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An inspired first 5km

Here we interview Ingrid Milsom, a new 5km runner at the age of 57.

Last Sunday, Ingrid Milsom, otherwise known as ‘Wo’ ran her first 5km. She took part in the Race for Life in aid of Cancer Research UK in Cambridge, and event which saw over 7,500 women don their trainers to run, jog and walk to help beat cancer.

Just four months previously, Wo hadn’t run even 1km in over 20 years. “I was there because my daughter entered us both as a surprise without me knowing. It was actual a total shock to me when she told me back in March. I hadn’t run for years!”

Wo saw a 5km training schedule for beginners in a copy of Zest magazine and decided to follow it. It was a 10-week programme building up from walking and running to doing more running than walking. “It was great and I followed it as far as I could,” Wo says, “but in my training I never got to make the transition to run more than walk. I did my routes around the town on flat ground as hills really put me off. My husband worked out a 3-mile route for me, which I probably should have done more than I did, but I injured my foot.”

Training hurdles

Beset with freaky weather and a foot problem, Wo’s training hit some hurdles along the way. She admits it wasn’t something she enjoyed, but every time she got back from a training session she had a real sense of achievement. “Sometimes I really had to make myself do it,” she admits, “especially with the wet and windy weather we were having here.” And what about the foot injury? “Four weeks ago, I got this pain in my foot and although I rested it, it didn’t get better. I decided to run through the injury as I was determined to do the race. Obviously, this didn’t help the injury, so it remained painful, but now I have done the race, I’m off to the doctor to sort it out.”

Despite these problems, there was a strong motivation to keep going. “I would have felt guilty if I hadn’t shown improvement from going from no running at all to actually doing the 5km. Plus, I had my daughter asking me about it and she probably would have told me off for missing sessions!”

Being a smoker and a drinker, Wo knew that being made to do exercise would do her good.  She explains: “I always knew it would be good for me; that it would get my lungs working. And it did. It made me realise I really should give up smoking again (She gave up for 10 years 15 years ago and started again five years ago) Although I didn’t weigh myself, I noticed I was losing fat. People commented that I looked slimmer and had lost weight. I noticed it the most around my hips and waist.”

Before the event, Wo also invested in some capri running pants. “I had been training in my daughter’s old PE jogging bottoms and she’s now thirty, so I didn’t want to look shabby on the day! Wearing the proper gear made me feel the part,” Wo says.

Race day nerves

“I actually started to get nervous the evening before the race and I was very quiet at dinner. I don’t speak when I’m nervous. I felt the same the next morning, so while Laura was being excited, I was a bit worried about my foot and that I was going to let people down by looking like a plonker.” However, these worries were dispelled when they got to the event itself. “I saw all those women in pink and who they were running for and I got emotional thinking of the people I had lost; my parents, my brother. St the start of the race I had a few tears. It was amazing to see so many women all running for the same cause; ranging from the old and unfit to the young, children even. We were a very diverse bunch and that made me less nervous.”

Before crossing the starting line Wo took part in the warm up and absorbed the atmosphere: “We danced a bit and took photos, although I thought that jigging around before the race was taking up energy I would need later on!”

Wo continues: “As we got nearer to the start I was just thinking about my foot and if I was going to make it to the end. I really wanted to run more than walk as in training I had only walked for one and a half minutes and ran for one and a half minutes alternating. I really wanted to increase that and have enough energy to cross the finish line.”

The 5km route took the women in pink through Cambridge city centre and its cobbled narrow streets to King’s College’s beautiful grounds along the river and ended up at Jesus Green. There was support along the streets all the way, even from shop workers clapping in their windows. “Considering it went right through the centre, no one got in your way and it was a very pretty route. The atmosphere was great, very jolly and everyone was buzzing. There were lots of turns and twists along the way to keep it interesting and we never got bored,” says Wo.

The right pace

At the start line, the women divided themselves into runners, who set off first, followed by joggers and then the walkers. Wo was in the middle section and enjoyed the slow start as it meant she could set a pace to stick to. She explains: “As it was so narrow at the start, we could only go slowly and try to overtake people. I started running at a slow pace and I could keep that pace up. I could even have a couple of conversations, which has never happened before! Laura kept asking if I was OK, but I was because it was a good pace and I felt good. She stayed level or behind me and didn’t push the pace which would have put me out of my comfort zone as far as the running was concerned. This way I wasn’t anxious and could just surprise myself by continuing to run!”

