She plonked three bags of chocolate-covered ginger on the counter and dug frantically in her purse for her card. Even though I was ready to say hello to the beginning of the weekend, stepping across work's threshold to freedom I couldn't help but ask, "So I take it you like chocolate ginger then?!" The answer I got was accompanied by a cheeky grin and then by "Yessss!!! It gives me the energy I need when I'm running and it tastes so good." My eyes lit up as it's always nice to meet a fellow enthusiast of running.
It turned out that we shared the same views on running. I got into running about a year ago and instantly became addicted to the feelings it produced: the mental and physical strength it gave me and how it enhanced my confidence and my life in leaps and bounds. These days I find myself running less because of a busy schedule of work, college, writing, friends and family, but fit it in when I can and am looking forward to having the time to concentrate on it more when my schedule lessons at the end of the year.
But is seems that running has a habit of coming and going for a lot of people. sometimes it fits into people's lives and sometimes there are times where other priorities come first. But, you can always go back to things, however many years have passed.
A prime example of this is the lady who had walked into my shop, the 2007 Devon 10 km Champion, Heather Foundling-Hawker. Forty one years of age, a qualified sports therapist and personal traininer (with qualifications in the rehabilitation of injuries, using sound wave technology to promote healing) Use this direct link to heathers Reflexology Page. with the support of her husband Kevin, she has managed to juggle the demands of her career whilst going from fun runner, running 10 miles a week, to one of the worlds best Ultra runners, running 75 miles a week.
Heather had always competed and had won minor races in and around her home town of Honiton but never received much attraction or recognition. In fact, she feels that she used to be discouraged from entering some if the local events as she was bound to win and nobody had a chance!
At the age of only thirteen she represented England in a cross county race in France, coming first, and at the age of eighteen - with and elite women's time of 3 hours 13 minutes - she won the Exeter marathon.
The start of her journey to becoming a world class runner started officially in 2005 when, at forty, she took on the Dartmoor Discovery, where she met the investigator of the race, Phil hampton. Phil almost turned her down when Heather first enquired by telephone about the race to find out whether there were still places, as 'She sounded about 12 years old over the phone and I thought she was having me on.' It's a good job he didn't, as the Dartmoor Discovery was where she was asked by Norman Wilson, the Great British Ultra Distance team coach if she would like to run for England.
The Dartmoor Discovery began in 1997, and this 32 mile race is known by many as one of the best around. It is now the only road point to point ultra race in the country.
Phil hampton had already started a 36 mile road race i Scotland called Two bridges, which traversed both the Kincardine and Forth Road Bridges. This race, held for 37 years, came to an end because of road works and lack of organization and helpers, often the bane of all long-distance races in the country.
Phil hampton's idol, back in his heyday of racing, 1968 to 1976, was the hot sour comic strip hero Alf Tupper, the Tough of the Track. A hardy character who, broke and homeless and living under the arches of London and nourished mainly by fish and chips, outpaced all the upper-class university athletics in nearly every race he entered. Running in bare feet or old shoes from charity shops, he overcame the snobbery of the college set by training hard and long in all weathers, day in and day out.
This inspired Phil, and whilst he was in the Royal Navy, between 1950 and 1975, running in Old Tiger Cub shoes with his toes hanging out of the worn shoes, he ran and won hundreds of races from 1 mile to 50 miles. These included four marathons, which culminated in the world record for 50 miles on the track with a time of 5 hours 1 minute 1 second.
So in 2004 Heather competed in the Dartmoor Discovery, her first attempt at an ultra run, and finished overall in a time of 4 hours 30 minutes. She was hooked on the race and mesmerized by the magnificent scenery, and immediately took her place in Ultra Distance running.
The ladies record for the Dartmoor Discovery was held by a well known Great British runner, Carolyn Hunter-Rowe, when she covered the tough course in 4 hours 20 minutes in 2002.Heather was 10 minutes slower than Carolyn, and, being the determined personality she is she set out to beat her predecessor.
And as hoped, all the training paid off and the following year (2005) Heather the Hawk finished overall in fifth place, as she had done in her last race, but this time with a new course record of 4 hours, 17 minutes, a handsome 3 minutes, a handsome 3 minutes better than Carolyn.
July 2005 also saw her compete in the British 50km Championships, where she won, qualifying for a place in the European 50km Championships held in Palmer, Sicily in October. She came home triumphant, crowned as the first female European Champion. She also won the 26 mile Bodmin Moor Marathon, her local race the Grizzly, well known as one of the toughest multi-terrain races in Europe, and broke the previous course record held for over 15 years in the New Forest Marathon.
The start of 2006 saw Heather perform at her highest level, putting together an impressive list of results for the year. She broke the Dartmoor Discovery copurse record, in a heat wave, finishing in forth place overall, with three men ahead of her, reducing the record yet again by an amazing 12 minutes with the time of 4 hours 5 minutes.
The later part of 2006 saw Heather step up her training to 75 miles per week to prepare her for the world 100km Championships where she flew out to Seoul, Korea, as part of the British women's team. She came ninth in the world and broke the over-forties British record, gaining a silver medal with an incredible time of 7 hours 50 minutes.
Only one week after the world championships Heather ran Dart Vale marathon and broke the course record, and presently she holds the best times for 5 mile, 10 mile, half marathon and 20 miles in her age group, vet 40.
This year Heather sustained a very bad injury whilst taking part in 100km race in Scotland just 2 weeks before the Discovery, but resolute and strong minded and illustrating hoe she embodies the Alf Tupper spirit, she entered and finished the Discovery, in eighth place but only two minutes outside her own record.
Heather has been selected to run for Great Britain in September 2007 for the world 100km Championships which will be held in Winschoten, Holland. This also co insides with the European 100km and age group championships.
In 2009 Heather hopes to compete in the Commonwealth Ultra Championships in Keswick, Lake District, where she will complete a 100 km 24 hour mountain race where all 71 Commonwealth Countries are invited to compete.
I always have a smile for and a chat with my chocolate covered ginger, occasionally jelly baby buting buddy, and quite often we share a few pieces of sweet chocolate covered chunks, whilst listening to tales of the Hawk, an outstanding and intelligent athlete - with a wealth of experience - who will never stop achieving and I doubt ever stop, full stop!
Story by Clare Brown.
photo Getty Images
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