Marilyn Gray

From mobile games tester to Barns Green Half Marathon addict. Marilyn Gray shares her running memories and more.

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

I am French, born in Toulouse but grew up in Bordeaux, went to University there where I studied English, which brought me to England as a French Assistante in 1975 and gave me my first taste of English life in leafy Surrey suburbia – I loved it so much I stayed! I have been living in Mile Oak, in the vicinity of the beautiful South Downs for 34 years.

When did you first start running?

I took up running in 2002, much to my surprise as I was useless at anything sporty at school, swimming was the only physical activity I enjoyed.

What made you start running?

A friend of mine who I was going swimming with in the 90’s introduced me to her gym, which got me interested in fitness for the first time in my life, then as she expressed a wish to run the London Marathon, having just cheered her twenty-year old daughter at the 2001 event, I offered my services as a training buddy… it turned out she wasn’t cut out for running and soon gave up, whilst I discovered not only that I could run (albeit slowly, I know!) but even that I enjoyed it! The London marathon came much later in 2010.

How many years have you been running for?

So I have been running for 18 years, although it’s been on and off the last few years, due to illness and injuries.

When did you join the Hedgehoppers and why/what made you become a regular?

I joined the Hoppers a few weeks after I started running as my friend gave up, and I had heard of the club through another friend, Judith Baker (of Peter Baker fame – some of the senior members would remember speedy Peter and might also remember his son Jack ran for us in a couple of fun runs, where he scored 10); it also helped that I live just across the road from the sports centre.

Best thing about being a Hopper?

It has already been said but it’s all so true: the camaraderie, the encouragement, the banter, the sense of belonging to a big family.

Favourite running memory i.e. that WOW moment?

From the running point of view, it must be the 2012 Brighton marathon, where I was overjoyed to finish so close to my 4 hour target (4.04), and to have both children and their partners cheering me throughout.

From a more personal point of view, my best memories were when my son joined the Hoppers and rapidly improved his fitness and speed, I was so proud of him… sadly he is not so fit now and easily falls ill: he is just recovering from Covid right now.

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

The Three Forts Challenge (2008 and 2009) which is about 27 miles; my first off-road marathon, but does it qualify as it involved a lot of walking?!

Favourite running event and why?

For some reason, it’s Barns Green half marathon, not sure why, but I did it about 12 times… and that was before Neal and Jenny moved there and hosted their famous BBQ afterwards!

Do you have a nickname and how did you come by it?

I don’t believe so, but maybe you know something I don’t?

Please tell us one thing about yourself that people may not know?

Although my main career has been as a teacher, I have had a few other jobs over the years, the weirdest one maybe as a mobile games language tester (checking the accuracy of the French text on mobile phone games – tricky when you can’t pass the levels!). I have also been a home carer and a personal trainer.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Thanks for giving every club member this opportunity to share experiences and keep communicating during this very isolating time.