We’ve often said that one of the best things about running has been the people we meet along the way. We rarely go on a trip without meeting someone new or getting to know someone we already know even better. Sometimes it’s just a brief encounter – a short exchange of views or sharing a particular moment in or after a race. Other times there is a connection and we become friends for life.

The runners we meet all have their own story – their reasons for running, their favourite events and their running goals. They come with a wide range of abilities: some enjoy running, for others it’s a bit of a trial, but they have all found something in running that fulfils a need. We’ve met some amazing runners over the years and we always find their stories interesting. We’d like to introduce you to some of these people, and we’ve asked them to tell you a bit about themselves in their own words. This week in honour of International Women’s Day on Sunday we have chosen a strong women for our Friday Friend. Let us introduce you to Stacey Tasker.

Stacey Tasker

When we asked Stacey to be our Friday Friend we guessed what she would say. Though willing to humour us, ” I’m not sure what any runners will get from it though”. We know what they will get.

Stacey represents a ‘saner’ group of our running friends. Having a very busy work life, Stacey restricts her own running to weekly parkruns with the occasional 10k and relay race thrown in for good measure. For Stacey running is about keeping active whilst having fun and supporting and encouraging others. Generous in spirit, she is always one of the first to congratulate or express amazement at friends’ achievements.

We met Stacey at Richmond parkrun. In the early days she ran in a replica Chelsea FC shirt with ‘Lampard’ on the back. Uncertain as to whether to invest in running kit perhaps? She now turns up in her 250 club top, a measure of her commitment to the cause. The “Lampard” shirt is now reserved for match day.

Always playing down her own achievements, Stacey finds herself constantly fending off our suggestions of running more or running further. It’s all done in good humour. Stacey has found her happy place in the running world. The truth is not many of us would get round Richmond parkrun in the times she does without our other weekly training runs.

Stacey is a central member of our very special, inclusive running group  – Pembroke Athletica. In the name of PA she has pushed her own comfort zones, racing on consecutive days in the Green Belt Relay and running multiple laps at Endure 24. All the time adding humour, support and balance to the occasions.

An excellent swimmer, Stacey has also completed the London Serpentine Swim and has even dabbled in the odd triathlon.

HMP Downview parkrun

All this aside, one of the main reasons that we wanted Stacey as our Friday Friend this week is to highlight a trip that PA are making to celebrate International Women’s Day.

It is through her work and contacts in the prison service that we are off to run parkrun in Downview Women’s prison on Saturday.  I think we are allowed to say that this is an  event that Stacey played a small part in establishing by planting the parkrun seeds in the mind of Downview’s governor Natasha Wilson.

You can read more about how parkrun arrived at HMPs here and Downview’s parkrun story here. Hopefully will will post more about our visit over the weekend.

But for now let’s hear what Stacey has to say about her running.

Stacey with daughter Poppy at the Great North Run

Why do you run/what do you get from running/why did you start?

I always enjoyed running at school, but that was 100/200m. The next time I put on a pair of trainers was nearly 40 years later in 2010 to prepare for the Great North Run. It took another four years to get back into running and parkrun was the catalyst. By this time I knew long distances weren’t for me and 5k sounded perfect.

It really has transformed my life and I’m at my happiest running ‘down’ Sawyer’s Hill at Richmond, watching the colourful stream of joy snaking ahead with friendly encouragement/abuse being exchanged.

With friends and family at her 50th parkrun

 What is your best running achievement?

Completing the Great North Run – it was my daughter’s idea! As Poppy and I had never run anywhere, I don’t think anyone thought we’d ever manage it, and consequently we raised over £2500 in very kind sponsorship. After the race my body didn’t know what had hit it, and I remember having surf and turf (why would anyone choose that?!) and two glasses of wine, and was very sick on the train on the way home. I went straight to bed and woke up at 5am fully clothed with my medal still round my neck. My family had managed to get my trainers off.

What is on your running bucket list?

This is difficult, as I constantly whinge about any distance more than 5k (and often during the 5k), but I feel very envious waving friends off to do the likes of the New York marathon. However, I do know that it would actually be my worst nightmare.

I’m looking forward to the Westminster mile in May 🙂

What has been your favourite event?

They are numerous and they all involve batons and PA (Pembroke Athletica, my very-special-to-me running group). Winning the toilet seat for coming last but not being disqualified in the Green Belt Relay, must be near the top.

Our relay adventures always involve lots of fun, getting lost, lots of WhatsApp texts and photos, eating, drinking, and most of all support, care and encouragement for each other.

A card we made for Stacey’s birthday which she says sums her up perfectly!

Advice you would give others/your earlier running self/what you wish you had known earlier

I don’t feel worthy to give any advice, but just wished I’d started running earlier, and certainly to have discovered parkrun sooner. I don’t know how many people to whom I’ve introduced parkrun, hundreds, and many of them check in with me on a Saturday, telling me they’ve done a pb, or got their partner/child to do it.

Seeing photos of them at the end with their faces all smiles, warms my heart.

Stacey with other Pembroke Athletica members at Richmond parkrun

Thank you Stacey for finding time to be our Friday Friend this week and organising out trip to Downview. We are looking forward to many more Saturdays having post-parkrun coffee at Pembroke Lodge. And who knows what other adventures might come along.