SEPTEMBER 2018: Having completed several seasons training with RunBrighton, and recently having completed the Leadership in Running Fitness course with England Athletics, I was chuffed when Chloe Garrett told me she wanted to help support our training group this coming winter.
Chloe, firstly, perhaps you can tell us a bit about yourself. How do you spend your time when you’re not running?
I suppose, outside of running, my other long-standing love is music. I’m a complete indie kid. I grew up on Shoegaze, Madchester and Britpop music, and then started DJing in the noughties when the Garage Rock scene kicked off. I haven’t DJed regularly in years really, but still try and get to lots of gigs and festivals every year.
Work-wise, I’ve been in business-to-business marketing for about 15 years, mainly in the tech industry, somewhat ironically really as I wouldn’t call myself a techie!
Where did your running begin? Have you always been sporty?
Back in the day, I was a very sporty kid. I loved any and every sport I tried and spent all my spare time at home playing tennis against the back wall and making up circuits, etc. I got into athletics when I was young too – 200m and hurdles were my favourites. But then… well, my aforementioned love of music took hold and with it going out drinking, socialising and smoking became my main forms of entertainment in my teens and throughout my twenties.
It wasn’t until my early 30s that I started running again. I had been working in London, commuting and travelling abroad a lot. With that, came lots of meals out and zero exercise so, before I knew it, I had piled on a good 2-3 stone. When I stopped commuting, I vowed to get fit again. I’d also had pretty bad problems with my knees since I was about 10 years old, so running never really crossed my mind at this stage. I started going to bootcamp, doing HIIT stuff and, with that, remembered just how much I loved exercise and the buzz you get from it. As I started to get stronger, I went along to parkrun, ran a couple of 10ks and did my first half marathon.
How did you come to join RunBrighton?
Well, I was actually born in Greenwich hospital a few hours before the very first London marathon went past the window. Maybe because of that, I’d always dreamt of running a marathon for as long as I can remember, but had thought it was out of the question because of my knees. However, once I’d taken on a half marathon, I was determined to try and run a marathon at least once, to tick it off the list, so I signed up for Brighton Marathon 2016.
The idea of training and getting myself marathon-ready on my own was quite daunting. I heard about RunBrighton and it looked exactly what I needed. And more than that, the idea of training out on the Downs really appealed, rather than repetitively plodding up and down the seafront on my own. Prior to joining RunBrighton, I hadn’t really known any off-road routes and was a bit nervous about where to explore.
And how many marathons have you done to date?
I’ve run 5 marathons now and, I think, 10 half marathons.
I understand you ran the Uganda Marathon earlier this year. Why Uganda and how was that experience?
I’ve got in the habit of always packing my trainers when I go away on holiday and love exploring places through running. Earlier this year, I was thinking about holiday options – I wanted something that was running related and I was also looking at options to do some voluntary work. One of the things that appealed to me about the Uganda Marathon was the chance to spend some time directly working, hands on, with the local project that you fundraise for. It seemed like too fantastic an opportunity to say no to.
The actual experience was just incredible. The guys who set up the Uganda Marathon are a fantastic team and they are increasingly handing over responsibility and ownership of the event and the associated activities to a local team. At all times, it felt like working in partnership with the local people, supporting them to make the improvements they need and want, as opposed to parachuting in and being the ‘fixers’!
The race itself was seriously tough, as you’d probably imagine. There was over 3,000ft of elevation gain, including a brutal hill called ‘The Beast’. Add to that, heat and humidity, and you start to get the idea. It’s a real community event, which includes a 10k and half-marathon option, and this year there was also the first ever race in Uganda for people with disabilities.
Most of the locals only sign up in the week before the race and are running in all sorts of footwear and clothing. The atmosphere and smiles from everyone taking part still gives me goose bumps when I think about it. And running through the villages was an experience I won’t forget; the kids all come running out, hi-fiving and fist-bumping you, shouting “Mizungo, mizungo!” (meaning ‘white person’) and grabbing your hands pulling you along. I honestly cannot recommend it enough to anyone who fancies a different experience!
Do you have any other interesting running events coming up?
I’ve got Snowdonia Half in a week’s time. There’s a big group of us going so it should be a fun weekend away with great scenery. And I finally got a ballot place in Royal Parks Half Marathon in London for October, after years of trying, which I’m really looking forward to. Then, I’ve got Beachy Head Marathon at the end of October. I ran this last year and, aside from Uganda, it was the best race I’ve ever done – a lovely, relaxed, chatty atmosphere amongst the runners, beautiful countryside and great aid stations (although I probably should try to spend a bit less time stopping and eating at them this year!)
What prompted your interest in becoming a RunBrighton ambassador, Chloe?
RunBrighton has been huge for me over the last few years. The training has been absolutely the lynchpin in me not only getting marathon-ready in terms of miles in my legs, but just as valuable has been the opportunity to chat with and learn from so many runners with much more experience than me. Leading up to my first marathon, I remember feeling excited and confident in the belief that I could do it and that was largely as a result of all the good advice I had received.
RunBrighton has also introduced me to some awesome people! Many of the people I’ve met through RunBrighton have become great friends – we go out running together all year round, we go and do races together, and sometimes even go out drinking with no chat about running at all! As I know, first-hand, what a fantastic community RunBrighton is, I wanted to get more involved with supporting it and hopefully help other people get the same enjoyment from it as I have.
And you recently mentioned to me that you’re planning to get involved with a running group for homeless people in Brighton. What can you tell us about that?
I saw a film a few months ago called Skid Row Marathon. (If you haven’t watched it, then do!) Judge Mitchell, a criminal court judge, started a running club on L.A.’s notorious Skid Row. Homeless people and recovering addicts are brought together to train for a marathon, helping to give them a sense of community, empowering them and giving them belief in their own ability to achieve goals. This struck a chord with me. Having seen the numbers of people who are living on the streets rise significantly in the last couple of years in Brighton, I wondered whether it could be a model that would work here too.
There’s a charity in London called The Running Charity. They’ve been doing similar work with young people (16 to 25-year-olds), who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, not just in London, but now also in several other cities throughout the UK. I got in touch with them to find out more. Following various conversations, we agreed that there was a real need and opportunity to roll this out in Brighton.
What a fantastic idea. How can people get involved and support you with these runs?
Thanks, I’m very excited about it! Initially, the running group will have one session per week. I’m putting together a core team of volunteers who can commit to 1 session per week, joining in with the runs (making sure we have a variety of paces supported) and generally chat to the runners and help build and provide that community feel. The fixed day and time are still to be decided, but it will be a week day, either a pre-work (7am) or post-work (6/7pm) get-together. I’d love to hear from anyone who is interested in getting involved. If they add/message me on facebook, I can share more info.
Chloe, great to chat. I’m delighted you’re going to be part of the RunBrighton ambassador team this winter. And best of luck with developing your running group for homeless people in the city… we shall look forward to hearing how it goes. And anyone interested is also welcome to get in touch via me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mike Bannister