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It’s never too late to be what you might have been

Said the famous George Eliot, though not in the context of running I must add. However this rings true for Nicola Sutton - an accomplished athlete who has kindly shared her running journey, which has involved taking a 13 year hiatus before deciding to once again take up the sport just two years ago. Now at 38 she is working on new goals.

 

Nicola started running when she was 13. Following her mum’s passing, her dad encouraged her to join her local club – Notts AC – as he knew running was something she enjoyed at school. The sport helped both her and her dad heal – acting as a positive distraction, giving her a new sense of purpose and enabling her to make new friends and have adventures all over the UK. It was a special bond and interest they shared until he left this world last year. Nicola tells how, as a youngster, her coach nicknamed her ‘the smiling assassin’ as her love of competition prompted her to grin, even during her fierce performances!

 

After continuing to train to reach England u23 international level in XC and claiming some national medals on the track in her age group, Nicola felt mentally burned out with the sport and so unfortunately stopped aged 23. At the time she didn't miss life as an athlete, and instead kept involved with the sport through work as an athletics media professional. Nicola has earnt her crust writing for British, European and World Athletics and the BBC, as well as travelling the globe to work at a number of major championships and meets, including the Diamond League circuit which she still does today.

 

However two years ago, feeling fit and well in the gym, Nicola decided she fancied a challenge and wondered if her overall fitness could translate into running. It did indeed! Starting with a few local parkruns, Nicola found her flow again but unfortunately from ‘getting giddy too soon’ she tore her hamstring. Five months (and some decent rehab later) she returned to running and managed to improve on her times, working with Preston Harriers’ ‘legend’ Steve Hallas as a coach. ‘His experience, amazing guidance and support has been invaluable to helping me to tap into my potential, and he knows how incredibly grateful I am to him.’ 


Since returning, Nicola cites her biggest achievement as her selection for the England masters team for the British masters XC international last October. ‘It was a real full circle moment wearing the national kit again after I was so sure I'd never even race again.’ She also feels confident she can improve her 17:30 5k PB from 2009 this season, thanks to a positive mind-set, a supportive coach and encouraging teammates around her. She has already made progress towards this, clocking a time of 17.56 last year.

 

Although it is tricky for her to train with groups due to childcare availability for her children - Ava 7 and Alfie 3 - joining the club has given Nicola a sense of belonging, giving her a place in the community of friendly and supportive runners. She enjoys catching up with the group at races and always appreciates their supportive messages. ‘We're lucky we have such a great bunch of talented club-mates. I have some special and speedy friends – Carla Davies is a big inspiration to me and in particular my fellow Preston runners Paul Ratan, Emma McColm, Dougie Potter, Cathy Flintoff and Wes Wilkinson have supported lots too’ 


 

In terms of support, her family are a key part in this, helping her out so she can have that special 'me time' and also further develop her ‘other’ her identity as a runner alongside that of a working-parent…no doubt inspiring her two young children too. Nicola cites her husband, a former GB athlete himself, as championing her to realise her running dreams however as he frequently works away 'I often rely on his kind mum and sister and even (coach) Steve for help with childcare'. Sounds like she has a great team and cheer squad indeed. 

 

Despite starting the year with an awful hamstring tendinopathy injury, Nicola is once again back training and - as recent performance shows with an 18.03 5k run a few weeks ago- running very quickly!  ‘I'm incredibly grateful to be able to run fast again and I am very excited about what I can do this spring/summer and hopefully earn another England masters international call-up, fingers crossed!’

 

 

We will certainly keep our fingers, toes, and hamstring tendons crossed for you too, Nicola. 

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