Runner of the Month September 2022: Gemma Luckett

How long have you been running: Who knows!
Favourite race: Cardiff Half Marathon
Favourite distance: Half Marathon
Greatest achievement: I was the 100th female over the finish line out of 9324 at Cardiff Half in 2018. This was my first half marathon and I finished in 1 hour and 32 minutes. Still a PB.

I used to run as a sprinter when I was younger with Coventry Godiva Harriers, but honestly had very little interest in running anything beyond 100 meters! I was naturally a quick sprinter so often qualified for regional races but often ditched training and opted to spend more time playing football for my local team.

It wasn’t until my early 20s that my husband decided to take an interest in the local Black Park Parkrun where we were living at the time. I had never heard of Parkrun or run anything beyond a sprint before, but eventually, he convinced me to give it a go. I struggled as if I was competing in the Barkley Marathon, and then my competitive side kicked and I was determined to return and beat my husband. At first, I found going on a run extremely tough. I had to stop loads to catch my breath, I got frustrated that my husband was able to do it so easily and I’m not sure I enjoyed any of it. I never would have known how much the running bug would grip me and become such a natural part of my life in the early days.

For the first few years, I had no interest in competing in anything beyond an occasional Parkrun. I enjoyed heading out on a run with my audiobook but didn’t see myself wanting to put that effort into anything organised. Just as easily as it started, running was then put to the back of my mind as we made the decision to travel the world for 5 months. We had an amazing time, in Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Thailand. With limited space in our backpacks, there was no room for a running kit and so I parked it for the short term until I landed my job at the BBC and settled down into life in Cardiff.

CDF wasn’t the first club I went to when moving to Cardiff, I actually decided to run with Les Croupiers for a while and was convinced by fellow runners to give a half marathon a go – despite the fact that I had never competed in anything bigger than Parkrun. I smashed it! I was the 100th female over the finish line out of 9,324 in 1 hour and 32 minutes. After this, I ran a few half marathons until I was injured and mostly reduced my time running to accommodate this.

Finally, after moving offices I made the decision that I would like to move clubs, and as my husband had once run with the Nike Club when he was a student, he made the suggestion to give CDF a go. I joined the club in January 2020 and had a wonderful welcoming few months before the dreaded Covid lockdown happened and I had to take a break from the club and compete in races. During the few years of lockdown, the club was brilliant for keeping me energised and I loved the times between lockdowns when I was able to join sessions and really get to know some of the other club runners.

It was just before the Christmas lockdown of 2020 that I found out I was pregnant and managed to get a last Wednesday speedy run in before the sessions were cancelled and my morning sickness made it impossible to run. This was really difficult for me because I had wanted to remain fit and active throughout the pregnancy but I had to take a short break until this subsided and I was able to do it without hurling my guts up! I loved running through pregnancy. It wasn’t always easy as Rory was a big boy bouncing around in my belly, but it allowed me to feel like I could do anything. A feeling you really need when you are soon to give birth! I listened to my body and made sure to only run when I wanted to and with no races on the calendar due to covid, I didn’t feel any pressure to do any specific distance or training. I stopped running 4 weeks before my due date as the time just felt right, and was gutted that Parkrun resumed 2 weeks before I was due. I really wanted to be running on the first Parkrun since Covid, but I knew it wasn’t meant to be.

And then Rory arrived and running was truly put on hold. I tried to start running 6 weeks postpartum and it really didn’t feel right, so I left it a little longer and started with a few kilometres just looping the estate I lived on. Rory was a really difficult baby and it made it hard for me to find time to run and to feel comfortable going much further than the streets around our house. I would squeeze in a quick 3k here and there but truly I wasn’t going to start getting back into it until months later, when we had a running pram and the Cardiff Half I had signed up for in 2019 was only a few months away.

We started to do the occasional run with the pram, and I began attending club runs once again. It was difficult and still is really difficult to find the time and energy to run when you have a little one who demands so much of you. For me, running is something I choose to do for my wellbeing and mental health, so I had to make it a priority ahead of anything else. We have no family nearby and Rory isn’t keen on being in the pram for too long so it is a constant juggling act between us to find time between myself and my husband to exercise, and we sacrifice other things we enjoy to keep it up. Now Rory is in nursery and I am back at work full time, we have a whole new set of obstacles to stop us, but for me, the Monday night club run is a weekly must to have a chat and spend some time being just me. It really felt like the club welcomed me back with open arms, and challenged me to push myself and get some great times in the Cardiff Half (1 hour 42 at 7 months postpartum and 1 week post covid) and Swansea Half (1 hour 35 at 10 months postpartum) this year. I love that I don’t feel pressures to attend every week but that there is someone always happy to run and chat with me when I do.