Runner Profile: Sam Fulcher

Thank you Seamus for the nomination, and like he mentioned we know each other through swimming, and part of the Felixstowe Swimscapes Channel relay team in 2016. I too, am a fairly recent member of the club, only joining in 2022, so it is an honour to be nominated for this.

Living in Nacton, I have always enjoyed running around the coast and have taken part in several Felixstowe Half Marathons over the years and later the Coastal 10. I also belonged to Felixstowe Tri Club back in the 90s, when we used to do our swimming at Felixstowe College for Girls. Ironic that that is now the location of Brackenbury Sports Centre and home of FRR.

In 2021, before I was a member, I travelled on the FRR coach to run the London Marathon and straight away everyone was so friendly and inclusive. I sat opposite Daniela and Kirsty, who didn’t take long to persuade me to join, even though I explained that I wouldn’t be able to attend Tuesday evening club sessions very often, they were insistent. Unfortunately, I was injured for a while after that, but by the summer of 2022 I was back running parkruns and often bumped into Daniela who frequently reminded me to join! Thank you for that Daniela, and I haven’t looked back since.

I have always loved running and most sports, but my background is in swimming. As a school girl I enjoyed taking part in cross country and the longer distance races, where I found my swimming fitness transferred easily to running. I was definitely not a natural, but I managed to hold my own. I remember very clearly watching the first London Marathon on the tele in 1981 and being completely mesmerised. I was only about 13 at the time, but it was so inspiring to see all those people running together with this incredible goal of running 26.2. The finish was completely awesome with American Dick Beardsley and Norwegian Inge Simonsen crossing the line together hand in hand. I thought to myself then: I want to do this!

Later, after giving-up competitive swimming in my late teens and quickly gaining a shed load of weight, I used running as a form of burning calories for weight loss in the toxic era of diet culture and body image. I am sure many of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s were victims of constant food restriction and disordered eating, using exercise as some kind of penalty.

In my 20s I joined the orange club and enjoyed many years as part of their team. I spectated at many London Marathons with them and took part in a variety of races including lots of cross-country events before finally getting a place to actually run London. Training went well, although back then (1993) I had very little understanding of proper fuelling and training. Interestingly, I did nothing else except running at that time. No cross-training, strength work or stretching! During the race, I only consumed water on the way round. Hard to believe that now, and I wondered why I felt so dreadful and had cramp at 20 miles. Understandably I did not achieve my goal of running sub-4 hours and finished in 4:10.

Fast forward another few decades and running took a bit of back seat while my 3 kids were growing up with all their extra curricular activities keeping me busy. I dabbled in multi-sports (3 x London standard distance Triathlons), and re-kindled my love for swimming through teaching and coaching and also swimming in the sea at Felixstowe.

I did my second London marathon in 2005 for my 40th, which I remember was fairly gruesome. It was a very hot day and, once again only fuelling with water and a few jelly babies, I hit the wall at 20 miles. It seems so stupid now. Frustratingly I finished in 4:04. I was done with running for a while, after suffering with chronic plantar fasciitis for what seemed like years. In hindsight I was probably in a constant state of low energy availability affecting my body’s ability to recover and repair. I concentrated on open-water swimming for a few years, where I met Seamus and Adrian Hine with whom I’ve had many swimming adventures.

Another decade on, then in my 50th year, I entered the Great East Run (or Ipswich Half Marathon as it is now) as a bit of a challenge. I embraced the training and absolutely fell in love with running again (for the right reasons this time!) After a bit of a health scare when I collapsed at work with bradycardia (my HR dropped to 33), and I hit the deck smashing my face up. It turned out I had low-iron anaemia, which is so common with active women and in peri-menopause. Anyway, it was such a revelation not to take health for granted, and the importance of good nutrition. Thankfully, I became much wiser on the benefits of adequate fuelling both during runs, before and after. I had become more interested in how my body could perform, instead of what it looked like. Subsequently I managed to achieve a life time best in that half marathon in 2017.

As I’ve got older injuries have become more frequent, so by introducing some strength training and mobility work I’ve never felt better. In 2019 I entered Manchester Marathon and had a completely different approach to the training; keeping up the swimming, cycling and gym work and only running 3 times a week. I was delighted to finally get my sub-4, finishing with a time of 3:42 and achieving a GFA for the London marathon. I was totally blown away with that race, but I’ve never got any where near it again!
In October 2022 I ran the Chester Marathon after a good training block through the hot summer months. Most of my long runs I did in Felixstowe with my good friend Scarlett, who I had met through University, doing my recent degree in Sport and Exercise Science. We would set off very early on Saturday mornings for our long runs, before it got too hot, and then finish with a sweltering parkrun. Running Chester was very close to my heart, as my Dad lives there so it was a great to spend the weekend with him. I thought it was a challenging course and the wheels fell off about 18 miles when I really had to dig very deep to finish. Knowing my family were waiting at the end spurred me on. I was slightly disappointed to run 4:03, but then realised I had moved up an age category to 55 – 59, so got another GFA. Happy days.

London 2023 was probably my favourite marathon so far. Not so much for the time, but for the atmosphere and encouragement all the way. It rained all day, but I had such fun and felt really good and strong. I had to have a wee stop around 10 miles, which took about 90 seconds. I finished in 4:01 and probably would have just got under 4 if I hadn’t stopped for the loo, but hey-ho I didn’t mind at all, as I’d had a blast! Unfortunately my chip time didn’t work, so I never got an official time. No-one could track me on the app either. I think I was never recorded crossing the start-line, probably because I had an extra top on at the beginning due to the pouring rain. Anyway, the organisers have been fantastic at sorting it out, so once again I have been lucky enough to secure a GFA time for this year!

Joining Felixstowe Road Runners has been absolutely brilliant. My only regret is that I didn’t join sooner. I have connected with some wonderful people and I really enjoy the camaraderie and banter. The club evenings are great, when I can attend them, and I’ve also enjoyed a couple of track sessions and the day-time training. I met Kaye Branton and Debbie Catling at parkrun a while back, and Carrie Kemp has been very inspiring starting an early Sunday run group to train for The Flower of Suffolk event, (which I was unable to do due to injury). However, Michelle, Gemma, Kaye and I ran the Let it Stow Trail half marathon in December, which was great fun. There is a lovely group of ladies who are all running London this year and I feel very lucky to be part of it. Everyone is so helpful and it’s good to share training tips and long runs together.

I have recently taken part in a couple of cross-country races as a FRR, which has been brilliant, and I remember why I used to love them so much. I am looking forward to taking part in many more events in the future and my big goal is to run New York marathon in 2025 for my 60th Birthday.

My nomination for next month is my training buddy Debbie Catling. Over to you Debbie……

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1 Response

  1. Jane Moon says:

    Hello Sam
    What an inspiring article and amazing story. You have such a positive attitude to running and you are so right about the importance of nutrition and balancing runs with other forms of exercise. I also remember the era of Ingrid and the great Joyce Smith too. Thank you! x