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Run Anglia: Wymondham AC member Eva Osborne just can’t shift the running bug after 1,000 races

Eva Osborne on her 1,000th run at the Wymondham 10K on New Year's Day. Picture: Ian Edwards Photography

Eva Osborne on her 1,000th run at the Wymondham 10K on New Year's Day. Picture: Ian Edwards Photography

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Eva Osborne completed her 1,000th race at the Wymondham 10K, but there are no plans to start taking it easier, as she explains to Mark Armstrong

Eva Osborne in action at the Norfolk Cross Country Championships. Picture: Ian Edwards PhotographyEva Osborne in action at the Norfolk Cross Country Championships. Picture: Ian Edwards Photography

With so many races around the country it’s easy to become blasé about how many races you’ve taken part in.

That’s unless you’re Eva Osborne, who at 77, racked up her 1,000th race at the Wymondham 10K on New Year’s Day.

It was a chance conversation with a fellow member of Wymondham Athletic Club earlier last year that got Eva thinking…

‘How many races have you done?’ she was asked. Eva had no idea but fortunately she had kept a record of every single race she had ever taken part in.

Eva Osborne proudly stands next to her time in the 1500m at the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships in Clermont back in 2008. Picture: SuppliedEva Osborne proudly stands next to her time in the 1500m at the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships in Clermont back in 2008. Picture: Supplied

“I started counting on the first page and it came to quite a lot so I thought I’d better start counting this properly.

“It came to 976 and from there it was about mapping out how to get to 1,000 races.

“It had to be planned with a lot of precision but fortunately it all worked out as I wanted it to be at the Wymondham 10K.”

It had been quite a journey to get to 1,000 races for Eva, who only took up running when she was 38.

Eva Osborne in action representing England at the European Veterans Athletics Championships in Hungary. Picture: SuppliedEva Osborne in action representing England at the European Veterans Athletics Championships in Hungary. Picture: Supplied

But any runner will tell you…it only takes a few runs. There’s no cure for the running bug – once it bites, you’re stuck with it, as Eva explains.

“A friend of mine saw an advert in the Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury back in May 1978 about a jogging group being set up.

“I only went along with her as she wanted to go.

“We met on the school sports field and there was a GP that checked us out and then the PE master took a session and we jogged on the pitch from one goal post to another.

“But that was the start of the Wymondham Running Club. For a long time we were the joggers but eventually we turned into runners.”

Eva was hooked and gradually her thoughts turned to doing more than just the club runs around Wymondham.

On one such run in 1980 someone mentioned that they were going to be staging a marathon in London the following year. The thought of taking part was laughed off by the majority of the group but Eva’s interest had been piqued.

“We were jogging and people were saying what a crazy idea it was,” she said.

“But I was quietly thinking ‘I’d quite like to do that’.”

Fortunately there was one other member of Wymondham Joggers, and two of his friends, who also fancied giving the first-ever London Marathon a go.

They steadily increased the mileage from three miles and Eva went on to become the first woman from Norfolk to run in the greatest marathon of them all.

“The atmosphere was great – we were all first-time marathon runners in London so there was a lot of camaraderie,” said Eva, who also revealed she had to run the event in plimsolls as she struggled to find shoes for her size three feet.

“It was just about getting round, just doing it – I didn’t have a time in mind. It was very exciting – there was lots of support, particularly for the women.

“It’s something that I will always remember.”

Eva, who was one of just 300 women to take part in the inaugural London event, did another two marathons that year in Huntingdon and Leicester as she started to take her running more seriously.

The year after she was the first female in the Norfolk Half Marathon, which finished in Aylsham, and later that same year she won the first ever Bungay Marathon.

“I had a bit of an advantage because there weren’t many women running,” said the ever modest Eva. “For a long time there were only three women in our club. I have to admit though that winning the half and the marathon was quite exciting.”

It was only when a friend of hers pointed out that she was ranked second in her age group for the 10K across the country that she started to take track running more seriously.

She has since regularly competed in European and World Masters Championships and has set British records in the 1,500m and 3,000m (50-54 category), a European record in the 2,000m steeplechase (60-64) and a world record in the 4x200m relay (75+).

Eva, who also holds many of the age-grade records around the Norfolk parkrun scene, admits she can’t fathom a life without running and feels very lucky to have been able to continue her favourite pastime when many would be thinking about taking it easier.

“I see some 77-year-olds and some find it difficult going up steps – I consider myself very lucky. I feel restless if I haven’t been out for a while, even if it’s just three miles. I feel a bit fidgety.

“Normally I run five times a week and I do it because I feel good afterwards. Some people go for a walk and feel refreshed – a run does the same job for me.”

Eva isn’t planning any let-up either – she’s got a full diary planned for the year ahead.

And don’t even think about trying to keep up with her…

“I think the younger ones try to keep up with me or overtake me,” she said with a smile.

“But I feel like I don’t have anything to prove.

“If I have a good run then that’s great but if I don’t then there’s always another race.”


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