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How I Began – Q&A with Ambassador Carol Bird

When did you start running, and how old were you?

I’d always done gym classes and run a bit on treadmills, however I didn’t start running properly until I was in my mid-forties (around 2006).

Were you always sporty?

I was always competitive, I grew up with brothers and had no girls living on my street so I was determined to keep up with them. I was always stereo-typed with being little and blonde, so I loved proving everyone wrong.

What motivated you to go out and take those first steps?

My girls were members of Macc Harriers, so whilst they were training on the track I used the time to jog around the outside. I also started running more on the treadmill at the gym. However, once I began training outside, there was no going back.

What were your first pair of trainers and where did you get them from?

They were the Nike Pegasus – and from Running Bear of course! They were grey and yellow, as I didn’t dare ask if they had pink in case they thought I wasn’t a serious runner 😂  Now I know you can have pretty trainers like the Nimbus Lite and colour is important no matter how much running you do.

What was the hardest part about starting, and how did you overcome it?

I suppose it was thinking ‘can we please stop now’ after only 1 or 2 miles. I overcame it by coming to realise that it was going to take time to build up. I found the best way was to enjoy being outside in beautiful running spots to forget how hard it could be.

What was your favorite bit about starting to run?

Being outdoors, but most importantly seeing a huge difference in my health and fitness. I found myself feeling and looking more athletic as I was able to put more miles in.

Where was your favorite place to train?

Rudyard Lake – I used to drop the girls at school in Macclesfield and go there straight away no matter the weather. I could also vary my distance there depending on how I was feeling. It’s still one of my favourite spots.

Did you have a training programme?

No, I’ve never had a training plan. I just put the miles in and listen to my body. If I’m doing a marathon I simply put in longer runs.

Have you had any injuries – if so, how did you get over it?

I’ve been lucky – I’ve never had any really bad injuries *touches wood*. I’ve had plenty of niggles, such as problems with my IT Band especially when I upped my training for my first London marathon. I went to PhysioFit, who helped get me to the startline along with some painkillers too.

Do you wish you’d had the Couch to 5k program when you first started?

Oh definitely! It’s such a sensible way to build up – especially if you’re doing it with other people as the encouragement helps loads.

What was your first official race and how did it feel to finish? What time did you do?

Congleton Half Marathon. I’d done the Race for Life which was a fun day out with friends, so I see the Congleton Half as my first serious one. When I got to the last mile, even it’s known as the sting in the tail, I was elated as I couldn’t believe I was almost there.

For my first half it was 1hr49 – my PB for that course now is 1hr32.

What is your Club history?

My first club was Macclesfield Harriers – it was convenient as my girls were there. I was inspired by the wonderful Bob and Pauline Lynch – they encouraged and inspired me.

In my early 50s, I joined Biddulph and that’s when the minutes started dropping off as I was running with people who were better than me and trying to stay with them. I still train with Steve Jones and Martin Gibson from BRC as we run at a similar pace and push each other. They’re awesome running buddies. We train hard but also have a laugh.

Congleton Harriers are my current club, I joined them as I wanted to have some ladies to compete with at a higher level. They asked me to join for Cross Country and I really enjoyed competing and training with some amazing women – so made the full time move.

I’m also a member of Running Bear Running Club – such a fab community which is completely free!

What was has been your favorite race to date?

London Marathon 2015 – I got a ballot place after a tough year and couldn’t believe I was there. I just smiled the whole way round. My watch stopped working so I had no idea what time or pace I was doing so I was amazed to find I’d finished in a time of 3.26. I did 3hrs18 the following year, but I’ll never forget the elation of going sub 3hr30 for the first time.

Has running helped you get through any tough times?

Yes! I turned to running when going through a tough divorce. It kept me sane and cleared my head. When I began to do well, it gave me a sense of empowerment and purpose, and gave me back a sense of control over my own life. My times got faster too, I think my ex-husband was slowing me down!😂

What would be your number one tip to a new runner?

It’s got to be get a good pair of running shoes.

Any golden running rules you live by?

With running you make up your own rules! If you go out for a 6 mile run, and you’re feeling strong you can do more. Vice versa too, if I’m not feeling good I’ll shorten my planned distance! Listen to your body.

I love having a run buddy and can’t recommend it enough.

Give yourself a goal. When normality come back to running – enter a race as it’s worth having something to train for!

Goals at the beginning vs now?

When I started running I just wanted to enjoy it and do my best, something that is still incredibly important to me. Now I always aim to do well in my category and in open for as long as I can; my half marathon PB is 1hr31 – I would love to to get sub 1hr30. The goal for marathon is sub 3hr15. I might never do that… but it is always important to have goals.

What keeps you motivated?

Different places, different faces, different paces and different distances. In other words, mix up your running to keep it fresh so it’s not a chore! The most important thing is to enjoy it!

About the author: Carol Bird

A passion for local road racing and long distance, including over 35 Half Marathons
A member of Congleton Harriers has also represented Cheshire and England Masters – in the top percentile for her age group
Currently North Staffs Road runners Lady Vet of the year, & Congleton Harriers Lady Road Runner of the year.
Don’t be intimidated by her achievements – she is super-approachable & loves helping runners get started on their journey!
Fave food = Ice Cream!

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