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Run Anglia: GYDAC member Pat Brightman is making the most of her fresh start

Pat Brightman in action at the Manchester Marathon in 2017. Picture: Manchester Marathon

Pat Brightman in action at the Manchester Marathon in 2017. Picture: Manchester Marathon

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Running has been with Pat Brightman through the good times and the bad over the past 12 months as she explains to Run Anglia editor Mark Armstrong

Pat Brightman dressed as a joker at the London Marathon. Picture: Pat BrightmanPat Brightman dressed as a joker at the London Marathon. Picture: Pat Brightman

If you scroll through the EDP’s picture archives of local races then it’s only a matter of time before you come across a picture of Pat Brightman.

She’s likely to be smiling, probably waving…she might even be in fancy dress.

Every road runner is familiar with her – it’s an understatement to say the Great Yarmouth & District Club (GYDAC) member is a big personality on the local running scene.

But there’s a lot less of her nowadays.

Pat Brightman putting in the effort at the Manchester Marathon last year. Picture: Manchester MarathonPat Brightman putting in the effort at the Manchester Marathon last year. Picture: Manchester Marathon

After struggling with her weight, Pat decided to use the year of her 65th birthday for a fresh start. Twelve months later, and three stone lighter, the smile is still there in every photo but she is no longer finishing at the back of pack.

“To now finish a race and have 100 finishers behind me still feels quite alien to me,” said Pat, who lives in Ormesby St Broad. “My times have come back down to what they were 20 years ago.

MORE: Plan your 2018 race diary here

“I had a 65th birthday in May and every year I said I would run the London Marathon and be at a certain weight but I never got there. It’s just too easy to slip back.

“But in January last year I made a decision that I was going to lose weight and my husband (John) would have to support me – and he did – and the weight came off…and it stayed off.”

Pat Brightman in action at the Wymondham 20 last year. Picture: Pat BrightmanPat Brightman in action at the Wymondham 20 last year. Picture: Pat Brightman

The adage goes that behind every great man is a great woman and the reverse can also be true.

Whilst not being a runner himself, John supported Pat in all of her travails, which includes running in 23 London Marathons… so far.

Perhaps most notably though he helped her in the setting up GYDAC’s Humpty Dumpty 10K and the Freethorpe 10 – two races that have become staples of the Norfolk race calendar.

“It was his idea to do the races – when we were at work we used to pay for the club to do the Round Norfolk Relay,” said Pat, who used to run holiday parks in the area alongside her husband. “It costs £1,000 per team and we didn’t want to take the funds away from the kids at the GYDAC so we supported it from work.

Freethorpe 10 race director Pat Brightman with race winners Alan Darby and Dani Nimmock alongside Sportlink owner Neil Featherby. Picture: Pat BrightmanFreethorpe 10 race director Pat Brightman with race winners Alan Darby and Dani Nimmock alongside Sportlink owner Neil Featherby. Picture: Pat Brightman

“When we sold up and retired he had this inspiration to say ‘let’s run a 10k race’ – that was the Humpty Dumpty.

“He thought it was a good idea to keep me out of mischief. I’d never organised a race before but I had ideas of what you should do.

“We wanted to find a course away from Great Yarmouth so we didn’t tread on Yarmouth Road Runners’ toes.

“That proved a success and then John said ‘I’m sure we can fit a 10-miler out there’ – so we managed to fit a 10-miler in that fitted in really well with marathon training.

Pat Brightman after the Moonwalk, a nocturnal event to raise money for Walk the Walk. Picture: Pat BrightmanPat Brightman after the Moonwalk, a nocturnal event to raise money for Walk the Walk. Picture: Pat Brightman

“There wasn’t really anything else in January and I think that’s why the Freethorpe 10 is so popular.”

MORE: Don’t let big race rejection get you down, says Mark Armstrong

During those years of establishing the Humpty Dumpty 10K and Freethorpe, John was battling Parkinson’s, which he succumbed to at the end of last year.

It meant this year’s event at Freethorpe was particularly poignant for Pat as it was the first she had organised without John providing support in the proverbial back office.

Some might have stepped away, leaving the planning of such an event, and the responsibility it brings, to someone else…but that’s not Pat’s style.

“I knew it was going to be really hard – but I knew he’d look after me and it was so smooth this year – it was unbelievable,” she said.

“In previous years he would always be stuffing envelopes for me with race number etc – he couldn’t do a lot physically but he was always a great supporter of the events.”

Pat has used running as an avenue for her grief and after the success of the Freethorpe 10 she can now focus on getting her own times down in preparation for the Manchester Marathon before the London Marathon a couple of weeks later.

She will also be taking part in the Norwich Community Sports Foundation’s Coastal Walk Challenge in June – a 47-mile walk from Hunstanton to Cromer.

Don’t tell Pat that you’re supposed to start taking it easier once you start drawing your pension.

“I’ve got a lot more goals that I want to go for…and I know that John will be looking down on me whilst I do them,” added Pat, who is also a keen cyclist.

“I had a super season last year and I would really like to top that.”

Whatever happens we had better make room in the EDP’s picture archives – there are a lot more pictures of Pat Brightman to come…

Love running? Don’t forget to sign up to our Run Anglia Facebook group here.

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