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10 Kilometers
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Marathon
  • You can produce your best times in your 50s

  • Running can help your mental health

  • Don’t be afraid of setting big challenges

  • Anyone can run a marathon

  • Do your training runs on similar terrain to the race

Steve Uzzell

Written by Simon Linklater

Posted on the 29th August 2018

I’m guilty of taking things for granted. A warm shower, food in my fridge, a comfy bed to sleep in each night…..the list goes on. I’m also guilty of taking people for granted. I get so caught up in my own life that I often ignore others or don’t appreciate just how awesome they are.

Are you guilty of this?

It was when I was interviewing Hastings Runners legend Steve Uzzell, that this dawned on me. I’d taken Steve for granted. What he does for the club and helping fellow runners is amazing. I’d never really got to know him as a person but instead just got used to him being there on time, a smile on his face and a spring in his step, to coach yet another club run. All this at the tender age of 72.

Steve’s love affair with running started back in 1985 and coincided with the first ever staging of the Hastings Half Marathon. He rallied together a team from his workplace, consisting of 8 runners to tackle the 13.1 miles. New to running, they did little training and actually ran the race in tracksuit bottoms and sweatshirts. Really? I thought. That can’t be true? It is, Steve showed me the photos.

Steve still completed the course in a respectful time of 2 hours and 19 minutes. Whilst enjoying a post race pint and cigar he recalls saying to his friends “that wasn’t too bad, shall we do it again next year?”

Steve turned 40 just prior to completing his 3rd Hastings Half Marathon. He now had his time down to 2:08. It was a bittersweet year with the passing of his father to cancer just 6 months previously. He recalls fond memories of racing his dad up the hill when he came home from work and it wasn’t until he was 12 that he finally got the better of him.

There was good news too as Steve became a grandfather for the first time when his daughter gave birth to Stephanie, and yes, she was named after him.

It was around the same time Steve took the all important decision to quit smoking, back then he was on 10 cigars a day. He also set himself the target of breaking 2 hours for a half marathon which he managed just a matter of months later in Canterbury.

By now Steve was hooked and he was an early member of Hastings Runners, joining the club back in May 1987. A few years later he opened up his own running shop in the town named “Striders”. But problems at home were taking their toll and when his 2nd marriage broke up, he had no option but to declare himself bankrupt and the shop was forced to close.

Steve did a series of different jobs, from a driver, to repping, to factory work. At one stage he needed to take a 2nd part time job just to pay the bills. Now into his early 50s it was the decision to give up this 2nd job that pay dividends for his running.

One year stands out among them all.

It was his best year by far.

Running acted as a great distraction from his financial problems. He ran one of his quickest ever Hastings Half Marathons in a superb time of 1:33:58. The same year he completed the London Marathon in 3 hours and 41 minutes. A time he bettered by 30 seconds, 12 months later, and it still stands as his PB over 26.2 miles.

He broke the Top 100 in the Beachy Head Marathon and had he not fallen over coming down the last hill and misjudged the time on his watch, he would have gone sub 4 hours there too.

The achievements kept on coming. He smashed the Grijsloke 7k in 26.47, ran the Woodchurch 10 mile in 66.40, Brighton 10k in an amazing 39.26 and also came 4th in The Hastings to Rye in 1.42.51.

Steve is able to look back at all these achievements with great pride, especially as it wasn’t until his early 50s that he produced such impressive results.

However it wasn’t too long before running became difficult again. Steve took up a new career as a teacher. He’d worked hard to get his qualifications and find a job, but the hours and the planning took their toll. He’d often get home from work and quickly fall asleep on the sofa. He found himself marshalling a lot, rather than actually running in races.

It was during this spell that one day driving to work he got chest pains. He quickly got advice from his doctor and it was prescribed as being Clinical Depression. The stress from his work and the lack of running had clearly played a big part in this illness and Steve was advised to take time off. In the end he opted for early retirement at the age of 60, on medical advice. This once again gave him more free time which he put to good use as he began coaching again with Hastings Runners.

It was obvious he couldn’t run the times he used to, but he was still loving his running, until he suffered a serious knee injury. It took 6 months just to have a scan to diagnose the injury and the news was that he “Might never run again”. Left with little choice he underwent keyhole surgery. It did mean a prolonged period on the sidelines, but he recovered well and was soon back doing what he does best, inspiring other runners.

A few years on and Steve set out on his biggest running challenge ever. On the 16th July 2014, now 67 years old, Steve decided to tackle 80 miles across the South Downs Way to raise money for Alzheimer’s uk.

With the support of his friends from Hastings Runners, who between them would join Steve for parts of the course, he completed the challenging route in 22 hours and 40 minutes. In total Steve raised over £2500 for the charity. Amazing!

Steve has continued his coaching with Hastings Runners, which he has now been doing for over 20 years and has been an integral part of the club. He’s set up his own little group to help train many first timers for the Beachy Head Marathon. This involves lots of gruelling miles in the summer heat across undulating routes and often up to around the 20 mile mark.

Just this week Steve has taken two separate groups on long runs in preparation for the 2019 Beachy Head Marathon. A 10 mile run on Sunday, followed by an 18 mile run on Tuesday morning. Often you hear members of the group moaning about the hills, the heat or the distance. Not Steve. He continues to encourage his pupils and run with a smile on his face, even when he gets tangled up in wire trying to jump over a fence. Oops

Steve loves it though. He gets great satisfaction from helping them achieve their goals. New runners join the group each year and he’ll often drop back during the race to help those that are struggling the most.

The group appreciate Steve’s efforts and took him out for dinner and paid for his entry into the race which. A lovely gesture and fully appreciated.

Just this weekend Steve entered his group as a team into a 24 hour relay Challenge. Not only did Steve run 3 legs himself but he was trackside for the whole 24 hours offering his team support. That just sums up his legendary status. Who needs sleep? Right Steve!

Steve has one tattoo, that of a Phoenix. It’s the symbol of his home town of Cirencester but symbolises his outlook on life.

“Sometimes you crash, you burn, but then you rise up again, just like the Phoenix”.

As the years pass, there appears to be no slowing him down. As individuals I think it’s important we stop once in a while to appreciate the efforts of runners like Steve. What they give back to the running community, the fact they always turn up with a smile and a positive attitude when the truth is things may not be what they seem.

So if you run with Steve or you have similar individuals in your club or community, stop to ask how they are doing, get to know them a little better and please, please, please, show your appreciation with a little thank you after each run.

I’m just delighted to have had the chance to meet Steve, learn more about his running achievements and his life journey. I will never take him for granted again. He’s certainly inspired me to go forward in my own life and try to help others with their running.

Don’t go through life taking people or things for granted. They are more amazing than you realise.

Be Like Steve

#BeARunnur

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