Margaret Connolly would love to keep running for years to come yet, ahead of her latest invitation to run for England.
The South Kent Harriers runner, who lives on Blean, has been selected for the England Athletics Age Group marathon team to compete at the 2023 MBNA Chester Marathon after she achieved masters qualification at the Manchester Marathon.
Now 65, it’s a second England call-up for Connolly, and she has no plans to hang up her running spikes any time soon.
“I will just keep running,” she said. “I would love to be running when I’m 80 - seriously. I’m quite lucky. I don’t overdo the training. I listen to my body and so I don’t tend to get injured.”
Connolly got her first England call-up in 2017 having started running in 2009.
She said: “I had my first marathon eight years ago this month in May, 2015. I ran quite a good time for my age. The third I ran was Chester. After I ran Chester in 2016, I got an email from England Athletics.
“I thought someone was pulling my leg. So I played along with it - I said ‘I would love to represent England, tell me more’. But then they replied and I realised it was real. I thought that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But six years on, I’m running for them again in a marathon.”
Connolly made the MBNA Chester Marathon on Sunday, October 8, by running 4hr12min17sec in Manchester.
She managed to run that time despite contracting Covid weeks before the race.
“I cannot wait,” she enthused. “I’m just beyond excited. I will not start training properly until July so I will just tick over until then. I’m so excited about it, especially with the age I’m at.
“I had to run 4:30.00 and be in the top three English-registered athletes. I ran 4:12.17.
“When I entered Manchester, I thought it would be nice to do under four hours. But then I got Covid and thought I might never run.”
The challenge of running 26.2 miles certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it’s something Connolly enjoys.
“I enjoy running so it’s easy for me,” she said. “I do enjoy it. When I walk my dogs, I run. I don’t even consider it as exercise.
“I love the marathon. Obviously, you’re tired afterwards. You have to eat everything in sight afterwards and, in the build up to it, you just need to be eating so many carbs.
“I’ll probably run four or five days a week [before the big event]. I will just do what I normally do each week.”
She also praised the support from Sandgate-based South Kent Harriers, a club she has been with for around a decade.
Connolly said: “I’m with a great club as well. I have been with South Kent for about 10 years.
“They allow all abilities and they’re so supportive. There’s not a lot of pressure put on people to do personal bests and to be really competitive athletes. I just enjoy the training and the companionship with other runners.
“When we go to local races, there’s quite a lot of us. It’s just nice to support each other and cheer on each other.
“I’m not sure if it’s like that everywhere in the country but it’s certainly like that in Kent.”