A keen jogger, Kathy Ling had always been inspired by her running partner Pat Adams. Ever supportive, she encouraged Kathy to persevere with her hobby, despite being slower than the others in their running group. “No matter how far behind I was, Pat would always be there beside me,” Kathy smiles.
Tragically, Pat died of breast cancer aged just 50, but in her memory Kathy decided to set herself a mountainous challenge – running 70 races for Macmillan.
But sadly, just as she got into her stride, Kathy’s sister Gillian also passed away. Kathy found herself determined to go further and raise even more funds, so added another 54 races for Marie Curie. “They took such good care of my sister. Running was a way of giving back, and it gave me something to concentrate on.”
Suddenly there was no stopping Kathy, who not only completed those 124 races for charity ahead of her 71st birthday, but has kept going ever since. With an eclectic mix of marathons, half-marathons, 10k and 5k routes under her belt, Kathy certainly has some stories to tell, from races on her local Shropshire turf to European exploits and more.
“Once I’ve done a race, I like to move on and try another, though some I really loved. The Reims half-marathon was sponsored by Champagne and they were so impressed that I made it round the course that they gave me one of their biggest bottles... so I valiantly staggered off with it,” she chuckles.
“I got stuck in a portaloo during the Great Southern Run,” Kathy continues, “and in Budapest I was practically chased around the course by a lorryload of soldiers because they were worried that the students were going to riot and I wasn’t going to finish in time!”
But timing has never been important to Kathy. “I’m not a ‘speed merchant’. I just feel so lucky to be running at my age,” she says. “It’s mad how it gives you such a buzz and I love being outside and the travelling. Running has opened so many doors for me later in life. I started from complete zero exercise-wise, so anyone can do it. You’ve just got to be sensible. Start walking half a mile, then jogging, and move on gradually. Every time I cross a finish line it feels fantastic – as though I’ve won the lottery. And I’ve lost a good two stone!”
Though none of this would have been possible without the continued support of the running club that Kathy joined almost 15 years ago.
‘I started from complete zero exercise-wise, so anyone can do it’
“I didn’t get in straight away... probably because I was a 58-year-old novice,” Kathy says. “I joined The Wrekin Road Runners a few years after I started running. We do four or five miles twice a week. I was so slow to begin with that I had to do most of the distance on my own, but I just got on with it. Then the other runners realised I was serious and they really got behind me.”
After Pat passed away, it was fellow Wrekin runner, Jon Aston, who helped Kathy plan her 70 races. He set up her blog and ran some of the races with her. “Jon’s favourite is the Morecambe Bay Challenge, so we did that together,” says Kathy. “It was one of the most unusual places I’ve run; through rivers that come in, on the tide. The water was up to my waist but we kept going!”
Since our chat, Kathy has run the Mersey Tunnel 10k and next has the Liverpool Half Marathon in her sights. “I don’t like to tell people about a race until I’ve done it!” she explains. “It keeps the pressure off. But my husband John always comes to support me. He sees me off at the start and is there waiting, at the end.”
Race day or not, it’s a three-mile run up hill and down dale for Kathy every morning. “Running puts you in the right mood for the day ahead,” she says. “I’m thrilled I can still do it and it makes me feel good. I always finish on two feet, despite the odd slip or slide now and again. But everyone needs the odd trip over in the mud,” she grins. That’s the spirit, Kathy!
- Running enthusiasts of all ages and abilities can raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. For more information call 0300 100 0200 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk/challenge
The anti-ageing benefits of running!
Think you’re too old to start running? Think again. It’s one of the simplest yet most effective ways of keeping our bodies happy and healthy in later life.
Running helps muscles and bones to retain their strength, aiding coordination and balance. It also reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, while improving circulation and digestion. Studies show that regular exercisers actually feel less tired, not more, and active older people are expected to live four years longer than their sedentary counterparts – with the bonus of improved mental function. The Journal of Advanced Nursing has even uncovered evidence that running helps menopausal women combat hot flushes, mood swings and unwanted weight gain.
You don’t have to run fast and always consult your doctor if you’ve had problems with exercise (or neglected it) in the past. Stay hydrated, and build up gradually until your regime has you feeling great.
- If you would like more information on running, try The Complete Guide For Every Female Runner, published by Kyle Books, or contact your local running club.
There's more health advice and real life stories in Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday