Kelly was born in South East London and had a happy upbringing. She took part in dancing classes from the age of 4. “ I loved it, we did dancing shows every year” but sadly she doesn’t remember how much the tickets cost. Shows took place at the Catford theatre. “Catford is known for this big cat that it has going over the road. [a fibre glass statue] Its a black and white cat going over the bridge with its paw coming over the top. You need to look it up on the internet, its quite famous!” she enthuses. “ I was always excited to see the cat”.She enjoyed the atmosphere in the theatre. “the theatre was really old, in between our dances we used to go underneath the theatre, you could get to the other side… it was really.. not scary.. but you know when you’re kids, your imaginations running wild and you start messing around!”
In the last two years of primary school Kelly began playing netball. “ I was always the one who got the goals” she states revealing her driven and competitive nature from an early age. School was OK, I wasn’t bullied or a bully. I was never one of the popular girls. They were the ones that smoked or wore lots of make-up. My friends were on the geeky side and I was one of the inbetweeners!”
At Kelly began running. She took part in cross country inter schools run and did well, so her dad enrolled her at a running club. Her idol was Scottish runner Liz McColgan and she had numerous posters of the male runners from the 1991 world championships in Tokyo. She was also a big fan of Wet Wet Wet. Of her ambitions at the time, she says “ Deep down you do want to do well, you;d love to go to the Olympics and all that… but I was quite shy and Id never really admit that I wanted to represent England. It just seemed that if I said that I’d worry that people would think Oh she can’t do that.. she’s not good enough for that! Obviously any athlete training and competing, probably deep down wants to go to the Olympics even if they feel its not in them to do it. But they still want to do it”
Kelly pursued cross country running between the ages of 13-17 and represented her school once or twice, as well as the county of Kent at national inter county races. She travelled all over the country and enjoyed the travel with happy days on the minibus. “I looked up to the older girls and aspired to them. I was thinking that I couldn’t wait until I’m 17 or 18 and I can go out drinking and clubbing” Kelly won medals at the county level for cross county but her main love was for track running. “Liking the track comes from seeing it on the telly, the World Championships and the Olympics. Track is what you aspire to. I always competed at 800m and 1500m which is classed as middle distance. Cross country was always a bit longer and I wanted to do shorter stuff on the track”
She was beginning to discover boys and a social life but she remained focused on her running. She states that normally with teenage girls there is a huge drop out rate at around 15-16. She began drinking and recalls being drunk and rowdy like any normal teenager. She remembers getting drunk with a boyfriend “It was Easter weekend and we got completely shit faced drinking straight vodka all night. On Easter Sunday I went to the track to train and my coach angrily confronted me “Don’t you ever come to training like this again!” he warned. He could smell the alcohol on me from ten metres away!” You live and learn. She often went clubbing in Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s west end, and then go training the next day after only 2 hours of sleep.
“I left school at age 16 and went to college for 2 years. I wasn’t thinking of being an athlete and felt it was more of a hobby.” She completed a legal secretarial course, the pressures of the real world compelling her to follow a career. She was put off the idea of becoming a lawyer by the dry unexciting work and found that those in the legal world didn’t have a good work/life balance. “At the end of the day life is for living isn’t it!” she beams.
Kelly’s lust for life took her travelling to the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia. She worked as a legal secretary in Sydney. She talks of the country’s wildlife. “If you live in a big city you’re not gonna see any of the spiders. If you go into the country you will see the huntsman spider. I saw quite a few of them. I never saw any redbacks.. its bite can kill the young and elderly… [However there have only been no deaths recorded since anti venom was introduced in 1956]. I saw a scorpion when we camped near Perth. We were in padded open topped sleeping bags. Our tour guide freaked out and killed it with a shoe!” In a national reserve an hour south of Sydney, Kelly was attacked by a leech. “ Something black, long and thin was on my trousers with a yellow stripe. I was afraid it was gonna burrow into my skin and eat me. It really freaked me out” Her travelling companion, a German woman who spoke no English helped her knock the beast off with a stick.
