MAY 2021: Paul McGregor joined RunBrighton for our winter 2016/17 training and has been a regular ever since.
What’s more, he has the furthest to travel, of all our members, for our Sunday morning runs, coming down from Epsom in Surrey each week. Quite a commitment, and definitely one of the family now!
In the summer of 2019, Paul managed to persuade his lovely wife, Tricia, to join us too – and she immediately slotted into the group, also making some great friends.
In August 2019, Tricia was taken ill, and sadly passed away in June, last year.
As soon as we emerged from lockdown, Paul returned to the group, and has been finding the weekly meet-ups with his Brighton running mates a great comfort and support.
How are you now, Paul?
I’m doing OK, in the circumstances. That is in no small part due to the support of friends at RunBrighton. I’ve been overwhelmed by the encouragement of so many.
I imagine it could be easy to lose interest in keeping fit and healthy, when your life is turned upside down after such loss. And lockdown can’t have helped. How have you managed to stay motivated through the pandemic?
Tricia was such a positive person and, in many ways, she prepared me for life without her. She was so full of life, as can be seen in the photograph of us both. It was taken a week or so after her devastating diagnosis. She had such a lovely smile.
Her pancreatic cancer consultant encouraged us to be optimistic but realistic. We tried hard to live on that basis. Tricia demonstrated a positive attitude in abundance. There were dark days, of course, but her treatment brought us valuable quality time. We even managed some gentle runs in the early days.
After her death, I’ve been encouraged by friends to get out running. I was grateful for Zoom and managed to keep some fitness up, through Matt at Riptide. Of course, you played a great part in that support. How does Brighton produce such great encouragers?!
In truth, last January felt particularly tough. We were all restricted to staying local, with only one other person, outside. Short days and lousy weather all contributed to an acute sense of loss and loneliness. Dry January probably didn’t help much! One thing I reminded myself of, was that I was far from alone in this experience and that many others were facing their own losses, whether through Covid or other reasons. Strangely, there was a sense of unity in that.
Recently, I found myself questioning the wisdom of travelling down the M23 for our first Sunday morning run, at Saltdean. Any doubts I had were instantly removed when I reached the brow of the South Downs and saw the blue, flat, calm sea in front of me. My spirits were lifted and I ended the run on a real high.
I understand you’ve always been into running, and you completed your first marathon back in the mid-80s?
I ran the London Marathon in 1987. I had no formal training, but I had just done a half marathon in about 1 hour 45 minutes, so hoped to break 4 hours. Tricia had completed London in 1985. She was a great encourager, as always, and became my coach. This was before we got together. We joked afterwards that this amounted to her saying things like ‘Keep going, keep going’ and ‘nearly there.’ Invaluable really. I made it round in 4 hours 8 minutes and owe a huge debt to the St John’s Ambulance member for massaging my cramped calves. No nutrition strategy in those days! I often wonder whether I might have cracked 4 hours had the calves not gone, but would have failed to get round without the help of that unknown hero.
How did you come to sign up for our winter 16/17 training and what did you hope to gain from it?
After retiring from the Met Police in January 2015, I became aware of the Brighton Marathon and decided to train for it. I trained alone around the Surrey Hills and successfully completed the run.
I wanted to improve my time and had become aware of RunBrighton. I knew I didn’t want to train alone again, so signed up. I was totally sold on the RunBrighton ethos, and remember well the first session, on the Withdean athletics track. I felt like a winner, bought your book, Running for the B-Team, and believe I may be the only person to have read it twice! Highly recommended.
Thanks Paul. You’ve also joined RunBrighton’s training camp in the Algarve, a couple of times. And both yourself and Tricia had booked up to go again last March, which was unfortunately cancelled due to the pandemic. What is it that appeals to you about the trip?
I loved my two trips to the Algarve. I tell everyone that I’ve been on a running boot camp and, yes, there are opportunities to push your training and fitness. It’s also about enjoying great company. I still remember our first night out, at a local restaurant. You could see everyone hesitating about whether ordering a beer was in order or not. I probably led on that one, and most followed with a sigh of relief. Serious training, yes, but we could relax too!
What was your role in the police force?
I worked for the Met, in London. At the end of my career, I was the Chief Superintendent, in charge of a London Borough. That was the highlight of my service and it was a great privilege to work with, and on behalf of, so many great people.
And how do you spend your time now, when not running?
In normal circumstances, I’d be scuba diving and travelling. In fact, I’m the chair of my local British Sub Aqua Club. I’ve dived in the Galapagos Islands, Indonesia and The Philippines and, of course, out of Brighton.
I also love spending time walking and have just returned from a few days in the Yorkshire Dales. The beer is good up there too. Is this an emerging theme?!
I believe your son, Ross, is also quite sporty, and about to take on his first Ironman triathlon. What can you tell us about that?
Ross is 26 and has set himself the challenge of completing an Iron Man to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer Research. This is in memory of his mum. I have had many encouraging chats with RunBrighton friends, and donations have come both from people I know and some I don’t. So, a big thank you. I know there are all sorts of requests for sponsorship, and I hesitate to approach people.
Please feel free to take a look at what he’s up to, without any sense of obligation. If anyone would like to sponsor Ross, they can do so via his JustGiving page, and any support would be most gratefully received.
And what about your own running goals, going forward, Paul?
I’m entered into the Brighton Half in June. It will be my eighth Brighton Half event. The last Brighton Half was challenging, with rain and wind. I swear I ran faster up the Marine Drive cliff with the wind behind me than I did coming down with the wind in front. Ross ran too, and I confess his time was considerably better than mine, but I’ll get over it!
I also have a deferred marathon place, but let’s see how the Half goes first.
Paul, it’s been great to chat, as ever. I’m delighted we have you training with RunBrighton. Good luck with the Brighton Half, and good luck too to Ross in his Ironman event!
By Mike Bannister