Morpeth Rotary Club
STEVIE Matthews, the long-distance runner, already had good contacts with Rotary before coming to visit Morpeth members at a recent meeting.
She had been awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship by another club, the highest honour that Rotary can bestow. She agreed to explain what she did through being interviewed by Rotarian Simon Foley, himself a keen walker and mountaineer.
She described herself as an endurance runner but has ‘only’ run 11 marathons this year so far – she has run 176 marathons since she was 37.
Mrs Matthews does training runs on six days each week with 26 miles on one day and 15 to 20 miles on other days. The longest run has been 100 miles. She was selected to carry the Olympic Torch through Choppington and still has it proudly displayed at home.
Originally a walker, she hated running until she worked in an all-male office. They talked solemnly and seriously of the importance of the right running gear, diet and training regime. She thought this was all too precious and told them that anyone can throw on an old pair of sandshoes and run 13 miles.
She started with a pair of old trainers found in the garage that were two sizes too small and ran 15 miles in one go – that experience persuaded her to buy new trainers of the right size.
Her favourites are remote runs with local people as spectators. Some are for about 100 people and some are for very few.
She has been to lots of interesting places, joining events that have got into the Guinness Book of Records. One of the most memorable is the North Pole Marathon, where she was the only female out of 15 runners.
They stayed at Camp Barneo, where it is often minus 30°C at night. It was 85° north, they ran in snow shoes and there were polar bears.
There is a great sense of camaraderie among the runners in these circumstances. For example, a Russian told them all to take off their socks and applied a special balm to their feet. After that, they found their feet did not get cold in the snow.
The most difficult run was at Everest, but that was mainly because of the problems of getting there. The flight from Kathmandu only took six people in total, but there were six passengers even without the crew and there were animals asleep on the runway.
They each had to leave behind three kilograms out of their kitbag, even though they had to take enough food to last a month.
At the other end, there were wild yaks everywhere and one lady doctor was badly gored while crossing a narrow bridge.
In May 2014, she will be on the island of St Helena for a week of running at different distances. It is not a competition but she considers it sheer enjoyment. It is a seven day boat ride from Cape Town in each direction.
She has an understanding husband, but he has no interest in running.
It was announced at the end of the meeting that £500 had been sent by Morpeth Rotary Club to the international disaster fund for the Philippines following the devastation in parts of the country caused by a typhoon in November.