Words: Christine Smith Pics: UNP
When Jacquie Millet had a cancer scare four years ago, she was so relieved to be given the all clear, she vowed to get fit. But she can never have imagined where that vow was to take her.
Incredibly, Jacquie has now completed her 74th marathon. And as she approaches her 62nd birthday this month, she hopes to eventually run 100 marathons – something she never dreamed she’d ever achieve, especially as she had done virtually no exercise all her life.
“I really cannot believe what I've achieved,” she says. “I don’t take anything for granted and it really does feel like a dream that goes on and on. It seems like almost another person doing all this running!”
Jacquie, who works as a psychotherapist, lives in Chiswick with husband Martin and the couple have two grown-up children, Camilla (27) and Calum (23).
‘Running opened up my world... I don’t take anything for granted’
She decided to start exercising after a health scare, when she feared she might have oesophageal cancer. For a few months, Jacquie had been feeling lethargic as well as having difficulties swallowing food. A friend had just died of the same disease and she was terrified she was also starting to develop early symptoms.
“I was so worried I had got this dreadful disease and I really started to panic,” she recalls.
“When the doctor sent me for tests, I did fear the worst. I started to make all these promises that if it turned out alright, I would look after myself. Thankfully, the tests showed there was nothing wrong. There and then I signed up with a personal trainer at the gym. I didn’t like it, but I persevered and it was he who suggested I tried running.
“I thought it would look stupid – a 57-year-old woman going out running in leggings – but after a lot of complaining, I eventually went out with Martin for three miles along the river. I loved it. I felt like I was flying and I got the bug.”
Initially Jacquie started going out for three-mile runs, several times a week. A few months later, Jacquie entered her first 10km run. “I was terrified,” she says. “But I had told so many people that I was doing it that I knew I had to! I ran it in 52 minutes and went on from there.”
A half marathon in the New Forest followed. Then at the age of 58, Jacquie ran her first marathon in Edinburgh in 3 hours 48 minutes, gaining her automatic entry into the London Marathon for being ‘good for her age’.
She also started going to her local Park Run in Richmond. It was here she met up with BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth, who has become a good friend, and actually credits Jacquie with being her inspiration for running.
“I think it was early 2013. We were both training for the London marathon and we reached the finish together that year – although I beat Sophie by 11 seconds because she started ahead of me!”
She loves running the London race. “It really is a special one because of the crowds. The encouragement and support is amazing.” After meeting some like-minded people, Jacquie decided last April to set herself the challenge of running 100 marathons. Up until recently, when a fall temporarily stopped Jacquie from running, she has been participating in at least one marathon every week as well as going on three seven-mile runs near her home.
“Running has opened up my world,” she says. “It’s very sociable and all my family have started running with me too. I really do love it and I like setting myself challenges. I’ve even run the Comrades Marathon twice in South Africa, which I loved. I couldn’t believe it this year when I won my age category. It was such a proud moment.
“I can’t run at the moment as I fell over during a marathon and hurt my knee, but I will be back soon and I can’t wait!
“This year I’m hoping to run the London marathon again as well as a race that finishes at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I’m also hoping to conquer my goal of running 100 marathons. I'll be so proud if I complete that.
“Running has changed my life for the better, and I'd encourage everyone to give it a go. If I can do it, anyone can...”
- This year’s London Marathon is on Sunday, April 26.
Free-to-enter park runs for all ages
Founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt in 2004, 5km Park Runs are organised in parks across the UK every weekend. They're free to enter and runners are timed on the event they participate in. It’s not only a great way to keep fit, but there’s the chance to make lots of new friends! It doesn’t matter how fast or slow a person runs, as everyone encourages and supports each other. Many celebrities who enjoy running take part in Park Runs on a regular basis.
- For more information about your local Park Run, visit www.parkrun.org.uk
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