Judith Carder

Pole vaulter, female winner of a road marathon, selected for Sussex in the Inter-County Cross Country. It was the Rottingdean Windmill Marathon that started her running career. Here Judith Carder shares her running memories and more.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself? i.e. where you grew up, family etc.

I was brought up, the oldest of three sisters, in a village in Northamptonshire. I came to Brighton in 1983. My parents met through a tennis club and instilled the belief that exercise is for enjoyment. Tim and I met through a badminton club following in the tradition of my parents but with smaller racquets. We don’t play now but did so for many years.

When/why did you first start running?

I blame the Rottingdean Windmill Marathon. This was a 26-mile off-road walk over the Downs that was open to runners. I walked it a good few times, both alone and with company. Eventually I challenged myself to finish faster and ran around 50% of it – in walking boots! – not something I’d recommend but I got away with it. (It’s amazing what the body will put up with when younger.) The next year it occurred to me that proper running shoes might be a good investment; I ran another PB and my fate was sealed. I was on cloud nine for a week. The following year I got a place in the London Marathon and actually trained for 4 months beforehand. That was 1998 and I was now hooked.

Joining a club after that first marathon led me to cross country races, something we never did at school and so I had no bad memories (or much idea of what was involved). The first event was at Goodwood after torrential rain. I arrived pumping adrenaline after a terrifying car journey through massive puddles and with very poor visibility. I remember the race toilets were flooded. There aren’t many occasions when adults can run gleefully and messily through muddy puddles without receiving strange looks but this was one of them. I took to it like a duck to water and this further confirmed that running was for me. Always a child at heart.

When did you join the Hedgehoppers and why?

For this I blame Roy Taylor and Mike Airey but in the nicest possible way. They had already persuaded Tim to join and I followed in Tim’s wake, probably around 2012. I was already a member of Brighton and Hove AC but saw that the Hedgehoppers had something different to bring to the run fest – great company, welcoming atmosphere and WSFRL races. The cakes, whether Zoe’s or on sale, are a bonus.

Best thing about being a Hopper?

Great club spirit where every member is important and everyone is friendly. I like the membership fee too!

Favourite running memory i.e. that WOW moment?

I was a marathon addict until my body rebelled. In 2004 and being super-fit from marathon training, I was selected to run for Sussex in the Inter-Counties Cross Country. I didn’t perform particularly well but spent many days afterwards pinching myself that I’d been there (Nottingham) in a county vest. Actually I nearly wasn’t there at all as the county official in charge of the travel coach overslept that morning and we arrived in the nick of time through massive traffic jams. We forgave him as he was so remorseful. I’ve still got the threadbare commemorative T-shirt but I never had the opportunity to buy another one. This was 2004 and a pinnacle of my running career. It’s been a fairly relentless slide downhill since then with many injuries along the way. But I still get a “wow” moment at being physically able to run in beautiful countryside. Not everyone can do that.

What’s the longest distance you’ve ever run?

This won’t impress the ultra runners but I ran the now extinct Downland Challenge twice, Clayton village to Itford Farm and back. Billed as 30 miles it was said to be closer to 31. I can’t confirm this as GPS was in its infancy and I didn’t have the technology. It was, however, a long way.

Favourite running event and why?

So many. I love courses that I haven’t run before. In the WSFRL I do like the Round Hill Romp because of the long downhill at the end – whee! I also liked the old Valentine Run because of rather than despite the mud.
Please tell us something about yourself that people may not know?

I once won the women’s race of a road marathon! Let me bathe in the glory for a moment before admitting that this wasn’t as good as it sounds. It was the last gasp of the South Coast Marathon from Gosport in 1999. The total entry was 210 including just 36 women. (The woman who came second had run the London Marathon one week before and said she’d never do the double again. I suspect she’d have beaten me home in different circumstances.) It was a proper, measured race though. My time for anyone interested was 3:21:01. I’ve run faster since but those heady days are over.

Another thing: Tim and I were coached in field events for veteran competition at B&HAC. Long jump, triple jump, high jump, discus, javelin, shot and hammer – we’ve tried them all. Tim and I still laugh at my efforts to be a successful shot putter. Anyone who knows me will realise that I need to do a bit more gym work to improve my throw. Tim is somewhat better at it. Going back more years, Gill Cammack and I competed for the B&H club in pole vault (after a fashion). The thought terrifies me now even though we were jumping less than two metres.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’ll continue to run for as long as I can. I love this sport and the company that comes with it. Long live the Hedgehoppers!