Spotlight on: Charlotte Simpson

How long have you been running? 
Since 2018. I joined CDF’s Couch to 5K programme as a complete beginner and I’ve been running ever since!
Do you have a favourite race? 
I haven’t done many races but the Cardiff Half will always be important to me as it was the first big race I did.
Do you have a favourite distance to run? Half marathon. That distance is a challenge and finishing always feels like a huge achievement. 
What’s your greatest achievement? Despite having done races and long distances the thing I’m still most proud of is completing the Couch to 5k programme

I still find it hard to believe that I’m a runner and that running is so important in my life. In 2018, I happened to see an ad for the Couch to 5K programme and thought “If my trainers are still at the back of the wardrobe I’ll give it a go”. My trainers were there, so I signed up!

9 absolute queens including Charlotte lined up for a photo under the famous Grangemoor parkrun flyover having just completed their final Couch to 5k run.

I had a couple of motivators for joining the programme. In 2016, I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer at the age of 41. A couple of weeks after diagnosis my partner and I moved from London to Cardiff. Unfortunately the first new year or so of our new life was focused on my treatment and recovery and I was working at home during that time so wasn’t meeting people and felt very isolated. I’d put off trying to do exercise even though I knew it was an important part of recovery, so starting to run alongside other beginners seemed like a good way to socialise and improve my fitness. 

My aim for C25k was to run all of the running parts of the programme without giving up. And I did that, which felt amazing. The support of the volunteers and my fellow newbies was what helped me complete the programme. I was incredibly slow but never made to feel that I wasn’t good enough. I really enjoyed running and being outdoors and after the programme started to go to CDF Monday night sessions and the occasional parkrun. But then my default setting of ‘can’t be arsed’ kicked in and I ran less and less, even though I knew I liked doing it and it was good for me in lots of ways.

Charlotte and Ruth in ludicrously pink Cardiff half tshirts and medal arm in arm looking very proud.

In 2021 I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer and had a hysterectomy, which meant I couldn’t work or do anything for 2 months. That gave me plenty of time to think. Having two cancers by the age of 46 isn’t great and I realised that I needed to start looking after myself a bit better. Also that time off increased my feelings of isolation. I knew that there were people at CDF that I liked and who could be potential friends but getting to know people needed commitment and consistency, like running. 

At the start of 2022 I properly committed to running and it’s been one of the best decisions of my life. Those potential friends have become friends, and other new running friends have appeared. I’ve overcome a lot anxiety about being a fat slow runner and have done races, which I never expected to do. I’ve run half marathons, I’ve done trail running, I’ve beaten my personal bests. Family and friends still seem astonished that I’ve become a runner and so am I, to be honest.

Running has become absolutely essential to my emotional wellbeing and I love it.

Side view of Charlotte running on a tarmac path with grass behind, looking resplendent in her black DF tshirt.

I can’t talk about running without saying thank you to CDF Runners. Being slow and at the back in sessions and races can be disheartening but my clubmates are always supportive and encourage me to keep going and to challenge myself. I recently ran the Newport Half Marathon, the first half I’ve run without friends alongside me which felt a bit daunting. I had run past CDFers who were out supporting along the course but didn’t expect to see anyone at the end because it would take me much longer to finish than anyone else. So when I was on the home straight and the support crew were there cheering me I was so surprised and got such a boost. I had a little cry as I crossed the finish line because it was just so lovely that they’d waited for me and I’m lucky to have running in my life. That’s what I love about this club. 

2024 is supposed to be a big running year for me. I’m going to run my first ultra in April 2025 so this year was meant to be about building distance and strength and learning to eat those disgusting gels. At the moment I’m injured and my plans have quite a set back. But I’m determined to do that ultra if I’m able, even if I walk more than I run. Giving it a go is what matters, and I know I’ll have my clubmates supporting me as I try to get to the start line.

A selfie from Charlotte holding up a chonky Cardiff half medal from 2023. She looks knackered, but in a good way.