started running.  Richard told him about Felixstowe Road Runners, that they met 6.45pm on a Tuesday night at Brackenbury Sports Centre, it was for runners of all abilities, was very friendly, they welcomed new runners and suggested I go along.  A running club was something that had never crossed my mind in a million years, but after a bit of thinking I decided to give it a try.  So along I went on a September evening in 2010 at the grand old age of 39 feeling a little bit apprehensive as I was not a ‘real runner’, worried that I was going to get left behind (why do we all think that?) and that everyone else would be of Olympic standard running ability!  Anyway, that couldn’t have been further from the truth and I’m so glad I was brave enough to go that very first time because I really did enjoy it.  My first club night was a ‘trains session’ on the prom and Annabel Bennett took me under her wing which I really appreciated.  Everyone was very friendly and encouraging and there was a lot of light-hearted banter (much the same as it is now!).  I can remember being quite surprised that people could actually run and talk at the same time!  Once I got home that evening I was absolutely exhausted but determined to go again, however I was going to need some proper ‘running gear’ specifically lycra as cotton t-shirt/joggers and M&S trainers did not cut it!

I haven’t looked back from that first time and have rarely missed a Tuesday night session over the last 10 years (apart from 2020!).  I partnered up with Mary Burgess most weeks, as we ran at a similar pace, and continued to enjoy club nights which were always varied and well planned.  I am very grateful to all the run leaders who give up their spare time to organise and manage the sessions.  I was thrilled to be awarded Female ‘Newcomer of the Year 2011’, I’d never won an award before and for running no less!

My running did not progress much for about 6 years really.  I always ran twice a week, a weekly total of only about 10 miles, and was quite content with that.  I was now doing both a weekly spin and pilates class so exercise was the norm.  I was happy to hear of, and greatly admired, other people’s racing achievements but the thought of running 13.1 miles without stopping was something I didn’t think I’d be capable of doing and wasn’t sure if I even wanted to.  I did enter a handful of races between 2012-2016 but wasn’t overly enamoured: Diss 10K (no idea why I did that one?) but think I finished in a respectable 56 mins, Thorpeness Heritage Coast 6 which I did like, some Cross Country, a few Friday 5’s – the Ipswich one standing out in memory as it had the steepest hill imaginable through woods right at the end, a horrible finish!

MY NEXT RUNNING CHAPTER:

Fast forward to 2017 and that’s when I started to become a bit more serious about my running and (finally) wanted to do a bit more and maybe enter some races.  I wasn’t ready for a half marathon but the Coastal 10 seemed a perfect distance and it was in Felixstowe!  I knew I’d have to run a bit more to get fit for this so upped my running to 3 times a week with the intention of building up the miles slowly and started with 7 miles as my long Sunday run which seemed a long way at that point.  I started going to park run on a Saturday at Kesgrave or Chantry Park which really helped improve my speed.  I ran 4 of the Friday 5’s that year and my overall pace had improved quite a bit. I was hoping for around 1hr 30 for Coastal 10 so was elated to finish in 1.27:52.   It was lovely to run a race in Felixstowe, it’s such a nice route and one I still run regularly.  The local support was great and I was really proud to wear my FRR vest.

After Coastal 10 I started thinking about the next step: a half marathon.  I chose Colchester as I thought it would be nice to run through my old home town.  I got myself a half-marathon plan and started training.  I was now running 4 times a week and the plan would include Tarpley 10.  I finished Tarpley in 1.23:36, 4 minutes quicker than Coastal 10 so was very pleased and hoped I was going to get round the half in 1.55.  Race day came and I was incredibly nervous, I hadn’t slept well the night before worrying about whether I’d be able to run the full distance.  I went with some other FRR members and it was lovely to have their support and be ‘shown the ropes’ as it was the first big race I’d done: there were literally thousands of runners!  I started with Carrie Kemp and Helen Duggan and the 3 of us ran together for about 6 miles, then my pace dropped off a bit so we parted company.  I remember North Hill was massive, Ipswich Road seemed to go on for ever and that there were loads of very vocal spectators along the route which was awesome and really helped.  I finished in 1.49:39 and was over the moon as I was 5 minutes faster than the time I’d predicted for myself.

In April 2018 Felixstowe Park run started.  This was brilliant for me and lots of other local people who now didn’t have to go out of town to run a timed 5k.  As everyone knows it doesn’t matter how fast you are, you can run it jog it or even if you walk it and you can bring your kids, your dog or both! It’s such a social event and has encouraged a lot of people to get more active which is such a good thing.  Massive thanks to Sarah Fitch who was instrumental in getting Felixstowe their own ‘Park Run’.  I have volunteered as a marshal a few times and also a pacer which was good fun especially when you help someone achieve a pb. The New Year’s Day park run stands out in memory with the incredible amount of people taking part!  I hope it’s not too long before park run can start again.

