06 Jul In the Spotlight – Jan Frost

If the year 2020 has taught me anything, it is to not be surprised by bizarre things happening, and this is one of them! I laughed out loud when I read Andrew & Simon’s request for me to take on the baton this week, having only been a member of the Club a little over a year and not likely to be awarded a ‘Good For Age’ marathon place any time soon…..but it just goes to show how inclusive and welcoming this Club is.

When did running begin for you?

As a child, running never really entered my consciousness other than enjoying watching the Olympics. Netball was my sport of choice at school; running only needed to be in short bursts and I could have a break whilst the ball was the other end of the court. I had no idea how anyone could sustain running for more than five minutes! When I was about 14 I did decide to run around the block every day in Lent (looking back, it was probably half a mile). Forty days later, running seemed no easier and I happily stopped when Easter arrived!

I think I was quietly in awe of anyone who could run further than to the nearest bus stop. On the odd occasion I’d give running a go, I’d always get a burning chest and mouth full of froth (apologies if you are eating) and I had no idea how anyone was meant to hold a conversation at the same time!! In the lead up to my wedding, I gave running another go (you can see, by using the word another I am also counting the attempt to run round the short block during Lent) to look a bit better in ‘the dress’.  Helpful fiancé Mark, being a sportsman, thought he would occasionally join me shouting out encouraging messages, but since he was running backwards at the time, faster than I could run forwards, that attempt was short-lived.

The defining moment came in 2003. My lovely Mum died from cancer and I was determined to run the Race for Life. I was pretty daunted by the prospect of running 5k non-stop. The thought of getting to a point where I could run for a sustained period of time (without the symptoms noted above) seemed alien to me. The difference this time was my motivation. I had to channel my grief into something and that got me through the tough times when I didn’t want to go out, when it got hard, when I wanted to give up. There was no couch to 5k then; I didn’t know any runners and I had to juggle my ‘training’ within the opportunities that my four young kids allowed. Being fortunate enough to live near Cosmeston Lakes meant I could pop out and have a run in a lovely environment with, most importantly, relatively few people seeing me. My goal was to complete the 5k without stopping and without looking an idiot. Ironically, being so out of touch with anything running, I didn’t realised that many people walked the Race for Life. Had I known things could have turned out quite differently…

The 2004 Race for Life was the year of a storm and the Cardiff route was changed to a double circuit to avoid the woods. As I was completing the first lap, a steward directed me to the finish. The temptation to divert off to the finish and get a time circa 15 minutes was very tempting- to this day I wonder why the steward thought I was on my second lap, was it because I looked so fast or because I looked so tired!?

What race or moment in your running career holds the most significance and why?

The class sack race was my first win, no idea my age at the time, on reflection, maybe it was a result of all that training during Lent??

 My second ‘win’ was the Mum’s race in the Evenlode Infants’ Sport’s Day, 2000. It was my first experience of the event. I had no idea the calibre I was up against. We had to run half way down the track where we had to pick up a potato and spoon and run on to the finish. I was taken by surprise when the starting pistol sounded and I was immediately faced with the backs of all the other Mums heading off down the track. Drastic action was necessary to avoid looking an idiot (theme here, I don’t like to look an idiot!) so when I picked up my potato I just blatantly held it against the spoon with my thumb so I could try to finish in the pack. At the finish I was mortified when Headteacher Mr Jenkins called over the megaphone ‘Mrs Frost… [please don’t tell the entire school I cheated I thought, I finished in the pack…] is the winner as the first four finishers were holding their potatoes.’ What was I meant to do? Admit in front of the entire school that I too had held my potato or take the box of Maltesers graciously? To this day parents still think I am an athlete for winning the race.

But as we know, it’s not about the winning…

I guess there are two races which hold the most significance for me after that initial Race for Life in 2004.

The first was the Cardiff Half Marathon in 2011. Yes, it took me 7 years to creep up to the extra 16k.

Following the Race for Life I was determined not to let my training be in vain. I didn’t want to go back to the frothy mouth, painful experience that running any distance had been in the past. So I carried on running round the Lakes. With four young kids, and a husband working late most evenings, running was something I could fit in at random times when the opportunity arose. After a while I entered the Cardiff 10k. It felt so good to complete the longer distance, I actually preferred it as there was less pressure to run fast. Each year I continued with the annual Race for Life and the odd charity 5 miler or 10k. By this time I was occasionally talking to other runners, not that I classed myself as a runner (!) and I finally decided to leave my comfort zone and enter the Cardiff Half in 2011. My training pretty much involved running increasing numbers of laps of Cosmeston on my own, although I do remember extending it to a loop including Dinas Powys a couple of times. I finished in 2:13:37. I was chuffed and also hooked, running every Cardiff Half since then, including the World Half in that shocking weather. I naively thought I’d break the 2 hour barrier within the year. Ha ha! 9 years later that still hasn’t happened but I live in hope if I can keep injury-free for long enough.