There were many highlights of the race for Wo, but one was definitely the fact she ran the whole way. “I never thought in a million years I would be able to do that. I was also happy I got round and m foot held out. I felt better than had in any of my training sessions and my breathing was really good. It just shows what you can do with adrenalin running through you and the thoughts of loved ones in your mind. You think I am going to do this… And you do.

I finished holding my daughter’s hand in the air, with an announcement for us over the speaker and it felt absolutely great. It was the most exhilarating sense of achievement I’ve had since I did a sky dive some years ago. I was really proud of myself and hoped others were too, as I didn’t think I would run the whole thing. It was great to see so many others finishing and being proud of their achievements as well.” Afterwards, Wo and her family celebrated at a local pub with another friend who had ran it. Although the adrenalin was still going, she managed to toast her success with some cider and roast beef.

Achieving the impossible

Wo has taken a lot from doing the race; from the support she received from her husband and daughter during her training to the seemingly impossibility of running nonstop actually happening. She says, “I would definitely do another one as now I have the confidence to know I can do it. Throughout the training I learnt that I could improve my fitness and I am pleased with my recovery rate.

I have also learnt that what seems impossible can be achieved and you should have belief in your capabilities because if you put your mind to it, you can do it. It is very much a mind over matter thing. I learnt through the training that you have to accept that you have to build up to results; you’re not going to get something straight away. Usually I would give up if I don’t see progress quickly. But I did see it over 10 weeks so, you have to have the patience to see it through and not give up.”

Wo sees exercise becoming a part of her life. Quite simply she states: “I really want to keep it up and continue to improve. I think the health benefits will greatly enhance my life.” And her advice for other older runners seeking their first 5km? “Get a good beginner’s programme and stick to it. Even if you feel you want to go harder, don’t, because I think injuries will set in and it’s best to establish a fitness level beforehand. It’s good to push yourself, but not overdo it. And the results do come, just not as quickly as you might expect.

It was a great experience and thank you very much to my daughter for making me do it, because I wouldn’t have done it in a million years, as you well know!”

From M&M Running Club to all the women running the race for life: CONGRATULATIONS! Wo raised money for Cancer Research UK to fund their pioneering work into cancer causes, diagnosis and cures. To sponsor or donate please visit:

A change of scenery (and changing weather!)

I’m in Norfolk for the weekend leading up to Sunday’s 5km Race for Life in Cambridge. I’m running it with my mum, Wo, who I signed up without telling her (she hadn’t run properly in about 20 years, read here: After arriving from London yesterday, I headed straight out to run. I hadn’t run during the week, choosing instead to spend hours in my garden digging, cutting, mowing, sweeping, planting, tidying and weeding. I found muscles I never even knew existed (even during Cruce de los Andes!) so expect another post on the cross training benefits of gardening!

Anyway, I ran a route I often do when here, which takes me along country tracks and lanes followed by the Hunstanton cliffs and prom and then up the hill back to my parents’ house. Yesterday, it was incredible, in the sense that I was battling with a wind I hadn’t seen since camping in Patagonia. People were still braving a promenade stroll, although no one was walking in my direction. They all looked at me with puzzled expressions: Why are you going that way?!

This morning I decided to head out and do the same circuit, but the other way round. I enjoyed the first downhill, even with the wind in my face, and then the lovely tail-gust as I ran along the sea front. But I wasn’t prepared for the dark clouds to suddenly descend and explode in hail. Yes, hail. In June. People ran off the beach to shelter under the pier. I battled on to more strange looks, feeling strange again myself. What weather jinx did I have with my home town? The five-minute hail storm battered my back until it passed as quickly as it came and the sun poked out again. Phew.

So, the lesson I have learnt from my recent Norfolk running is that tomorrow we should be prepared for anything: rain, hail, rainbows, sun, wind, sleet. But we are looking forward to it, and even though she’s feeling “a bit nervous” Wo is also ready for the challenge and excitement that her first 5km has to offer. And we’re changing our running scenery again as we will pass through the colleges of Cambridge which are hopefully beautiful enough to distract Wo from the fact that she’s been running for the past three minutes and counting…


We are raising money for Cancer Research UK. To sponsor us visit us here Every penny helps. Thank you.



Training with Mother

My mum, who I secretly signed up for a 5km run on July 1st, got to the end of her first 5km this week. We were both very impressed and proud and I promised I would go running the same route with her again at the weekend.

We did it this afternoon under a grey Norfolk sky. There was some wind about, but nothing to knock us off the cliffs or make us feel like we were getting nowhere (which can happen in Hunstanton quite a lot). She was quite nervous beforehand. Maybe it was my professional-looking running attire. Maybe it was because she thought I would be a sergeant major barking at her the whole way. Or maybe it was lack of sleep the night before. Anyway, I tried to overcome this by giving her a ‘go faster’ headband. It worked.

