Sudbury Joggers member Sarah Pennock completes unlikely journey into the 100 club at Halstead & Essex Marathon
For Sarah Pennock the recent Halstead & Essex Marathon sparked scenes she could never have imagined possible.
Back in 2010 on the treadmill at Kingfisher Leisure Centre she believed she was never someone who was capable of joining the masses in running outside.
With some encouragement from a friend she progressed to running round the block, but could only manage two laps of Sudbury’s sorting office.
But fast-forward nine years and the now Sudbury Joggers women’s captain and club secretary has joined an exclusive club of runners who have completed 100 marathons; though that does not tell the scale of her journey or the impact she has had on others since.
As part of her 2,620 miles she decided to do it the hard way, including 10 marathons in 10 days; tackling the highest peaks in England and Wales in the Snowdonia Ultra-marathon; the 42-mile St Peters Way Ultra and then, in March, the Samphire 100-mile Challenge. That last one was completed in gale force winds that almost made just moving forward testing.
Nine years ago in July I joined Sudbury Joggers, and it still took all that time, until 2014, to believe I could do a marathon - Sarah Pennock
Her very first marathon came in Brighton just four years ago, and is a remarkable story in itself as she managed to keep her entry a secret from her friends who she was meant to be going to cheer on.
At the end of that 26.2 mile slog, which she completed in four hours, 27 minutes and 36 seconds, she vowed she would never put her body through it again.
But that only lasted a month when she found herself on the start line in Halstead before things spiralled to make a challenge for herself to complete 100 marathons by the time she was 40.
At the same venue, with emotional scenes as a big support crew from the club were let in on the secret significance of it, she clocked up 100 with a few months to spare.
“Nine years ago in July I joined Sudbury Joggers, and it still took all that time, until 2014, to believe I could do a marathon,” the Great Cornard-based accountant for Sudbury firm Daro Group said.
“I have been doing them over the years. The first year I did three and I cannot really remember the following year.
“I heard about people who had done 100 marathons and I could not believe someone could do that many.
“But as the years went by I thought it was possible then, last year, I thought how about doing it before I turn 40?”
So having not beat her first ever marathon time in Brighton, is this the end of her marathon journey? Of course not.
“I’m doing two this weekend,” she said. “While I still enjoy it I will be carrying on. I have not really set another milestone. We shall see.”
But speak to any of Pennock’s Joggers team-mates and you find one of the main driving forces for her running has been to show others they can do it too, and then help them to realise that as well.
Zoey Battell said: “There are not enough verbs to describe Sarah! She is the bedrock of our amazing club, always working quietly in the background not wanting the limelight.
“She is my absolute inspiration, my most loyal supporter and my best friend. I would not have been able to achieve any of my running accomplishments without her undying support.
“I’m not a natural runner; I’m definitely not built like one, but she is always there telling me I can do it. I can honestly say meeting her has changed my life.”
Clare Gillibrand echoed those sentiments, like many others, saying: “When I think of Sarah, I would sum her up to be The Sudbury Joggers Rock. When I ran my first marathon, she sent me a good luck card with the most supportive words in it. She was the one delivering flowers when I was poorly and texting to check up on me.”
Dee St Ledger is one of her best friends and the one who helped to give her the push she needed.
She said: “I first met her running on the treadmill at the Kingfisher. I used to try and persuade her to run outside, I told her once she’d tried it, she’d never go back to the treadmill again, but Sarah used to say there was no way she’d ever be able to run outside.
“Sarah has a heart of gold. She would do anything for anyone. She is so friendly and encouraging to all runners whatever their pace or ability; Sarah will drive for miles to support at a race, and she won’t leave until the very last Jogger is home.
“Sarah sets herself these incredible challenges, and she never gives up. She has grit and determination in bucket loads, but absolutely no idea how she inspires others and what an awesome runner she is herself. I hope we are able to show her at Halstead how much she means to our club and to us and how proud we are of her for this incredible achievement.”
Pennock finished the Halstead marathon in 5.14 running with Karen Williamson, while first home for the club was Ben Cuthbert in 30th place in 3.14.32, followed by Richard Smith in 3.20.41 and Sandy Thorogood as the first club female in 3.40.11. Clive Davey completed his 93rd marathon in 4.23.24.