Worse was her brush with death on Rorotonga, one of the Cook Islands in the Pacific. She was crossing the mountains and she slipped and fell over a cliff.. “ I was hanging on to the cliff with one hand and a tree branch on the other. One of the guys who was with us helped me to grab his hand. I grabbed his hand and he pulled me back up.. Later he said it has been 50/50 and he didn’t know when I was holding onto him if we would both go over..it was a bit of a shaky moment”
After 9 months she returned to the UK.and returned to working as a legal secretary . “When I worked in the media law firm in London, we worked in a little office just off from reception. And the girl called through to one of her secretaries because she couldn’t get though to her boss..saying”James Nesbitt is in reception, can you come through and speak to him?” She wouldn’t believe her and kept saying “no he’s not, he’s not there!” And the receptionist is saying “yes James Nesbitt is here, right in front of him, saying all this. Eventually I said I was gonna go and see, so I pretended I was gonna go and do some photocopying.. and as I walked out James Nesbitt was sitting there with a funny little smirk on his face cause he’d heard everything that had been said!”
Victoria Beckham came to the offices a few times. “she was much shorter than I’d expected, this was around the time of the Spice girls. She was a bit meek and mild , with her head down and not as I’d expected her to be” International movie star Sacha Baren Cohen was another client, “ I remember he had a booming voice and you could hear him laughing all through the offices! “
She went to university at Bath then Brunel to do a computing course which she didn’t particularly enjoy. Her running was going strong, mostly on the track. She won the Kent championship, 1500m on the track,a milestone in her running career.
In 2004 she met her Graham when she was working as a Saturday girl in a running shop in Middlesex. They entered a relationship and they shared an aspiration to open a shop. It was around this time that Kelly started taking part in Triathlon. She had wanted to do it since her early 20s but didn’t have the confidence to do the swimming part. Triathlon is a crazy physical mix of timed swimming, cycling and running sections. “Something just clicked and I liked the sound of doing something different”. The couple moved to Chester, Graham’s home town and opened a specialist Triathlon store on the 1st May 2006. In Chester Kelly had more time to devote to training as she was now working part time. In Kent it had been very difficult: “ I tried to swim in the morning. The pool opened at 7 and I only got 30 minutes. I legged it back home, then to the station and got the train to London taking 1.5 hours. After I came home I tried to do a track session twice a week..” Kelly feels that the swimming section is her weakest. It often takes place in open water and she describes the excitement of the situation:”Oh my god I’m getting hit by feet and arms! At first it was intimidating but I’m more aggressive now.. I’m thinking that I can’t wait to get on the bike because swimming is the worst part” After the swim the competitors enter the transition stage and have to run whilst removing their wetsuits and quickly put on their cycle helmets. They must do this before touching the bike and then run along to the mount line and off they go. At the end of the cycle route they return to the transition zone and then change into running shoes for the final stage. “Its my strongest of the 3 disciplines. I generally overtake lots and lots of people “Kelly confidently states.
In 2007 Kelly represented Great Britain in Triathlon (for her age group) in Hamburg. There wasn’t much time for sight seeing. The legal firm she worked for sponsored the trip. Unlike at elite level, athletes must pay for everything themselves from accommodation to equipment. She was delighted with the success but didn’t want to take it any further at this level: “It was a bit of a money making exercise. You have to pay for the kit, to race, and for your intention to qualify! It cost me roughly £750 to take part.”
Sadly Graham and Kelly split 6 months after moving to Chester and Kelly decided to walk away from the business. Her friends and family all expected her to return home but she liked Chester with its quick access to the cycling routes and scenery of North Wales. It was a bad time and Kelly moved into a house share, but her triathlon training helped her, the running and biking cleared her head and gave her focus. She also moved into coaching other athletes, at Stanney Oaks in Ellesmere port. Of her own training she says “ I have to do my effort work,my distance really. I have to do some speed work, its not sprinting but 1000m efforts, 800m or 1mile efforts on the track. I have a time in my head that I’m going for to do each lap in and I stick at it and remain focused while I’m doing it.. I’m just thinking about how I’m running, I’m totally absorbed in the moment”
Kelly’s disciplined routine also takes in press ups, sit ups, weight training, and “core training”. This includes exercises on a yoga ball and pilates I ask her if “the core” involves a spiritual element? “Not to me!!” she laughs, as she holds no spiritual or religious beliefs.“When I was younger me and my sister and some of my friends, we didn’t know what Sunday school was. And we thought that it was this really fun place that you go. And we thought we were missing out so we begged our mums to take us. When we got there we were really shocked that it was this serious Bible reading, and not this play time that I’d imagined!” Kelly recounts how her friends would mess around during prayer times, “we’d run across the room and swap chairs” while everyone had their heads bowed praising the Lord.
“No one knows if there’s a God or anything, so I’m not gonna spend my life going to Church thinking about things too much in that way. At the end of the day, there could just be nothing, you;re gone and that’s it!”
