Runner Profile: Jane Moon

Thank you, Chris for handing me the baton. It’s an honour to be asked, but I am a bit embarrassed too! I have read many of the previous articles and am in awe of the stories and achievements of fellow club members. I will try and make sure this meets the same standards!

Running has been part of my life for a very long time, so grab yourselves a cuppa as reading this might take a bit long too – sorry! I have tried to focus on the highlights. I have also skipped over my very unpromising school years, summarised by the phrase in my Junior 3 (age 9) school report, ‘Jane can now catch a ball.’

How it all began – who doesn’t like a bet?

I started during the last century, 1982 to be precise. I had just returned from a walking holiday with my lovely little sis Sarah.  I was a student teacher about to start my first job and had taken up ‘jogging’ to keep fit, (no ball skills needed). For a bet, my brother-in-law, a seasoned marathon runner, suggested I enter a ladies only 10-mile race. I didn’t even know how far I was already running, but my thighs ached like crazy, and my lungs felt like they would burst. My outfit though was to die for – a sugar pink towelling tracksuit complete with batwing sleeves. I made it myself! Anyway, I took up the challenge, swapped my PE lesson leatherette trainers for some Hi-Tec Silver Shadow, (bought with my first pay packet) and began adding more time to my runs.

Enjoying the sunshine with Sarah, note the leatherette trainers!

The race was in Autumn 1982, at Copthall Stadium, Barnet. At that time, Avon cosmetics sponsored a series of women only races to encourage more women into running. The series included the very first women only London Marathon in August 1980, which I had read about. Inspired by the stories of some of the entrants, including the amazing Joyce Smith, who I would go on to meet, I resolved to run every other day and just spend more time on my feet. I finished the race and received a goody bag of cosmetics! What was my time? I have no idea, but the cosmetics were such a treat for a hard-up teacher!

My training was very unscientific, measured by today’s standards. I didn’t run with a watch, and I didn’t really know the distances I was running. Everything was approximate. I used an A-Z, a piece of string and a ruler, to work out routes. I never used to eat before a run or a race (too worried about the possibility of a pit stop). This was manageable in my twenties but nowadays it has occasionally caught me out as I run out of steam. It’s a habit to this day I try and break, as some of my running buddies will testify!

Back to the olden days. Having experienced for the first time, just how good that after-race feeling is, I entered another ten-mile race. In contrast to the autumn sunshine of the Avon race, this was laps of an aerodrome somewhere in Essex. (Does this venue sound familiar to anyone?) It was freezing cold and almost dark by the time I finished. Funny how I don’t recall the same after-race feel good factor then!

By now I had moved out of my sister’s home into a bed-sit above a dry cleaner on the Finchley Road. I had started teaching and was spending my time keeping my head above water, literally, swapping my runs for a weekly swim at the local pool. Then I found out from one of my pupils that her mum had run the London Marathon. (Children tell their teachers a lot – but you knew that)! I am never sure to this day, whether Rosaleen just forgave all my foibles, as a nervous new teacher or whether I was actually ok at my job. Whichever is the truth, (somewhere in between I imagine), we used to meet every Wednesday after school and every Saturday at 7.30 in the morning to run ten miles, so twenty miles a week. On Saturday mornings, we were joined by Tom. Tom drove a London Black Cab. He was a faster runner but seemed happy to run at our pace. What fun a social run can be! Tom ran his best marathon in 2.59.59! Isn’t it funny how some facts and memories stick!

I loved my life in Barnet, I enjoyed my job and running; both provided me with friendship, a structure and routines, things I value to this day. I started to run solo on Sunday morning. It was a way of escaping the loneliness of living in the bedsit, and in the winter, to save money as I didn’t need to feed the meter if I was out pounding the pavements. Thank heavens for Chix Chox, the cake shop next door – a Sunday afternoon treat while planning my lessons and trying to keep warm under the Sunday paper! (You got a lot of paper in a Sunday Times – great insulation).

I heard about a local running club, Barnet Ladies and summoned up the courage to join. From then on, my Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays were taken up with running. It became my life. While at Barnet, I met the amazing marathon runner Joyce Smith. She was warm, and friendly and I was starstruck! I learnt from Bryan, her husband and coach, about listening to your body when during one fateful five-mile club race I literally ran out of steam, trying to catch my breath, with legs like lead. Bryan took one look at my eyes; suspected I was anaemic and packed me off to see a doctor. A few iron injections later and stern words about eating properly, I was back on form.

In 1984, I ran the London Marathon. I was already running between 25 and 35 miles a week. I started to use Tuesdays and Thursdays to increase my mileage. One of the girls from the club would collect my bag and I would run to the stadium – about 7 miles – and her dad would drop me back home; he was a CB radio enthusiast, I did enjoy listening in, 10-4 and all that! I also extended the Saturday morning runs as the Marathon approached to roughly 13, then 15 then 18 miles. The distances were still all approximate, no Strava, just the A-Z and a commitment to more time on your feet. I must have put the right kind of miles in as I completed the marathon in 3 hours 46 minutes. I wore my Avon cosmetics vest with pride. I remember hearing ‘It’s the Avon Lady’ as I hobbled over the infamous cobbles at the Tower! It was such a great feeling. My dearest friend Lynne who I met on our first day at university, also ran the marathon the same year. Look at us beaming and bursting with happiness! Please ignore the perm … such a bad idea! I went on to take part in a few more half’s and marathons to support another sister who had taken up triathlons. I never quite recaptured the pace or the fitness of that first couple of years. On reflection, I simply wasn’t putting the miles in.

