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.’