Spotlight on: Helen Bell

March member of the month Helen Bell regularly competes in club relay events and has had some great runs recently, including her first ultra at the Bridges of Boundaries Ultra. She helped the V50 team to a 4th place finish at the Good Friday relays and to top off her Easter weekend she ran a PB at the North Tyneside 10K. Find out more about Helen and what she has been up to below.

Helen: I spent the first part of the year training for the Bridges to Boundaries Ultra (my first Ultra). Since then I’ve run a couple of club relays, done the North Tyneside and Clive Cookson 10k runs and earlier this month finished a holiday in Scotland by running the Isle of Skye Half Marathon.

Helen after finishing the North Tyneside 10K

What is your ideal pre-race snack/breakfast?

Porridge with banana. 

What is your ideal post-race snack/meal?

Cake after cross country. Particularly, one of Morag’s tray bakes! 

Are you a hot or cold weather runner?

Definitely cold.

Flat course or hills

Completely flat is a bit boring so I prefer a few hills. I love Jesmond Dene Parkrun but the big hill up to Paddy Freeman’s Park never gets any easier.

Long or short distance? 

Half marathons are my favourite distance.

How many times a week do you tend to exercise, are there other things you do which really help.

Ideally, the plan is to run 4 times a week – Tuesday and Thursday at club, parkrun on a Saturday and a longer run on Sunday, depending on what I’m training for, but it doesn’t often work out like that. I cycle to work 3 or 4 times a week (it’s just 4 miles each way). I also try and do lunchtime Pilates at work twice a week (meetings permitting) and do some strength and conditioning exercises at home.

What is your favourite song to listen to while running? 

Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a Prayer. It was a favourite among my group of University friends and it always gives me a boost, and makes me smile, when it comes on my playlist.

What is the main piece of kit you couldn’t do without?

Gloves in winter because I get really cold hands (although I’m very good at losing them!)

What has been the most surprising thing you have found since you started running?

How much I love parkrun – I was a bit of a late starter with parkrun but once I’d done one, I was hooked (although I’m too lazy to do much parkrun tourism – I usually just go to Jesmond Dene, as I can get to the start in 7 minutes from my house, or Rising Sun if I want to make it part of a longer run.)

Helen Bell running Jesmond Dene parkrun

What is your proudest running achievement? 

Can I cheat and give three? I did the Edinburgh Marathon in 2019, which I trained really hard for. It was such a good day and I was really pleased with my time. Getting my parkrun PB under 25 mins last summer (just once at Blyth) and doing the Bridge to Boundaries Ultra in March (which I nearly wimped out of and only decided I was definitely going to give it a go a couple of days before.) I thoroughly enjoyed it but don’t think I’ve ever been so tired.

What is your happiest running memory? 

My family aren’t really runners but five years ago, to celebrate my 50th birthday, my husband and two sons did parkrun with me, which was a lovely birthday present.

What is your favourite running event and why? 

The Anita Nott women’s only 5k in Jesmond Dene. As well as being almost on my doorstep, it has a lovely atmosphere (not to mention picnicking in the park afterwards…) I also really enjoyed this year’s North Tyneside 10k because there were so many TBH runners.

What is your biggest challenge to running and training and how do you try to overcome this?

Trying to keep middle-aged legs moving and injury free. Strength and conditioning exercises and sports massage really help. (Thank you Jon at Endurance Academy and Sophie Marr Physiotherapy.)

What is your main training goal at the moment

Now that the Ultra and Skye Half are out of the way, I want to improve my Jesmond Dene Parkrun PB by 6 seconds. This isn’t quite as random as it sounds. It stems from an ‘interesting’ discussion, over drinks, in the Bell house on Christmas Eve, when after I tried to encourage the rest of my family to join me on a festive Christmas Day parkrun, my two sons (who like nothing better than to wind up their mother) gave their reasons for not running as, “I can walk faster than Mum can run” and “Mum runs like a penguin.” However, after I pointed out that my Jesmond Dene PB (which I did last year) was only 5 seconds slower than the one time my elder son did run Jesmond Dene Parkrun (when he was 20), he realised he was on rather shaky ground and said that if I beat his time, he would have to run it again. My younger son said he would also run Jesmond Dene Parkrun if I beat his brother’s time – so the challenge is on!

What are your favourite things about being a member of TBH? 

I love how inclusive it is and how friendly and supportive everyone is. It took me a long time to join a running club because I thought they were just for speedy runners. It’s great meeting up with other TBH runners before, and after races, and at parkrun. Relays and cross-country are also a lot of fun.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting running?

You never regret going for a run!

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    • Annette on 16th June 2024 at 20:49
    • Reply

    Brilliant Helen! You’re always such a strong and steady runner and it’s paid off in all your recent success. Well done!

    • Ross on 20th June 2024 at 16:59
    • Reply

    Always great seeing you out running Helen, anytime you want pacing around Jesmond Dene let use know! We’ll make sure you get your PB!

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