Runner Profile: Gary Taylor

Early years

My parents were quite disinterested in sports so I never really embraced any as a kid.

In school I was generally awful at any sport requiring skill, balance or ball control, but could always run a bit because that was simple and I was skinny. I never enjoyed sprinting but I did ok in events over 800m, when we graduated to “cross country” (laps of the field to the tune of around 2000m) my performances relative to my peers improved further and I guess that’s when I realised this kind of sadism might be my kinda thing. But when I left school to work at McDonald’s I binned off all exercise in favour of eating Big Macs and getting wasted with my mates. Unless we include playing FIFA on the PlayStation, I’m afraid this will be where my previous sporting achievements end.

Rediscovering running

In my early twenties I was plagued by depression. Possibly from working at McDonald’s. Possibly from all the marijuana I smoked. Or a combination of the two. And I doubt the Big Macs helped. I figured running might improve my mood and get me a bit healthier so I started to go for the occasional jog and began to feel the benefits. The idea of doing the London marathon had always appealed to me and with that in mind I began to build up my mileage a bit. I was pretty inconsistent for a few years, but I made it to the finish line of a couple of local races, including the Ipswich Half, and eventually I kicked the drugs (at least the habitual stuff) and cut back on the booze and fags, and in 2012 I made it to the finish line of my first marathon, in Warsaw, in just over 4 hours. Beginning an unenviable habit of walking large portions of every marathon I enter. It was shortly after this that I discovered something called parkrun.

On my first blast around Chantry Park I was second, which was equal parts pleasing and surprising (not that it’s a race), and this newfound, semi-competitive outlet proved a much needed catalyst for me to train more seriously and consistently.

Unfortunately I was soon to learn a lesson in complacency, out of nowhere my life turned a bit shitty and I plummeted back into the vicious cycle of depression, drugs, booze and exerciselessness. This time my solution was to pack my bags and ride my bicycle off into the sunrise [sic], but that’s another story.

Joining reds

Having returned from two years of cycle touring, with a much more positive outlook on life I decided to dedicate myself to running once more. Now working a physical job that wasn’t soul destroying, and with extra time to train in the winter months, I got my head down and started putting in the miles. Chipping away at my times and meeting you lot at parkruns. Whilst running (not racing) and chatting with people after parkrun, I was finally enticed into joining a club . And, with the FRR members I met being super friendly, and the super friendly people I met being FRR members, my choice of club was a no brainer. Even if clubs local to me that run in my favourite colour were available.

I made my debut in my red vest (well, JJ‘s red vest) at the inaugural running of the Great East Run in 2017, 7 years after my half marathon debut at the Larking Gowen Ipswich Half Marathon. With the long out-and-back section along The Strand it was a perfect introduction to competing in club colours. I benefited greatly from the support of fellow reds, both known to me and not, as I plodded back into town.

Favourites races in red

The 2019 Ekiden where we took bronze, the few team trophies I’ve managed to scrounge a grip on, and sharing in the spoils of our many Christchurch Summer Series and Suffolk Grand Prix successes have all been fun memories. However, perhaps due to the circumstances that immediately followed, the Stowmarket Half Marathon in the spring of 2020 has to come out on top for me.

This race ended up being the final event before COVID19 scuppered everything. But it was also one of my favourite races with the club. Myself, Jason ‘Gripper’ Taylor (no relation) and (then) new boy Henry Catling all set off into a grim headwind, with Henry charging off solo at an unrealistically quick pace.

Having managed to reign him in we persuaded him to cooperate with his elderly teammates. We worked together to battle the wind; taking stints in front, on the basis that we’d settle our own scrap in the final few kilometres. Our red train was a thing of true beauty as we tore through the countryside, picking off the stragglers from rival outfits on our way. The sight of knackered JAFFAs realising too late what was happening, too exhausted to hang on and cash in on our slipstream, was truly wonderful.

With Danny Rock somewhere in the distance, cruising to victory, the three of us were pretty confident that the first two of us across the line could bring home a male team prize. Sadly for Henry, neither me nor Gripper were ready for a changing of the guard ceremony, and he dropped off with about “a parkrun to go”. I, on the other hand, at 35 years of age, was sure I had the perfect blend of raw pace and experience and that a man ten years my senior wouldn’t get the better of me. Gripper let me continue to think that until the final straight, where he blitzed me and put me firmly in my place. I’m still banging on about my immediate rematch clause.

As hoped, we took the team prize and I set a personal best in tough conditions. If memory serves me correctly, my accomplices did too. Our ultimate finishing order, forty-something, thirty-something, twenty-something, also stands as a reminder of the value of experience over youth in this sport. And that maybe I’ll be able to keep Henry behind me for a little longer yet.

The future

By the end of 2022 I expect to be single, homeless and jobless. Frequently spotted begging for change and drinking Special Brew outside Primestar on Norwich road.

My running days are numbered. At least at the sharp(ish) end of the (mid)field. My goal when I finished my little bike ride was to return to running and, within the limitations of my lifestyle, push myself to see what I could achieve. Following this I fully intend to back off the mileage and just enjoy running again. Don’t get excited though, I’ll carry on renewing my membership and turning up to races in my orange shorts into the foreseeable future.

I was close to happily drawing a line under this silliness going into 2019, until I was clobbered by a car whilst cycling home from work, taking me out of action for a few months with damage to my Side Impact Protection System. Then again heading into 2020, where this time it was a global pandemic that conspired against me, giving me the excuse I needed to carry on punishing my achilles tendons for another season.

Heading into 2022 it’s all systems go for one final push, so we’ll see what excuses I come up with this time to extend Maria’s suffering into 2023. I still haven’t actually run the London marathon, which was my initial running goal…

Next month’s victim

Justin Ostler


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