2018 included some more races: Thorpeness Heritage Coast 6, Twilight 10K, Fram 10K (where I was surprised to receive a trophy for 2nd in my age category) and the Beccles Turkey Trot in December where there is no medal but a Christmas Pudding – great!

I think it was during a Tuesday club night that I happened to get chatting with Linda Woodard (CHI running coach) about CHI running.  I’d heard about this efficient natural running technique that purports to reduce injury, improve performance and is based on the principles of Tai Chi (something I’m interested in and have wanted to try for a long time but haven’t yet, it’s on my list!) and it made a lot of sense.  I completed a CHI running beginners workshop with her and have put certain things into practice.  I found that, particularly in races, if you hold tension in your body it makes things more difficult, as soon as you relax and realign your body it becomes a bit easier.

Onto 2019 and I ran lot of races this year: Tarpley 10 and Colchester half again, achieving pb’s for both races, Bungay 10K and Thorpeness Heritage Coast half which I really enjoyed, it’s such a low key and fun race – a missing sign resulted in a slight detour and an extra mile being added to the overall distance!   I ran 4 of the Friday 5’s and came 3rd in my age category.  I’d also entered the Grand Prix Series and unbelievably came 1st in my age category – now that was a shock!

I also ran the Great East Run for the first time after hearing lots of people talk about it and the infamous ‘Freston Hill’.  I really wanted to get a pb for this one so started another training plan which concentrated on improving speed at this distance.  Training went well over the summer, I’d achieved a 7.49 pace for 10 miles, and I was quite optimistic on race day of achieving a pb.   Unfortunately this didn’t happened and I was just glad/relieved to have finished.  It had turned out to be an incredibly hot day and by mile 11 I was struggling along with a lot of other runners.  It was worrying to see people dropping out because of the heat.  My finish time was weirdly exactly my half marathon pb. 

The following month I took part in the FRR ‘one lap to ultra’, a brilliant club event (the food itself an incentive to run a few laps!) and completed 4 laps which was all good training for ‘The Flower of Suffolk’ an 18 mile self-navigating trail run around Minsmere, Dunwich & Walberswick which I ran with Carrie Kemp and Bex Miller.  Well, we were not the best at navigating it has to be said, the map was destroyed early on due to torrential rain (my fault as I didn’t waterproof said map), we were completely soaked through, did a lot of wading through puddles and made it round ‘on a wing and a prayer’ resorting to hijacking numerous running groups along the way as we didn’t have much of a clue where we were going!   Anyway, it was a great day in good company and one I’d like to do again in dry weather! I loved the ‘check points’ where you can stop for a bit and refuel. 

I ran a few more races towards the end of the year: Bury St Edmunds half where I did achieve the pb I’d worked for over the summer, Stowmarket 7 (fab medal) and some of the Cross Country races which I enjoyed and are so different to road races including a new XC on a working farm in Bungay.  Highlight of the year was being awarded FRR Female Improver 2019 which I was delighted to receive.

2020: what a strange year! In terms of my running it turned out to be an amazing year for me and I’ve ‘clocked up’ 1500 miles – I’m really looking forward to receiving that amazing trophy from our Captain!  With a few half-marathons under my belt and having now ‘dipped my toe’ in some longer runs I decided to ‘have a go’ at Tarpley 20.  Having done the 10 twice I was quite surprised at how popular the 20 was and wanted a new challenge.  A new training plan commenced concentrating on building up the long runs gradually.  However, what I didn’t realise was the difference in long distance running to shorter distances and I felt like a complete beginner again.  There’s a lot more to think about, mainly fuelling/hydration: what to take, how much to take, when to take etc, it all seemed a bit of a ‘minefield’.  My first 16 and 18 mile training runs resulted in running out of energy a few miles before completion with some unpleasant stomach issues, (my first experience of the ‘gingerbread man’ – almost!).  I’d been secretly harbouring ‘marathon thoughts’ for a while so felt a bit despondent that if I didn’t sort the fuelling out I wouldn’t be able to run one.  After seeking advice from lots of FRR members, which is what’s so great about being part of the club, and reading up on marathon fuelling I was able to make some changes.   Before Tarpley I’d entered the Great Bentley half, a pb course everyone said and this proved to be true as I took 2 mins off my time finishing with a new pb of 1.44.44! 

Tarpley 20 race day arrived and it was an incredibly windy day, I think the wind speed was 40+mph and at least half of the race seemed to be with the wind head-on!  I hadn’t got the fuelling right and had run out of energy around mile 17.   I finished in 3.00:55, all in all it was a very tough race – I think the look on my face in that photo says it all!