The intervening years

Fast forward ten years. I had moved job, relocated to Suffolk, and got married. For a while running took a back seat. My work as a deputy head occupied my time. I carried on exercising, but this meant a few lengths of Crown Pools or a step class. Then in 2001, everything changed. I was newly divorced, became ill with Grave’s Disease (an auto immune condition affecting the thyroid), had an early menopause and relocated back to London. Is there a link between stressful life experiences and physical illness or changes? Perhaps there is. But I was lucky in that I had successful treatment, absolutely loved my new job advising schools and early years settings and began another new chapter. Then everything changed again. My brother, who I adored, was seriously injured in a car accident. He survived thanks to the air ambulance service and amazing medical teams, but sadly, lived only a few years longer, due to his injuries.

How I started running again – for the money of course!

I wanted to do something positive to celebrate my brother’s life. In a moment of madness, I signed up for a trek to Iceland. You know how these things work; simply raise a few grand, (I recall £2,000)! However, there are only so many times you can rattle a tin outside Morrisons, wash cars or make cakes. My one attempt at a car boot sale was so full of schoolgirl errors, I cringe at the memory. I badly needed to boost the coffers, so I signed up for the Southend Half Marathon! All I had to do was run and get sponsors. The sheet filled up quickly! I began to increase time on my feet, the only training strategy I knew. I also ran back-to-back days with a rest day in between so that I experienced what it was like to run tired, (a tip from a work colleague). I can’t remember my time, but I finished, collected the money, completed the trek, and supported a charity which continues to be very dear to me.

Not long after, I met David. He had recently started going to a gym and running. Parkruns became a big part of our weekends. What’s not to like about a run, a coffee, and a bun? In recent times, we have both really enjoyed volunteering and being part of the team that makes Felixstowe parkrun happen, (special mention to the master of multi-tasking, David Brewster and of course The Boss)!

During our early years together, David became very ill. For a while all focus was on his recovery. Thankfully, that period is now quite a blur. Once we were over that hurdle, David persuaded me to come and live here, (he is Felixstowe born and bred and as you have gleaned from my story, I have lived all over the place)! We were married in 2015 and I am really delighted to say I have put down roots and Felixstowe is my forever home.

Joining FRR – how did that happen?

Who doesn’t like a tipple en route?

It was the lovely Jo Whelan who suggested I might like to join Road Runners. Jo was a colleague of David’s and I had got to know her through some of the surgery social events. I was so anxious when I pitched up for my first training session. I needn’t have worried; everyone was so friendly and welcoming. I am so glad I plucked up the courage and ‘trotted together’ with Jo on that first night! Jo and I have trotted together on numerous occasions before and since but that’s another story!

I want to mention a few people now and apologise to any I have forgotten and also for this bit sounding like the Oscars. All the coaches who give their time to prepare and deliver what are always excellent sessions. The Thursday gang, Jac, Richard, Daniela, Jo, and Kirsty who formed a great support group during the Brighton marathon prep last year and have kept going since. My fellow ‘tail runners’ including Jackie Collins and Anne Oliver. Both are hugely experienced runners with plenty of tips as well as being great company for a good natter on those cold evenings! My running has certainly improved because of those club sessions, racing regularly, and putting the time in for longer runs.  At the beginning of lockdown, I began regular on-line Pilates sessions with the lovely Helen Duggan. Since then, I have attended a weekly class. Pilates has really helped improve my core strength and balance which in turn helps me enjoy my running even more. There are so many amazing club members who give freely their kindness, support, and encouragement. I have heard FRR described as a running family, and I think it truly is.

Favourite Race

I love turning up for races and being part of the sea of red, even though I often miss the photo as I am in the queue for the loo.  My favourite race? It’s the one I have just finished! I am savouring the moment, breathing more easily and it’s stopped hurting! If I had to choose one race though it would be the Brantham 5. I love it because a) I worked at the primary school for seven happy years, b) it’s not quite a Friday 5 but it has all the features of the best, including a bar and a burger van and c) what’s not to like about the annual drenching from the garden hose, (thank-you random gentleman)! If I had to choose one event it would be parkrun – I love parkrun and everything it stands for.

What next?

Over the years running has helped me cope with loneliness, anxiety, grief, and illness. There’s nothing like a long run to solve a problem or to make it feel less of a problem than it was before. Both Jo and Kirsty ran with me through a period of deep sadness when I lost my mum, thanks ladies for being there! Running has brought joy, fun and friendship as well as being a great way to keep fit and stay healthy. I was chuffed to bits to receive the Most Improved Female Runner Award, (as well as developing a taste for Tequila Rose – yum).

I have a few races in the pipeline. One I am looking forward to is Lucky Horseshoe to celebrate 100 marathons with the formidable runner that is Jo Blyth, (please note just a half for me)! In truth, I have no ambitions now other than to carry on enjoying running for as long as I can, being thankful for the health I have, appreciating the company of other runners, oh and walking my lovely dog!

Next month’s nominee

The person I would like to hand the baton on to is the amazing top bloke, Richard Allport. And who knows we may hear about the wonderful Jacquie too!

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