Runner Profile: Holly Taylor

Thanks for the nomination Kayleigh, not sure I can top your extensive running history, but here we go! 

The Early (and rather uneventful) days 

As a young child I loved being outside and active, and when I reached high school, I wanted to be known as the sporty one, following in the shoes of my favourite Spice Girl. However, it turns out I was lacking in both coordination and drive. Despite picking physical ed as one of my GCSE options, I was terrible at team sports, and only managed to pick up a semi-decent grade as I did well on the theory side. I was moderately okay at hockey, and managed to drag myself round the 800 and 1600m runs each sports day. 

My later teenage years saw me going off the rails a little, as my interests turned to little more than going out and getting drunk. I carried this on into my 20s, partying to the early hours four days a week. I saw myself as being confident, carefree, and full of self-love. But truthfully, I was none of those things, it was just the booze talking. I felt myself getting a bit sad and decided to move away to Norfolk for a couple of years to escape; working at a children’s activity centre, where I became slightly more sporty as I tried my hand at climbing. From Norfolk I went on to Australia for a year of traveling, but my mood continued to yo-yo.  

The beginning of something 

In my late 20s I guess I decided I needed a hobby, and a way to work off the takeaways, chocolate, and alcopops I was regularly consuming. It was then that I took up running. And by “took up running” I mean running about 3km to and around Alderman Park once every three weeks. After a while, my brother mentioned parkrun to me a few times and I finally caved on April 19th 2014, donning my most aerodynamic sportswear as I attended the event in Christchurch Park; ten years prior to the day I am writing this piece. I completed it in a time of 30 minutes and 11 seconds, very begruntled at my brother for not warning me I had to go up the hill TWICE (I thought it was just one lap, I never have been much good at researching a course before attending). 

It was at Ipswich Parkrun that I got introduced to some of Felixstowe Road Runners’ finest, and the captain of the team, as Gary encouraged me to join the Mighty Reds. “But I don’t live in Felixstowe” I protested. This was met with confused looks and replies of “What’s that got to do with anything?” And so, I finally paid my money and signed up in 2019. 

My first race 

My introduction to the racing world was signing up, rather over ambitiously, to the Alton Water sprint triathlon of July 2018. I do not recollect why or when I decided it would be a good idea, and it proved to be a stressful ordeal, preparing for a swim, cycle and run event, with no experience competing in any of these competitions previously. I was also a terrible swimmer, and average cyclist (not much has changed in those categories in the years that have followed).

My brother pointed me in the direction of accomplished triathlete Andy Ellis, who gave me a few much-appreciated pointers before the big day, and the nerves were soon replaced with massive feelings of self-doubt and concern for my own life as I attempted to keep the lake water out of my lungs, while desperately keeping up at the back of the pack of swimmers. As I entered the cycle leg, I realised my extensive preparation training for a quick mount meant very little as I nearly crashed into the cyclists in front of me who had opted for a more casual getaway. I proceeded to use the 20km ahead as an opportunity to take it easy(ish) and get some oxygen into my lungs (the kind that wasn’t attached to two hydrogen atoms). The 5km run was eagerly anticipated, and I was relieved to rack my bike and be on my feet again. My legs felt like jelly and it was crazy hot, but I pushed through and proudly completed the event. I have no idea what position I came, or how quickly I did it, but it was a very proud day for me.  

Later that year, in October, I competed in the lovely Thurlow 5 mile race, running unattached. I completed it with a chip time of 39.09, and was hooked and ready for my next opportunity to get out and compete.  

The best and worst of it 

2019 saw me running numerous races as a member of FRR: Fumbling my way through a very tough Felixstowe Coastal 10 to come home as first female from FRR; enjoying a few of the Friday Five series; and completing my first half marathon in the form of the Great East Run Ipswich half, where I had gone so far as to research that a half marathon was “just over 20km” – needless to say the last 1.1ish kilometres, on that boiling hot day, felt like they went on for an eternity! 

2019 proved to be a good year for me, as I finished in the top three females at the illustrious Ipswich Summer Series, and came home first female at the Saxon 5M race. I even headed to the final round of the Suffolk Grand Prix series with potential for finishing first in age category! I’d done the maths, and needed to beat Collette by just a few places to claim my victory. Unfortunately, Stowmarket Scenic 7 brought me no joy that day (and Stowmarket has gone on to become a bit of a nemesis with races for me). However, I can look back proud of my 2nd place Grand Prix achievement in my opening year, and Collette became a great race companion, pushing me to keep going on those hard race days. 

After such a successful and eventful first year of competing, I was ready to go into 2020 experienced and wiser, hoping to achieve so much more. However, a few races in and the wind was soon taken out of my sails. As most of the world fell into various stages of lockdown, races were put on hold. Training also became minimal for me as I began my studies to qualify as a Biomedical Scientist; a three-year degree and a registration portfolio to be completed alongside my full-time job. This left very little time for hobbies (or much of anything else really). I still attended races when I could, as they reopened in the months and years that followed, because it was one of the few things that somehow kept me sane. 

Things began to pick up again, and I ticked off many more races along the way, although never venturing too far outside of the Suffolk borders. However, I was pulled into the exotic event that is the Round Norfolk Relay, running leg 7 of the 17 stage relay race. I was nervous going into it, mainly because I am terrible with directions; I wrote some notes down on my hand, but it was a hot day and they blurred terribly. The nerves doubled as I waited at the start line for my bike support to arrive, only to find poor Jo had taken a tumble and would not be able to help me after all. Luckily Ade jumped on his bike and happily chatted away as he cycled alongside me for the 9 miles that followed, and while there was a runner that took a wrong turn on that leg, I can happily say it wasn’t me! All in all, it was a great team event, although a little strange to see barely any of my teammates, and to be sleeping while some of them were out slogging through their leg! 

One final “race” to mention is One Lap to Ultra; I believe I went into this event saying I would be happy to manage four laps of the 4.5 mile course. Five laps in I was reminded I would only need to do one more to hit marathon distance. I had aches upon aches, but I don’t think I really had an option by this point, so I set out on my sixth lap, and with Kerry’s company, managed 44km, and my first marathon (+) distance run. (I decided to give him a bit of peace and quiet and let him go the 7th lap without me). It was great stopping for a chat and a snack at the end of each lap, and meeting others on the course for some words of encouragement. 

The support and comradery that I have felt and witnessed throughout my running journey has been outstanding. I have felt privileged to run alongside many a clubmate on race day. My Sunday long runs would probably only be half as long if I didn’t have Kerry to keep me company, parkrun has become a great way to see some friendly faces, and races wouldn’t be the same without my brother shouting encouraging words such as “why are you going so slow?” and “you suck” as he passes me.  

One of the reasons I decided upon running was my earlier mentioned lack of confidence; I’m not the best at socialising, so I wanted a sport that I could perform solo, one where I wouldn’t need to interact with other people. Over the years I realised that interaction was unavoidable, and became one of the things I love most about the sport. I continue to run as it contributes so greatly to my happiness and self-confidence, and because although I have mostly given up alcohol, I am yet to kick the chocolate and takeaway habit! 

What does the future hold for me? 

I’d really like to see myself grab a sub 20 minute 5km. Perhaps Twilight 5km will provide me with perfect conditions this year? 

There have also been mutterings of a marathon on the cards for me, after I repeatedly said I would never do one. I think this might be Kerry’s fault?  

I will also be spending the next few months looking forward to my absolute favourite event; Ekiden! The short stint running past the gazebos more than makes up for that dreary, hot, field out the back! 

Finally, my nomination for next month is a runner with contagious enthusiasm: Louise Cracknell, over to you! 

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