By March we were in ‘lockdown’, club nights ceased and most races were cancelled for what looked like the foreseeable future.  I kept motivated with the club’s virtual sessions including parkrun and worked on speed/shorter runs for a few months.  I also started doing virtual core strength classes 2-3 times a week which worked on complete body movement patterns and I think this has impacted on my running as I feel a lot stronger.  I still continued with my daily mini pilates session which I’d started a couple of years ago after developing a small back niggle and I’m sure this has helped to keep me more or less injury free.  I finally got a sub-22 5K of 21.30 (virtual) after a lot of attempts and also a 10K pb of 46 when I opted to run Twilight 10k virtually. 

Next on the agenda was a re-run of that 20 mile distance.  I was disappointed with how Tarpley 20 had gone and decided to have another attempt and run it as a virtual race.  My great running buddy Carrie had said she was up for doing it too so consistently every Sunday from August through to October we built up our long runs to 18 miles. 

We renamed it ‘Tarpley Take 2’ and on the day Ozzy, Collette, Paul & Possum (awesome running dog!) ran with us for all or part of it!  At mile 13 a wasp flew into my mouth and stung me so I ran the last 7 miles with what felt like a rapidly swelling top lip!  I still didn’t fuel enough and the last 3 miles were tough, big thanks to Ozzy who kept me going with his unique encouragement!  I finished 10 minutes faster than Tarpley 2.50.51 so was really happy!

After ‘Tarpley Take 2’ both Carrie and I decided to keep the training going and planned to run the marathon distance.  We entered the Hare & Tortoise trail marathon on Remembrance Sunday which was perfect time wise, 4 weeks after ‘Tarpley Take 2’.  We did one more long run of 22 miles (which didn’t go well for me due to fuelling again!) and then a week before race day we were suddenly in lockdown no 2 and the race was cancelled.  We had the option to run it virtually and finally after a lot of deliberation and, at the last minute, I decided to do this.  My aim was to just complete the distance as I was absolutely convinced I would be run/walking the last 6 miles.  I started my ‘marathon run’ at 6.30am on Felixstowe prom with the aim to keep my pace under 9 min miles for as long as I could and take a gel every 5 miles!  It was a perfect day weather wise (thank god!) and because it was early it was quiet about.  All was going well and I was feeling okay at 18 miles but still had a long way to go so tried not to think about the end at that point. At mile 23 I was still running under 9 min mile pace, I’d been ‘downing’ the gels and also had eaten a handful of my new ‘favourite food’ bite size cadbury fudge.  I remember thinking all that was left was a ‘slow park run’ and if I could keep going I could finish under 4 hours!  My last mile was from the pier to the rock and it seemed like the longest mile of my life, my quads had really started complaining but I hadn’t hit the wall which I was so happy about.  I finished in 3.49.03 and was in disbelief that I’d actually done it (and still am!).  The lesson learnt from that day was ‘don’t worry about the running – just keep eating!’

2020 ended with a ‘real race’ in December with the lovely Carrie, Collette and Sam.  This one was for fun: the festive 18 mile ‘Bury to Clare’ trail run and what turned out to be the muddiest conditions I’ve ever run in – it was a complete mud fest from start to finish and how we stayed upright I don’t know!  It was so nice to see other runners and take part in a proper race again.

WHAT’S NEXT

There’s still loads more I want to do with my running (I’ve only just scratched the surface!)  I aim to keep working hard with my training and hope to improve on my current times for all race distances (fingers crossed there will be races).  Top of my list is to run that marathon for real in the autumn!  I really enjoy off road running and would like to do more trail events and maybe one day an ultra.  I’ve recently discovered Rendlesham Forest and have really enjoyed running around the forest with no idea where I’m going and no pace agenda.

I count myself lucky that I’m able to go out and just run as there are many people that can’t do this. It’s so great to get outside and enjoy the area we live in and I can honestly say that in ten years I’ve never come back from a run and regretted it.  I’m always mindful that health can change really quickly.  In my mid 30’s I had a routine operation which resulted in further emergency surgery, a blood transfusion, 24 hours in intensive care and a 4 day hospital stay.  Needless to say it was a very scary experience and I’m thankful I fully recovered, consequently I try not to take my health for granted.

It really is lovely to be a Felixstowe Road Runner, it’s a fantastic club where I’ve made so many great friends, have lots of special memories and I am always proud to wear my FRR vest.  

NEXT MONTH’S NOMINEE

My nomination for next month is someone who has been a Felixstowe Road Runner longer than me, has battled with some injuries along the way but is always a cheerful face on Tuesday nights.  I would love to hear your running story: Dave Lampard.

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