In 2012 I was on a coaching course with work and we had to role-play a scenario where we were coached to achieve something inspirational. I picked completing a marathon, just to keep the course-provider quiet, but then it got me thinking. The timing seemed to fit and I didn’t want to regret never having had a go at the 26.2 miles. I also figured if I only ever did one marathon, it had to be London. I grabbed pretty much the last charity place going and got enrolled at the end of January. I downloaded a random 16 week training programme and basically crossed off the first 3 weeks! The day was perfect though and I was elated to get in under five hours.

Forgetting the pain, I went and entered the ballot two years later and got a place in London 2016. My entire training programme was riddled with injury niggles so, the Thursday before the big day I thought I’d take a relaxing bath to ease some of the aches and pains… only to scrape the heel of my right foot on a screw sticking out of the bath panel. With blood flooding the bathroom floor I sat and cried! Not to be defeated, I went on to run that Sunday with a wodge of cotton wool on my heel and was told at the end by the charity masseur that my blisters were the biggest she’d seen all day (and by the time I arrived she’d have seen a lot of feet!!). I focussed on taking photos and savouring the experience rather than beating my previous time, so I was pleased to do it in 5:24.

Why do you run?

Because:

it’s my Mum’s legacy

taking part in events is the nearest I’ll get to feeling what it’s like to be an elite athlete, turning into The Mall with crowds cheering you on is amazing.

I can now run without the frothy mouth and banging chest (unless I try to get a parkrun PB)

I dare not stop as I want to keep eating!

it’s become my thing and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved

I love the connection you have with other runners regardless of calibre, we all have similar experiences and ‘get it’

 

Who is your running inspiration?

It’s got to be my Mum. I wouldn’t be running if it weren’t for her. She’d be so surprised at what I’m doing!

I’m also inspired by those who overcome barriers or keep encouraging others/ volunteer to ensure events happen. Hearing Paula Radcliffe speak when I collected my World Half pack in Cardiff for example; seeing the effort that Lyn puts in to Cosmeston parkrun or having a smiley Debbie Williams cheering me on each week at parkrun despite not being fit to run herself (and having been injured for the best part of the last four months, I am even more inspired by her now).

What event, past or present, would you like to take part in and why?

I have only run events in Cardiff or London. I had finally planned to extend this by booking the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Half this year which wasn’t to be (luckily for me as I was injured anyway) but I would like to explore further afield. Having teachers’ holidays (which are great) I am limited where I can travel in term time but I would like to do half marathons in other UK cities, possibly abroad… Now I’m in the Club I will be open to persuasion! And maybe there’s one more London Marathon in me…?

What golden piece of advice would you give to other runners?

Don’t compare yourself to others.

I took so long for me to start to run because I thought I knew what running should look like and I thought I couldn’t do it. I am not a naturally fast runner. I don’t relish running in the wind/storm/rain/up hills. My PBs are at the pace of most runners’ warm-up. But it doesn’t matter! We run for ourselves yet also belong to the running community.

Use the tough moments, the injuries, and the poor performances as learning opportunities. Running is good for mental health as well as physical.

It’s better to go and do a slow parkrun than not go at all.

I would like to think I have inspired others to run because they think ‘Well, if Jan can do it…’

What’s next?

Hopefully a return to the fitness I was enjoying at the end of January when I got to wear the P&D vest and was cheered on wearing the P&D vest in the Lliswerry 8. I was really noticing the difference the Club was having on my endurance. I had managed a PB in the Cardiff Half (OK, only 2:10:06) but that was after having fallen 4 weeks before and unable to train properly.

Right now, I’d be happy to just go on a Chris Nellins conversational run, injury-free and preferably wasp-nest free. But it would be good to run in a different venue and get the Rock ‘n’ Roll done, or go away with some of the Club to a new place…?

Oh, and maybe if I could squeeze a few more parkrun and Half Marathon PBs out before I cease up completely, that would be fab!

Joining P&D

It’s taken me a long time to join a club. For many years I felt I wasn’t good enough to join a club (refer back to my impression of what a I thought a runner was !) but I also knew I couldn’t commit to sessions as I was the primary taxi driver for my kids after school activities. As they began to leave for universities, I started toying with the idea. I was tired of running on my own. It was hard to stay motivated, to train for long runs and I didn’t want to feel I was on the decline. Going to Grangemoor parkrun meant I connected regularly with runners. Andrea Goodfellow is far too friendly and made the mistake of chatting to me after numerous parkruns. Between her and Debbie Williams I was given enough courage to come to a session with the Club at Cossie last spring.

P&D has meant I have got more confidence in my running. I now belong to a bigger family. The support and encouragement is great. Thanks Bethan Apglyn for showing me how to shave a minute off my virtual 10k!! My job involves training schools and I will often use the Club as a great example of inclusion- whatever our level we all gain something from the sessions and belonging to the Club.

Who would you like to nominate?

Since the Goodfellows are largely to blame for me joining P&D, I would like to nominate Steve Goodfellow as next week’s In The Spotlight”.

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