Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary
Becci Holdaway, 34, from Eastbourne, works as a sister at Eastbourne’s District General Hospital’s (DGH) A&E. She’s also a mum of two boys, and runner racking up ‘Buggy Miles‘ and has ambitions to run a sub-three hour marathon.
‘Running is a time when I’m not a mum, a partner, nurse – it’s time for not thinking, it’s my relaxation. Now that I have a one-year old I’m really enjoying clocking up Buggy Miles.
‘I haven’t always been a runner, my passion was dance, and as a child I danced with the Royal Ballet and then went on to the Sylvia Young theatre school. But my dad was a runner, and I had happy memories of going to watch him at the London Marathon, then the Mars London Marathon.
‘By the age of 18 dance was coming to an end and I started to run on the treadmill, building up to running 30 minutes non-stop. I then joined Crowborough Running Club and took part in the Brighton 10K, running 48 minutes without too much difficulty.
The marathon journey starts
‘I had my first child, Joshua in 2008 and in 2009. Now settled in a new job at DGH, I was running regularly and in 2009, aged, 26, I took on my first marathon on the lapped (and slightly dull) course at Luton. I had a goal to run sub 3.30 so I felt gutted when I ran 3.31. But disappointment didn’t last long and just five months later in 2010, I ran 3.21 at London. The next goal, was sub 3.15 and by 2013 I’d run 3.16.
‘After this attempt life got busy with a master’s degree, and then I went through divorce in 2013. There was one night when I put on my wedding dress and got smashed, but I didn’t let it drag me down for too long and running helped to get me back on track, and I focussed my energy on my next marathon in Poland. Finally, in September 2014, I achieved my sub 3.15 goal, running 3.08.
‘I had just met my partner Lee, and it was great to have someone to share my training life with. He took me up on to the South Downs to train on the hills, I’m a road runner and moaned a lot at first, but training off-road got me stronger.
‘Lee is a great runner, and swimmer and has kept fit all his life, but in December 2015, his life underwent a dramatic change when he had a heart attack at The Mince Pie 10 Mile race. He’d started to feel unwell in the race, but carried on running and still managed to gain fifth place and ran 10 miles off-road in 1.03. I came in seven minutes later and placed third woman. I knew he wasn’t right when I saw him. He’d spoken to first aiders who thought he’d over exerted himself, but I knew he needed emergency help. The paramedics took an ECG but didn’t know how to read it. Luckily, I had done a cardio course and was able to see that his result showed ST elevation. In layman’s terms, the main artery to Lee’s heart was totally blocked. When we got to the hospital I had hoped the cardiologist was going to tell me I’d misread the ECG – but I’d got it right. However, it was my quick actions and knowledge that saved Lee.
‘It was a life-changing event and just three months later when I found out I was pregnant with Ted, we both felt it was right. I felt determined to not let pregnancy stop me training and had set my goal of running Beachy Head Marathon once Ted, my baby, was born.
‘I ran all the way through my pregnancy and I’m sure it helped not just keep me in shape, but keep me in good spirits too. Just three weeks after the birth I started to run Buggy Miles with Ted. Often I’d go out after just two or three hours sleep, but a good strong coffee and getting my foot out the door was all it took and soon I was making progress.
‘When maternity leave finished, I went back to work three to four days a week after. Then I started to do some intervals by myself and kept the Buggy Miles easy, establishing a good aerobic base of fitness. In October 2017, just 11 months postpartum, I ran 3.43 at Beachy Head Marathon (a tough off-road marathon that includes the Seven Sisters’ cliffs), taking sixth female place, and having a really brilliant day from start to finish.
Taking Positive Action
‘I love running and I love Parkrun. Joshua, my (just) 10-year old son, has also go the bug and has just started doing Junior Parkrun. Running is also a great way to bring people together and raise money for charity and with this in mind, I decided to do something positive.
‘In 2017 three of my colleagues were diagnosed with terminal cancer and another young person I knew died at the end of 2017 in the care of the hospice. In A&E we’re like a family and we all wanted to feel we were doing something. As a regular parkrunner I decided it was time to take positive action and came up with the idea of an A&E parkrun takeover. We had #TeamA&E t-shirts made up and got everyone involved. Staff who’d never run before gave up smoking, got fit and got into running (and kept at it after). On the day (November 11 2017), we had: local radio; an ice cream van ; a mascot, ‘Wifie Bear’; sports massage; and hundreds of runners in #TeamA&E t-shirts. We managed to raise £6,000 for St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne and McMillan Cancer.
‘I have lots of running ambitions and want to get as fast as I can over the next two years, whilst still spending time with my boys. I’m very disciplined about my training, Lee might say I’m a bit OCD! I do three sessions of Buggy Miles every week, to build by baseline of fitness, and the rest of the time by myself I run faster threshold or interval sessions. I do shifts so have to take my running times and stick with them and I’m often out of bed at 530am, and after a caffeine shot I’m out the door. Lee is really supportive and he plans my training for me – and once he’s planned it, I do it. The goal is to run a sub 1.25 half marathon, and keep doing the Buggy Miles, and then when Ted starts school, I’ll revisit the marathon – I’d love to try for a sub-three hour marathon. I’m motivated by the push of a new goal, and I absolutely love running, so why not?’