Runner Profile: Henry Catling

The early days

You weren’t really that great to be honest” was my mums’ response when I asked if I was any good at running as a kid. As a somewhat lanky child that seemed to have an early growth spurt, I hadn’t quite mastered the act of putting one foot in front of the other gracefully. I did have a go at most sports at school. Cricket, basketball, rugby I tried most things. Nothing really clicked with me. Not sure what I was lacking in terms of skill… Maybe everything? In my defence I did come third (or fourth, can’t quite remember) in the 800m at a school sports day. Along with competing in some cross-country events and thinking ‘why on earth would anyone want to do this for fun’. Well, that younger Henry would be howling if he saw me now…

Where it all began

Most of my teenage years from school shot past (as I’m slowly learning in my early twenties, they all do) without me even touching a running shoe, let alone wearing one and actually heading out for a run.

After finishing college, I jumped into the world of watersports. Something that had been ever present in my life thanks to my dad. I had no intention of going to university as my attention to learning had slowly declined at college – seemed like a waste of money at the time. Anyway, I got qualified as an instructor and the next thing I knew I was on a plane to Greece where I ended up staying for another two years. Again, no running present here, I did get out on a bike occasionally. This was mostly to take in the scenery rather than get the blood pumping through my veins. In my second year of living there I decided to come home for a holiday. I know, sounds crazy right. I was only home for a week but in this time my grandmother fell sick and sadly passed away, all within such a short time. At the time I didn’t really know how to deal with it. I had been very lucky to have not ever experienced grief up until this point in my life. I returned to Greece to finish the summer season before returning home.

Upon returning home both my mum and brother had decided we should have a crack at a challenge to help raise some money for a charity that would help research and prevent further digestive diseases. We found GutsUK. Conveniently named I know! Anyway, we decided on Ipswich Half marathon (Great East run) as the challenge. The date was set. We set about fund raising and training for the big day.

Race day came round quickly and naïve young me had not really run further than 10k in the build up to it. It was an absolute scorcher in the September sunshine. I had mentally set a target of 1:30 (this makes me wince looking back on it, what the hell was I thinking?) and off we went. In all honesty the first 6-7 miles felt great, I had shot off in the crazy, loud mayhem with adrenaline pumping through my body like it never had before. All I will say next is – Freston Hill. I made it up and I made it back down (just). I was physically and mentally done after that though. It was stop/start for me all the way back to the finish at Portman Road. I picked my feet up for the last few hundred metres and stumbled across the line in 1:37:38. I was pretty darn happy with myself. I had enjoyed the whole experience, the crowds, the other runners egging each other on. I guess you could say I wanted to do it all again. Was I going mad?


Parkrun seems to get name-dropped in most runner profiles I have read. It would be wrong of me not to throw a mention in. I have my mum to thank for dragging me along to my first one back in 2019. My experience was pretty much the same as anyone else running their first 5K – one quick K, followed by four slower ones trying to keep your legs moving…. I guess you could say this is where I really found my interest for running. You could argue that is one of the most amazing things about Parkrun. Anyone can turn up and have a crack. Some will despise it; some will love it. I was always genuinely shocked at the number of people that would drag themselves out of bed on a miserable Saturday morning to run along Felixstowe prom. I ran my first one in 23:30. I left thinking one thing – “I reckon I could be alright at this if I actually tried”. So, I returned whenever I could, every week trying to run faster and faster. It was here that I started to chat to people and even spoke to a couple of FRR members.

Joining the red army

It was quite a while before I even considered joining a running club. I had started to run regularly when I could in the week (nothing crazy) and had started to notice it getting easier and my legs feeling stronger. It was yet another prod from my mum that finally got me along to a very cold training night at the tail end of 2019. It was great chatting to other like-minded runners, and I felt at home straight away. The rest as everyone always says, is history. The following week our illustrious captain Mr Harper made the announcement that there was to be a duel on the track between us and the Fram flyers. My name went straight on the list. Having never really run on the track I was excited to see what I could do after some regular training. I set off hard and ended up trading places with Mr Taylor (in his outrageous shorts) and had a nice few laps chasing down Ben (pictured below). I absolutely destroyed my PB, not really knowing how I had managed to run that fast. I came in at 17:34. A time that I have only gone under a few times since. Still working on that.

Race highlights

From this point onwards I tried to enter as many races as I could. Mainly to gain experience – I still had no idea what I was doing. I was well and truly hooked though.

Hadleigh 10 – Having never run a specific 10-mile race/run. I didn’t know what to expect from this. I figured I would just pin it at the start and hold off for as long as I could. This turned out to be much longer than I expected… I stuck to a small group for most of the race. This no doubt helped carry me through the race. I’ll never forget throwing a cup of water over myself mid-way through the race. Not really thinking that it would be ice cold, it shocked me to the core. I put my all into the last two miles (as the below picture from the finish clearly shows…) and came in at 1:02:35. A time that I have only come to beat very recently.

Stowmarket Half – This one deserved a mention because not only did I have a cracker of a race. It was also the last race we got before the dreaded covid…. The feeling in the air that day was rather odd, as most people kind of knew that it may be the last one for a while. The race itself was awesome. Myself, Gripper and Mr Taylor (in his wonderful shorts again) stuck together and took turns up front – it was a pretty breezy day so all took turns having a go through the wind. They both smashed out a sprint in the final 2/3K. I had nothing left. But was very happy to come home with a PB of 1:22:08.

What next?

Well, it seems races are slowly making a comeback now. After what feels like an eternity of waiting. Writing this has made me realise just how little time I’ve been running and annoyingly how much I have missed out on the past year as we have had no events to compete at! I feel as though I have hardly scraped the surface in terms of events and my potential performance. As with most people I would love to keep punching towards PB’s over every distance. As it stands, I’ve set myself the below goals for coming year (hopefully we have some events to achieve them)

  • 5K – Still itching to go under 17 minutes. I’ve been very close.
  • 10M – sub hour. Again, like above the above I’ve been very close but not quite done it.
  • HM – Sub 80 minutes.

I am currently running/training in the blistering heat of the south of France. Might sound delightful but I am here for work, not holiday. The heat has been a real struggle at times, and I only hope it adds to my fitness upon my return to the UK. Next race up is Manchester Marathon and I have two goals. Firstly, to finish it in one piece and secondly the elusive sub 3 time. Might sound like a bold target and I would agree with you… Ha! But I’ll shoot for it. If I fall short, then at least I will know I’ve tried. It’s not going to ruin the race and the experience for me. There will be plenty of other opportunities in the future.

After that, well who knows. My plan is to keep training consistently and see where it takes me. As I’ve mentioned before I am still very much getting started with this running malarkey and I’m excited to see where it ends up. I am toying with the idea of jumping into the SVP 50K next year. Just because I love the idea of it, and it would be a real mental challenge. I’d love to one day have a crack at a triathlon. Lockdown and the past few months I’ve found a new love for cycling so it’s just the swimming bit I need to scratch up on. We will see…

In summary

I can only thank each and every one I’ve spoken to at the club. Thanks for inspiring yet another person to keep up with this bonkers hobby. Although I would argue it’s a little more than a hobby for some of us. As one of the youngest at the club – no, I’m not trying to brag – it is great to have so many great runners around me with tons of advice/experience and equal amounts of banter. I look forward to getting back to racing and donning my red vest with you all!

Nomination for next month falls to someone I can only hope that one day I catch up to. That is the one and only Fast Tony!

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