Say Cheese!

APRIL 2018: Brighton Marathon 2017 was hot – very hot. Everyone’s times were down that year, as it had been impossible to prepare, over the winter in Brighton, for such challenging race-day conditions. I remember Catherine Cheeseman’s disappointment, having yet again made an attempt on sub-4hrs, to finish in 4:02.

Surely, given a cooler day, she could break that infamous barrier.

Determined as ever, she again joined RunBrighton’s training group, re-focussed, and, this time around, she finally cracked it… with a big PB. Catherine is now a sub-4hr marathon runner, having completed the Brighton course in 3:56:10.

Catherine, firstly, congratulations on becoming a sub-4hr marathoner. How does that feel?

Thanks Mike, I still can’t believe I’ve finally done it. I’d been so close for the last few years and, by ‘close’, I mean over the 4hr mark by 23 seconds in 2016. That 23 seconds haunted me for two years, but I knew I had it in me to get there eventually. Unfortunately, 2017 wasn’t my year, but I wasn’t going to give up. The perseverance has paid off and it feels great!

Have you always been a keen runner, and have you been involved in other sports in the past?

No, not at all.  My friend and I just decided to give running a try and so, after work, when it was dark and no one could see us, we started to go out for short runs – to the end of the road and back. I realised I needed to set myself a goal to keep me interested, so I signed up for Race for Life, and I did that for a few years. This was a really good starting block to get me into running. The whole atmosphere of these runs is great. From there, I set myself bigger goals; the next was to be the Great South Run in 2009 and then my first half marathon in Brighton in 2010.

I used to do the occasional aerobics class or go swimming now and again, but never stuck to anything like I have to running.

I know you’ve trained with RunBrighton for several years. When did you first join and how did that come about?

I signed up for the 2011 Brighton Marathon after watching my friends take part in 2010, but didn’t really thinking about how I was going to train for it by myself. I was talking to my cousin Andy, now one of the RunBrighton ambassadors, who mentioned he was training with RunBrighton, and he suggested I go along. So, I did. I joined the group in the January of 2011 and they’d already got up to 10 miles. (It was done by mileage then, rather than by time on feet). It was a pretty hilly first run, but I got through it and loved the whole friendliness of the group and the encouragement they gave me – so much so, that I came back the following week and I’m still here, 8 seasons later!

And how many marathons have you done to date?

This year was my 8th… all of them Brighton.

Was there some aspect of your training that you undertook differently this winter? To what do you attribute your big improvement in performance?

About a year-and-a-half ago, I felt I needed to mix up my training a bit. As much as I loved running, that was all I was doing and I didn’t want to get bored of it. So, I decided to invest in a few personal training sessions, which really helped and, amazingly, got me interested in the gym.  I’d always hated the gym, but now I love it!  As well as that, I’ve been doing spinning classes and, the last few months, I’ve started doing HIIT classes, which I’m now a little addicted to. Who’d have thought?!  I definitely think this has played a part in my improvement and made me a lot stronger, but just following the RunBrighton plan and listening to the advice you give us on the Sunday runs is second to none, and I can’t thank you all enough.

Well, as you know, I’m a huge advocate of getting strong to run, rather than just running. The cross-training you’ve been doing will definitely have played a key part in you getting a big PB. So, what do you do when you’re not training?

I’m an avid Brighton & Hove Albion supporter, so you’ll see me at The Amex most match days.

I also try to get to as many away games as possible. Travel is also a passion of mine. I work in the Product team for a Tour Operator, so, as well as getting to travel for work, I’m lucky enough to get some great perks for my own holidays, which don’t go to waste 🙂

I also love a good night out with friends. I have a lot of catching up to do now the marathon is over – I can now actually go out out!!

And I know you’re involved with the amazing Marie Curie Cancer Care charity. What can you tell us about that and why do you choose to run in support of them?

My dad was diagnosed with Cancer back in 1991 and they were a great support to my mum and the rest of the family.  Dad sadly passed away in 1992 and I wanted to give something back, so, every year, I’ve been raising money for them by doing the marathons. They’re a great charity and will always be close to my heart. The volunteers have got to know me over the years and, after this year’s marathon when I visited their charity tent, I was greeted with “Cat, you’re back again?!”. It’s a nice feeling that they recognise my efforts in raising money and they’re so very grateful.

What’s next in your race diary?

I’m fairly superstitious and have to do everything exactly the same in the run-up to the Brighton Marathon.  Amongst other things, each year when I collect my race pack, I go ahead and sign up for the following year. Not sure why, but I’ve always done it and can’t seem to break the habit! So, Brighton Marathon beckons again in 2019. However, after having done this marathon for 8 years in a row and now having achieved my goal, I feel I need to finish this one on a high. But as I’ve now got a place, I don’t just want to run it; I need to do it a bit differently and a few friends have suggested we do it in fancy dress, which will certainly take the pressure off getting a PB! Other than that, I would like to do a few more half marathons this year and work on achieving better times for those, but nothing is booked as of yet.

Do you think there are further improvements to come, as regards your marathon time?

RunBrighton has given me the help and encouragement to achieve better times each year. (We’ll forget about 2017!) So, who’s to say I can’t improve further? However, I’ve done what I set out to do and so won’t beat myself up if I don’t get another PB! I’ll definitely be back for RunBrighton’s winter season anyway, so watch this space! London Marathon is top of my list, but I’ve not had much luck via the Ballot so far. One day!

Catherine, congratulations once again on your fantastic marathon achievement, and best of luck with whatever goals you set yourself going forward. And do keep us posted re what fancy dress outfit you’ll be wearing next April, so we can look out for you!

By Mike Bannister