The Bud­dies

Runner's World (UK) - - Runspiration -

Tam­syn Smith and Jeremy Watts ‘There was a 10K com­ing up in aid of a cancer char­ity and Jez said, “Why not do it? I’ll help you.”’ – Tam­syn

Since tak­ing up run­ning in 2010, Tam­syn Smith has com­pleted five marathons, started a run­ning group at work, qual­i­fied as a coach and launched an award-win­ning blog (fat­girl­toiron­man.co.uk). She’s also found a pow­er­ful an­ti­dote to the de­pres­sion she has bat­tled on and off since her teenage years. And she says it’s all down to the sup­port of her friend Jeremy Watts. ‘I’d been signed off work, so I was in the house all day and I’d started walk­ing, just to get out and about,’ says the 38-year-old, from Southamp­ton. ‘There was a lo­cal 10K com­ing up in aid of a cancer char­ity and Jez said, “Why not do it? I’ll help you.” He is a re­ally ex­pe­ri­enced and tal­ented run­ner, and it was his be­lief that I could do it that in­spired me to try.’

Jeremy, who has been run­ning since child­hood, was con­vinced that tak­ing up run­ning would have a pos­i­tive im­pact on his friend: ‘Tam­syn can be very hard on her­self,’ says the 43-year-old, who has known her and her hus­band, Stu­art, for 16 years. ‘I thought it would be good for her – build­ing con­fi­dence and get­ting those en­dor­phins flow­ing.’

The char­ity event held spe­cial res­o­nance for Tam­syn be­cause

her fa­ther had passed away from cancer a few years be­fore. Ini­tially, her aim was sim­ply to fin­ish the event and raise some money, but with Jez’s ‘firm but sup­port­ive’ train­ing and advice on ‘ev­ery­thing you don’t know as a novice – train­ers, nu­tri­tion, pac­ing’, she’d soon pledged to com­plete it with­out walk­ing.

‘Tam­syn worked won­ders to get into a po­si­tion to take on that run,’ says Jeremy. ‘It was the first time I’d ever run with a non-run­ner be­fore and it was so re­ward­ing. Tam­syn would be the first to say that she’s not a nat­u­ral ath­lete. It makes it all the more in­spir­ing to see what she’s achieved. She works harder than any­one else I know.’

Come race day, Jez was on the start line with her, bring­ing her home to an im­pres­sive sub-hour fin­ish. ‘I was in­cred­i­bly proud of her,’ he says.

The ex­pe­ri­ence in­stilled a deep love for run­ning and Tam­syn was soon clock­ing up the miles and turn­ing up reg­u­larly at the lo­cal Parkrun with Jez. ‘I couldn’t help notic­ing that I was run­ning quicker than some of the peo­ple there in club vests,’ she says. ‘I’d al­ways thought you had to be “good” to be in a run­ning club, but this gave me the con­fi­dence to look into join­ing one.’ When she set­tled on Lord­shill Road Run­ners, Jez signed up with her. ‘Thurs­days are the club’s so­cial runs and Jez would run at my pace so we could have a chat. He’s al­ways so sup­port­ive and happy to help oth­ers.’

Tam­syn has, in turn, done her share of in­spir­ing and sup­port­ing: she has en­cour­aged her hus­band to take up run­ning and triathlon, and has also be­come a coach for Lord­shill and set up an in­for­mal run­ning group at work. ‘Ini­tially, a lot of col­leagues said “I don’t run” or “I can’t run,” but telling them that I hadn’t thought of my­self as a run­ner be­fore Jez got me started re­ally helped.’ Many col­leagues ran their first 5K with Tam­syn and she helped one pre­pare for her first half marathon, even run­ning it along­side her. ‘I felt so proud of her,’ she says. Some of those who have left Tam­syn’s depart­ment in work still go to the ses­sions and have en­cour­aged their new col­leagues to get in­volved. ‘There’s a real rip­ple ef­fect,’ says Tam­syn.

While Tam­syn – who is now ex­pect­ing her first baby – hasn’t quite caught Jez up in terms of speed (he’s run 35:20 for 10K and fre­quently wins his age cat­e­gory in races) she, Stu­art and Jez of­ten lift-share to races and swap notes af­ter­wards. ‘I prob­a­bly see more of them through run­ning, rac­ing and Parkruns now than through so­cial­is­ing,’ says Jez. ‘It keeps us all to­gether.’

‘I’m so grate­ful for Jez’s sup­port,’ adds Tam­syn. ‘If I hadn’t done that first 10K I'd never be do­ing the things I’m do­ing now.’

SUP­PORT SYS­TEM Tam­syn and Jeremy: an in­spir­ing sight

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