20 Jul In the Spotlight – Judy Maragna

Thank you, Steve Goodfellow, for a glowing nomination!  It cheers me to know despite being always at the back of the pack it seems I don’t go unnoticed!  I certainly do not class myself as a “proper” runner but more as a steady “jogger”.  Comparing runners to motor vehicles……

Elite:               Mercedes, a classy car that with care will last forever

Speedy:          Porsche, a sports car full of youth and vitality

Regular:         Volvo, a solid reliable car that will always get you from A to B

Vintage:         The old Ford Anglia, a little rusty, temperamental, not always reliable, but once you get it going it’ll eventually  get you where you want to go!   Needless to say, I’m an old Ford Anglia!

When did running begin for you?

Aww memories!  This has to be kiss/catch in the school playground!  I managed to kiss Sir Michael Moritz (Venture capitalist, formerly on the Board of Google worth 3.9 billion dollars!) and David Williams (Player/Manager of Bristol Rovers FC)!  You had to be fast to catch them!  At school I was always quite sporty and successful not in the individual events, but in team events, 4 x 100m relay, baseball team, swimming team and netball team. I was primarily a swimmer and reached County level up to my teens when I realised I was never going to get to the Olympics so decided to jack that in. My desire for fitness however stayed with me and I trained as a Keep Fit Instructor and Swimming Instructor and taught aerobics, aquarobics and swimming for 25 years.

I tried to encourage my children to be fit, took them swimming regularly and enrolled them in a club, and as a family we did a few cyclethons and were even featured in the local paper.  Who’d have thought that cheeky young lad would one day be an Ironman!

Around 1999 my son Andy Jones watched the London Marathon and said, “why don’t we do it, Mum”?  At the time I was working full time, teaching 4 nights a week so did not really have a lot of time! I said we shall have to train properly!  I’d done the Cardiff Try a Tri when I was 39 and trained to run the 5k by running around the block 3 mornings a week for a while, so I knew we had to start by a walk/jog programme, which we did – no watches just going on time spent on our feet which was the advice many gave us.  A fellow swim teacher Phil Williams (sadly now deceased) was a seasoned marathon runner and gave us advice and suggested we do a 5k so we knew what it was like to run alongside big groups.  It was SSAFA!!!   He told me it was a “fun” race!  Say no more …. I had the motorbike on my ass, was last but one, and had no idea nor did I care about my time!  Knackered is not the word and with the bike on your ass you have to appear to be running, so I couldn’t stop!

In those days you had to apply for the London Marathon via a magazine you could only get in a Sports Shop.  We thought everyone got in, we had no idea it was a ballot and you didn’t hear until late January whether you had a place.  Obviously, we didn’t get in, but they organized the first Cardiff Marathon that year so we did that instead.  I managed it in just under 5 hours.  It was tough.  The course was awful, there were only about 2000 runners so hardly any supporters.  My back was aching, it was hot, I was starving and a guy in front kindly gave me an energy bar which had been in his back pocket for 16 miles or so!  Gross! I knew my husband had a banana for me around Mile 20, but no he had only gone and given it to the first lady home!!!!  I thought that’s it, never again, I hate running and promptly stopped!

I gained almost a stone in weight in the following year, despite training at the gym and pool and attending dance classes 3 times a week, so I decided to take it up again but only to half marathon distance.  We both continued to apply for London and he got in and I didn’t.  By then I think about 3 years had passed so I kept applying just because I was annoyed, and eventually got a place with the old Virgin scheme, apply 5 years continuously and then the 6th year you got a place.  Andy had a place the year before but transferred it through injury, I had got a charity place the year before also but had a groin injury and went on a planned taper holiday early April,  only to be marooned in Spain with the “Ash cloud” so missed the event entirely!  So finally, in 2011 I did it with Andy (albeit in different pens). It was a great occasion and a fantastic atmosphere!  My watch malfunctioned at mile 11, so I restarted it when I reached what I though was mile 26 (as per my watch) I put on my sprint, only to then see the 25 mile marker!  Doh!  All that weaving at the back cost me another almost 1.5 miles!

Why did you join P&D?

