Not only did Monica set up a WhatsApp group for the Tuesday runners, during the first lockdown, but she has taken part in almost every challenge the club has come up with, accompanied by lots of lovely photos.
Thank you Monica for all your pictures during your runs, it has been great to see you getting out and about!
We got in contact with Monica to get to know more about her:
How long have you been a member of Sandhurst Joggers?
Since autumn 2016, I think. I remember turning up for my first club run in twilight and finishing in the dark!
What first attracted you to the club?
I had decided to try and run my first half marathon: the Fleet ‘Pre-London’ Half Marathon 2017 (at the time, my new colleagues in our US office were very interested in the ‘Pre-London’ bit!). I thought this was a good opportunity to think about joining a running club for advice, moral support and, of course, people to run with! I entered the Yateley 10k series in 2006, and when I turned up for race 1, I was immediately drawn to all the friendly runners and helpers in red vests. The rest, as they say, is history!
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I grew up in the West Midlands and also lived in Manchester for a few years when I was a postgrad student. Now, I live in Ash Vale with my long-suffering husband, Mark, who doesn’t run. He did give it a go with me a couple of times, but he decided it wasn’t for him as he wasn’t getting an endorphin rush, and I decided it wasn’t for him as I couldn’t bear all his moaning and groaning!! He’s very supportive of my running though and will order me to lace up my trainers and get myself out for a run, especially when he senses I’m getting a bit grumpy!
I’m a molecular biologist by training. After working in London in scientific research for a few years and then in science publishing for another few years, I wanted to work more flexibly and closer to home (and not have to take an afternoon off work in order to be able to get back in time for a club run), so I now work as a freelance science and medical editor. This has allowed me to attend most Tuesday club runs, and run during the day too when work is quieter.
Aside from work, running and home life, I like singing and I also learnt to play the ukulele a few years ago. Occasionally, my interests happen to collide, and I have been known to stop briefly during a race to join my band or choir for a song before continuing on my merry way! I loved being part of the ‘for one night only’ SJ30 band that played at the Annual Ball to celebrate SJ’s 30th anniversary.
What benefits do you feel you gain from running, with or without the club?
I never regret going for a run and I love the simplicity of it – all I have to do is get changed, put my shoes on and go outside. Whatever else is going on in my day/week/life, and however hard or bad the run seems, I always feel better afterwards, so calm and relaxed, and with a sense of having achieved something. However, during the first lockdown last year, I found that I was becoming anxious being near people and became quite reclusive, only going out for short walks at sunset when the pavements and paths were quiet. This was obviously not good for my mental health. Over the next few months, I gradually made myself go for longer walks, then short runs, and eventually longer runs, and the various challenges and virtual races organised by SJ and YRR really helped with this. More generally, I have made lots of friends through the club and have enjoyed many special experiences, such as marshalling several times at the London Marathon and running it twice through the marshal’s ballot.
Do you take part in any other sports?
Although I loved watching sport, especially athletics, on TV when I was a child (and still do), I was never a sporty kid, quite the opposite! At university, I started playing squash and 5-a-side football. I learnt to swim properly at the age of 29 when I had adult lessons. I started running in 2002 at the age of 30, after my boss entered me (while I was away on holiday!) into a 10k, the Canary Wharf Jog, to raise money for the British Heart Foundation, which was funding our research at the time. I survived the training and the race itself and didn’t hate it! Over the next few years, I ran only sporadically, but realised I needed to stay fit and healthy, so started working out at the gym fairly regularly and doing cardio and strength classes. Since starting regular running again when I joined SJ, my main other activities are those that I find complement my running, such as yoga and Pilates, swimming and strength work.
Do you have a favourite distance you like to run?
My favourite distance used to be the half marathon. These days I prefer 10k, but I am currently training for a virtual half marathon in April, after the actual event was postponed last year, and enjoying the longer runs again. I have run six marathons, and although it is not my preferred distance (maybe something to do with those challenging last few miles!), the sense of achievement and elation at finishing, especially at a big event, is something very special.
Do you enjoy races?
Yes! I’m not competitive by nature, but I like the challenge of having something to train for. I love the race-day atmosphere, the camaraderie of meeting up with club mates and helping each other along if we happen to be running at a similar pace, and the sense of satisfaction and achievement at the finish. Despite my aim usually being just to finish with a smile on my face and wanting to repeat the experience, I do find that I push myself more when I’m in a race situation.
Do you enjoy / participate in the social aspect of the club?
Oh yes, absolutely! I love the social aspect and participate when I can, though to be honest, every club run is sociable J. I particularly like the pub runs, where we go for a lovely chatty off-road run somewhere different and then continue the conversation over a pint and some good grub. I like the End of Year Ball too, when everyone is dressed up to the nines and we celebrate people’s achievements and contributions, also the (not) Weekend Away, which is a nice mix of running and related activities, informative talks and social interaction.
What are your running aspirations?
In terms of my own running, mainly I’d just like to be able to keep running for very many years to come, injury free and with a smile on my face, just like my lockdown running buddy, Alurie Dutton J. Maybe attempt one more marathon – my last one in 2018 didn’t go too well (though I did just about manage to finish) and I haven’t yet overcome the resulting brain weasels. A sub-30 parkrun/5k would be nice – I achieved this just once when I also ran my 10k PB. I would also like to continue trying to help others with their running by encouraging self-belief and overcoming any confidence issues. After all, running is such an accessible sport and anyone can run if they are physically able and put their mind to it!
Is there anything you feel the club could improve?
I would like to see more of a team spirit at finish lines of races, so that more finishers stay around to cheer in the later finishers. This is something the club used to do really well across all races, but seems to have dropped off somewhat for some events in recent years.