Another thing I made sure to do was steal her stopwatch. Her training programme has had her doing two minutes powerwalking followed by a minute running. I decided to let her decide when to stop running or not and pretend she’d always been walking for two minutes. By doing so we knocked 50 seconds off her last time.

Taking the watch away meant that she ran further without the pressure to stop because she’d ‘done her minute’. She ended up running two minutes at a time three times and ran around one minute thirty all the other times. Running progress, I believe.

So, by doing this and other 5km routes to not get bored and sometimes throwing the stopwatch away she will feel her body, her momentum, her determination and, more importantly, her increasing fitness taking her forwards… and faster.

We finished with a ‘sprint finish’ and me providing an Olympics athletics commentary as we came down the home straight. I had been the only one to speak during the whole session as my mum was focusing on her breathing and running. Talking is very much a few big fitness steps down the line. As she said, “I’m not a very sociable runner right now. All I can do is nod!”

Well, I was happy running with her; talking random stuff and encouraging each running step. Because with each step we get closer to the goal in July and raising money for Cancer Research and their wonderful work.

To sponsor Wo in her endeavours please visit our Race For Life sponsorship page: Many thanks.

“I feel quite proud of myself”

I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that at the start of July my mum and I are running a Race for Life 5km run for Cancer Research UK.

As all my normal running routes are longer than 5km, and nothing can ever be as tough as Day 2 of Cruce, I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine. However, even though my mum is a qualified PE teacher and is well aware of the benefits of regular exercise, she probably hasn’t run 5km, or even 1km, in the last 20 years. But she’s going for it this year.

Last night she started her training with a 5km programme that came in the latest issue of Zest magazine. She did minutes on and off alternating between running and power walking and was even in the flow so much she did some minutes more than she was supposed to.

She called me afterwards full of the buzz of physical accomplishment and the power of endorphins. “I feel really quite proud of myself,” she told me. And so she should.

Running is too often associated with injuries, exhaustion, pain, boredom, loneliness and super athletes. I’ve written it before and I’ll do so again: just getting out there and doing what you can will have the same positive effects whether you run a mile in four minutes or fourteen minutes. And for people like my mum who are delving into the world of running after a rather long hiatus, there is every reason to feel proud of their efforts.

Running doesn’t have to be exhausting, painful, boring, lonely and just for running freaks. Run comfortably and walk if you have to. Listen to your body. Go on new routes and try beaches, country lanes, parks and new neighbourhoods to keep things fresh. And talk to others about it; share your new running experiences and set yourself goals. Because each step will take you there.

Trust me, you’ll start to feel more than just proud of yourself.

Going the distance

I did something rather cheeky this weekend. I signed my mum up for an event. This was our conversation:

“Hi Mum. Hahahahahaha.”

“What have you done?”

“Hahahaha. I’ve signed us up for something.”

“Oh no. What? I’m not climbing a volcano. What have you done?”

“It’s a Race for Life 5k for Cancer Research.”


“What do you think?”

“Well, um, right.”

“It’s only 5k.”

“You’re right. This is good. I can do this. You don’t have to run the whole thing, do you?”

“No. But we can run a bit.”

“Hmm, yeah ok. Powerwalk and run. I can do that.”

“That’s the spirit. Good-Oh. It’ll be fun.”

“Oh dear…”

So Wo (my mum) and I are going to do one of the Race for Life events in Cambridge on July 1st. This is a yearly event with lots of 5 and 10ks all over the country. It’s a women only event and very pink. I did a couple of their 10ks before leaving for South America. It’s really good fun; a whole host of women with stories and inspiration just looking to get to the finish line with a smile on their face.

I chose Cambridge as it’s between where my parents live in Norfolk and us in London. And we can celebrate by punting along the River Cam. And it means Wo can take advantage of training now the days are longer and warmer. It’s also something we can do together as part of Wedding Bootcamp – getting married at the end of the year will get the mother-of-the-bride into a pair of trainers.

So, as I was running around the squirrel woods yesterday I got to thinking about my summer running. Do I keep building up distance again? Or should I work on speed for a while? Or do a bit of both?

It is quite funny to think that my next ‘race’ is a 5k with my mother after the hours spent training and doing Cruce. Maybe I need something else in between to keep me going the distance.

But then, and I’ve written this here before, does it matter how far you go? Or just that you go? My mum is going a distance for a great cause. As a running buddy she’ll be very different from Maria, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be there every step of that way.

And however far it is.









We are raising money for Cancer Research UK.

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