Around 2007 a new young lady started working at my firm and was told I was a “fitness freak” and ran marathons (!!!) and she asked me if I would help her train for the Cardiff Half as her friend had let her down.  Let me introduce you to the lovely Lindsey Clarke nee Hunt!  We got on really well, formed a fabulous friendship and started running together.  Her brother had gone along to P&D and suggested Lindsey try it.  She went along and encouraged me and Andy to try it.   I was always opposed to joining anything so elite as a club! I didn’t feel I was a proper runner and thought they would all be pros! I wasn’t far wrong!  However, I found the camaraderie encouraging, the sessions so much more fun than plodding around Cardiff alone (Andy had ditched me years before telling me in no uncertain terms, you are just too slow Mum!).  I had never done hill sessions, speed sessions, fartlek??  What on earth is that? You get a whiff and sprint off quick???  The sessions to me were serious training, the warm up to get there my “speed work” and the run back my “fartlek”!  One session in particular I always remember – “Group jog – Solo Speed”.  I used to call it “Group Speed – Solo Jog”!  All joking aside, what makes the Club is the members who are so friendly and supportive no matter what your ability.  I really enjoy team events and the cross -country days were a class of their own!  The tent, the cakes, the Men running further and later than us, the young lads lapping me whilst I was still running the Ladies race, the rain, the mud and best of all waiting with baited breath at a certain venue for the announcement: “Cancelled due to poor conditions”!   (Remember my elation Lisa Cleary?)  I realized early on I was able to sprint finish no matter what the distance!  It is a great feeling in a race when you know everyone else has finished so they will all be there to cheer you on and I was usually able to sprint past a few in the final few metres!  As a young swimmer my father always used to say….Leave a bit for the end…and I’ve always kept that in my mind.

Why do you run?

Simply to maintain my fitness and because somehow, I can!  I can’t say I love it, but I do like the feel-good factor after a session. I feel I’ve accomplished something and I feel mentally and physically well and pretty smug! Especially after a race and beating younger runners!

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

Gosh, this is a hard question, so many!  I was proud to have completed a marathon which unless you are a runner you don’t know what it involves.  My first 10k (Cardiff) we finished in the Stadium and wow what a finish that was, I sprinted as soon as I hit the track and felt like a real runner overtaking many!

I loved the Du Medoc Marathon, such fun and no pressure and the goody bag was amazing! My son and I also ran at the back at the Bay To Breakers in San Francisco on my honeymoon!  Lots of nude men running and a few ladies too, much to Andy’s delight!  I took a “gap 3.5 months” to Italy in 2012 and ran the Manopella 12k and came second in my age group!  I was actually on a podium!  It started downhill for about 2 – 3 miles, undulating a few miles, then back up this fantastic hill you had not long soared down whilst stopping to be photographed with runners because they knew I was foreign!  It cost only 6 euros to enter, I won 2 bottles of wine, a bag of apples, a massive cheese, a bag of bread and the supporters and competitors had a meal after the race consisting of pasta, meat and veg, fruit and wine!  There were 12 of us! Incredible!

I also loved the Men’s Health 10k with obstacles which was actually about 13k but you didn’t know that until you passed the 10k mark! I’m also proud of doing my first Triathlon in 2018 at Bryn Bach Park coming out of the swim section first in my group.

Unlike the SWYD last year at Barry where the swim nearly killed me and I was last out of the water, practically crawling up the beach! I had the motorbike behind me on the bike section, I slipped in the wet sandy conditions on the run and was last overall! However, I had a great cheer from the crowd at the finish and was actually first in my age group! Every cloud …………!

Who is my running inspiration?

Easy!  Yvonne Williams, Malco Man and Chris Nellins!   They are the Mercedes of the club, they just run with seemingly little effort, get fantastic times and just keep going and going and going!  Their energy, enthusiasm, motivation and talent are just amazing!  They are an inspiration to all.

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

I would have loved to run 400 m hurdles in the Olympics!  I just think that would have been my forte!  Having seen my son complete Ironman, how great would it be to hear “Judy Maragna you are an Iron Woman” (unfortunately I know my limitations!)  Gosh I was so proud watching Andy competing in Madrid representing GB in his age group knowing how hard you have to train and the commitment you have to give.  One of my proudest moments!

(Andy’s reward….nest of M&Ms inside!)

Which piece of advice would you give to other runners?

Relish your achievements, set goals that are realistic, know your limitations and heed injury advice!

What’s next?

Wow tough question! Keep going, I guess. I would like to do the Cardiff Tri and would have entered this year….maybe the Olympic distance rather than Sprint distance, who knows?  I just keep plodding along and am grateful that I can!

Who would I like to nominate?

Several members!  Yvonne Williams, she is such a star and so modest about her achievements.  Louise Hunt, an extremely proactive club member and pretty impressive runner.  Janice Clement, because she’s always in my head saying “come on Judy, you can do it!”  she is so supportive of everyone.  Simon you will have to choose one of them for me!

Editor’s Note: I couldn’t decide, so I had to push my Ballot Cap back into action. Three names in the hat, and the winner is……LOUISE HUNT!


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