OCTOBER 2021: Beth Thomas-Hancock has trained with RunBrighton, on and off, since 2012.

Along the way, she has run three marathons, and now, after some time out, Beth is back with us, regaining fitness at a sensible pace, on our Autumn Introduction to Running course.

How did you first get into running, Beth?

It had always been an ambition of mine to run a marathon, which is a bit odd, given that I didn’t previously run at all.

In 2012, after I’d watched a friend run the Brighton Marathon, I told my partner that I would do it the following year. I was 39, and I got it in my head that I was going to run a marathon as a 40th birthday present to myself. So, on 14th April 2013, I completed my first marathon, aged 40 and 1 week!

And had you been at all sporty prior to then?

Other than in primary school, I can honestly say no, I was never very sporty!

You clearly got the running bug, completing a marathon in three consecutive years. Which ones did you do, and were you always focussed on a target time?

Yes, I was always focussed on a target time – it kept me motivated. I wanted to run my marathons in under 4 hours.

I ran Brighton in 2013 and 2014, and London in 2015. And I’m delighted to say I did them all in under 4 hours. In fact, in 2014, I did 3hours 40minutes, which gave me a Good For Age qualification – a term my partner finds hilarious – and automatic entry into London.

And I understand you raised some money for charity along the way?

Yes, I ran each of my marathons for a charity that meant something to me. This kept me determined and focussed, and got me over the finishing line.

In 2013, I ran for Dementia UK, as my partner’s nan had Dementia. We had cared for her, for a number of years, and she had been such an important woman in both our lives.

In 2014, I ran for Cancer Research. I had special people in my life, who were either going through treatment or had survived cancer, or who were no longer with us. I wrote on my arm, the names of 26 people who had endured cancer, and I ran each mile for a different person. No wonder, this was my fastest marathon!

In 2015, I ran for the Evalina Children’s Hospital. This hospital saved the life of my friends’ granddaughter.

Do you have any other particularly memorable moments from your marathon running?

Yes, in London, 2015, I was at the Cutty Sark (approximately mile 6), and it was very crowded with runners. I was sent flying, and I knew I’d hurt myself. People were running over me; it was all quite frightening. A lovely chap helped me up and ran with me, holding my hand for a minute or so, and kept telling me I needed to stop.

Well, I hadn’t done all that training, and raised money for charity, not to run the course. So, in an act of stupidity, I continued for the next three hours, to complete the remaining 20 miles. For the whole time, I didn’t see any sights or notice anyone, I just kept telling myself to put one foot in front of the other. Knowing that my family and friends were all willing me on, from various parts of the country, got me to the finish line. I then collapsed.

I had broken three ribs.

As well as the incident with breaking your ribs, I believe you’ve had other challenges that have hindered your running, Beth?

I’ve taken quite a bit of time away from running, over the last few years.

I have arthritis and, unfortunately, running and arthritis don’t go brilliantly well together. It’s been a challenge, getting my head around the fact that I can’t run the distance, or at the speed, that I once enjoyed. But I’m there now.

Running is really good for my mental health. I don’t need to be speedy, or to run for 4 hours, to put my trainers on and feel good. I’ve joined your Introduction to Running course, for a second time, because it’s such a great group. Ruth is a fabulous, supportive and fun woman. And the group is totally inclusive and made up of both established and new runners, all enjoying a Sunday morning jog together.

Obviously, the course is aimed at people returning to running after having had some time off, as well as those who are complete beginners. What specifically prompted you to join again, this autumn?

Several things – I work long hours and don’t spend enough time exercising and, as such, I’ve been putting on weight. I saw the email for the Intro to Running course, and it got me thinking. I mentioned it to my wonderful friend Vic, and she said, Beth, let’s do it, let’s both sign up to this! So, we did.

How are you enjoying it?

Mike, I’m loving it. I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying my running again.

And what would you say motivates you now? Do you have any specific goals, going forward?

Trying to be as healthy as I can. It’s important to exercise, to keep mobile and active. My goal is to enjoy running. I feel like a hero, every week, when I’ve completed a session. I say to my friend, we could have stayed in bed, but we would have missed this!

We’ll next be running the course in the spring. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining but daunted about taking the plunge?

I would say, just do it! It’s such a friendly group. It’s gentle, there’s no pressure, and everyone is supported to run or run/walk at their own pace. It’s helping me to get back into exercise, and I’m loving it.

And how do you spend your time when not running, Beth?

Mostly, with my family – my wife, Em, and our 17-year-old daughters, Ruby and Martha. We go for walks on the Downs, at the weekend, with our dogs, Eric and Stanley, or take advantage of our National Trust membership.

I also enjoy working with my business partner, which involves delivering training sessions on Unconscious Bias and Conscious Inclusion, to the public, private and third sectors. I’m passionate about diversity and inclusion, and what drives me is learning, and sharing, how we can create more kind and more equitable work and learning environments for everyone.

Beth, thanks for the chat. Great to hear you’ve raised funds for some fabulous causes, with your marathons. Well done for making the effort to get back into running, despite a few challenges along the way, and I’m chuffed you’re back with RunBrighton again. I hope the rest of the course goes well for you.


By Mike Bannister