Kelly’s marathon running began in La Rochelle France. She ran the race twice and finished 8th and 5th “My first one was freezing cold weather, I started off a bit quick and my legs cramped up about half way through. I loved the experience but it hurt” in 2012 Kelly ran London for the first time and finished after 2 hrs 50. Her target had been 2.42 and she is hard on herself for not reaching this. However Kelly finished 13th out of the “mass start” women who begin the race at 9.30- the elite runners begin at 9am. She describes the result as a disaster. “ I messed it up big time.. I started off too fast and went through the first 5k way too quick, and I fell apart in the last 5 miles”
I ask her about the practicalities of running a long race and coping with the pain and cold. “You’re just used to it, its ingrained now.. The way I do it is to break it down into 5km chunks” She makes it sound so easy. In London she says her mistake of starting too quickly meant she used up her energy too quickly and she was trying to keep going at that pace but her body wouldn’t let her. “Just mentally you can’t wait to see the finish line
“ It’s easier in a group because you can switch off and get pulled along. When you’re running alone its lonely and demoralising” But she doesn’t enjoy the crowds cheering her on- “ it does you head in after a while.. in London its a constant noise”.
Kelly says that the highlight of her career up to that point was her high placing in the 2011 La Rochelle marathon. She was in the top 5 so received a trophy in a grand presentation with lots of French dignitaries. “ I keep the trophy in my living room front window with 7 other trophies” She feels happy for her Coach who was present, as he had worked with her for six years.
In the April London marathon in 2013 Kelly fractured her foot during the 17th mile and was forced to abandon the race. Kelly was devastated and unable to run for 9 weeks. “I was quite upset because there was nothing I could do about it! I could still ride my bike and swim, but after a while you become very short tempered” She recovered in time for a return to Rochelle in November of that year. Her coach set up a less aggressive training plan with a target of 2 hours 45.
“I ran with a group of guys.. you always feel comfortable at the start of a marathon, at 5k you feel like you’re jogging…. from half way it starts to take its toll. It was quite windy so I used the men to shelter me. I finished at 2 hours 45 and 11 seconds. I was gutted about the 12 seconds that would have got me under” she recalls. “I knew I had finished strongly and I knew I could have run faster that day”
With a new target of 2.38 for London in mind Kelly attended a 4 week training camp in Spain following an intensive training programme. This was the qualifying time for the European Athletics Championship and Kelly knew it would take the absolute race of her life to make it.
However in the weeks leading up to the race in April, pressure took its toll on a stressed Kelly. “I thought about it 24/7, I didnt know how to switch off” she says. Race day was hot and after 20 miles she became sick and dizzy and had to withdraw. This was Kelly’s 4th London Marathon, of which she had completed one. “It was another failure” she says, hard on herself as ever. The European Athletics board also changed the qualifying criteria from 2.38 to 2.33 in another stroke of bad luck.
However after a few weeks of sould searching , she decided to compete in the Edinburgh marathon. The organisers provided her with accomodation and travel and a start with the elite runners… unfortunately the day was marred by severe wind and torrential rain. Kelly had to run 18 miles against the wind and was left behind by the runners in the pack. She became disillusioned running alone, but was still in 4th place amongst the women racers. Shen then dropped to 5th but after passing the 20 mile point with a new burst of energy, she managed to overtake 2 female runners and finish in 4th female place.Kelly was the 1st British female runner to cross the finish line.
Just 3 weeks later Kelly came 2nd in the women’s race at “Sport in the port” Kelly is focusing on doing another marathon in the autumn of 2015 and doing shorter races of 10-20k. Kelly currently works from home preparing fitness plans and giving training advice to her many clients. The majority of her working time is spent writing personalised triathlon training programmes, She encourages her clients to ring her on a weekly basis for feedback. She also works part time in Triactive, on Mondays or when one of the owners has a hangover. Kelly works on a voluntary basis with Chester Tri club. “ I have a good rapport with the other athletes. I look after the novices, time them, and give them encouragement and practical support” On top of all this Kelly helps her husband Dan and his race timing/tracking company Nifty Event services. He and Kelly met at a Christmas party in 2007 and were married in October 2012. They have 2 cats
“ I like my life the way it is, I don’t feel like I want to have kids” “I’m quite content with my place in the world…my future is running, triathlon, cats and Dan!” she smiles
Interview took place in The Baristas, Watergate st