18th July 2017
We love running stories because nobody ever really sets out to run an ultra-marathon. What starts as an attempt to lose weight and run a 10K is usually just that – yet so often becomes much more. And Jo Sacks is a perfect example of someone who got well and truly bitten by the running bug and has seen it take her places she never thought she would go.
The mum and part-time GP from Rutland has recently completed the 53-mile Race to the King, five years after she first started running in order to lose weight and get fit. The epic race along the South Downs Way was justifiably her biggest and proudest achievement to date, and one which she never dreamed of completing when she first laced up her running shoes.
“I knew I needed to do something and so I joined a gym,” Jo recalls of her decision to get started. “I suddenly realised I didn’t need to be running indoors on the treadmill when I had miles of beautiful countryside around me to run in! So I started gently and built up to my first 10K, exactly five years ago this July. It was raining sideways and the weather was hideous – I absolutely loved it.”
Motivated to keep going, Jo continued to train, all the time feeling the benefits of her running, and in November 2015 she found herself on the start line of the New York Marathon. This was a real eye-opener for her – joining 50,000 runners to celebrate running in one of the world’s most iconic cities and experiencing the immense pride of wearing her hard-earned medal. Jo returned to run New York again in 2016, and then won herself a place at the OPAP Limassol Marathon GSO in March 2017!
“Limassol was so much fun,” enthuses Jo, who ran her marathon PB on the flat, fast and straight course of Limassol’s spectacular coast road. She joined a team from the UK that included well-known runners Susie Chan, Paul Addicott and Lee Kemp amongst others.
“It was incredibly welcoming and friendly, and all the team were fantastic! What really struck me was how well looked after those at the back of the field were, as well as those at the front – it was really well supported and inclusive of everyone, no matter their ability. The organisers obviously really want you to be there and they go all out to ensure you have the best race experience, which is amazing. Pre-race too, they are right on it, replying instantly on social media and making arrangements for runners arriving from abroad – nothing is too much trouble and it’s clear they really care.”
Although Jo would go back to Limassol like a shot, she admits that her husband’s Ironman commitments in the US may mean she doesn’t make the 2018 event. Her 10-year-old son is showing a similar flair for triathlon at the village Tri Club and they are all enjoying motivating each other to achieve bigger and better things.
As for what’s on the cards for Jo, she calculates that the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon is next, in 12 weeks, and so she had better get training. “Just ‘York’ instead of ‘New York’ this year,” she laughs, “but I can’t wait.” For Jo it is all about participation, and this self-confessed “slow runner” is loving soaking up the atmosphere of events and really feeling part of the running community.
“There is so much support from the running community, it’s incredible,” confirms Jo. “It doesn’t matter what ability you are, people just want you to do well and are right behind you achieving your goals.”
Meanwhile, in between events, Jo likes the solitude of running with her backpack on, sandwiches in her bag, and enjoying the head space that running allows.
“If I can lose four stone through running and doing something positive for myself, then anyone can. It is hard, I won’t deny that – and you don’t necessarily enjoy the first few miles when you’re starting out – but the support and sense of achievement far outweigh the struggles. Plus you’ve got the mental benefits – I’m a much nicer person when I get home from a run!”
So from 10K to an ultra-marathon it was, and Jo pops in a fleeting mention of Equinox24, the 24-hour mixed terrain race, before we finish, leaving me certain that great things do indeed come from small beginnings. For anyone wondering whether to do something positive for themselves, be it running or any other activity, Jo is a great example to just go for it and enjoy the ride. Good luck with your running adventures, Jo, and thanks for the inspiration!