Photo: Matt Austin
In the latest in her series throughout 2017 profiling inspirational women, Kate Haskell talks to runner Peggy Crome
As I make my way to meet this month’s Inspirational Woman, I ponder to myself as to whether I might do some long-overdue exercise when I get home. Much internal debate later, I decide I might be a bit too tired.
After chatting with Peggy Crome for an hour though, I not only feel ashamed at my laziness but have also discovered a renewed enthusiasm for my impending run that night.
I’m greeted at Peggy’s house by the sight of her fully togged up in exercise gear and happily jogging up and down the road for our photographer. Once inside the house, I can’t help but spy trophies stating ‘Ironman Winner’ and countless medals hanging from the ceiling and I realise this is no ordinary 73-year-old woman; this is superwoman!
It hasn’t always been the case though as Peggy freely admits: “I was a heavy smoker, really addicted, so much so I planned my day around when I was going to have my next cigarette. I was a PE teacher but I wouldn’t have said I was that fit!”
A chance conversation in the staff room back in 1982 changed her life completely, as Peggy explains: “A colleague said they were going to do a marathon and I said I quite fancied doing that as well. Hearing the others in the room snigger at the thought of me running a marathon made me determined to do it.”
So out went the bad habits and in came the Lycra and the training regime. At first a gentle run up the road and back left Peggy breathless and tired but, little by little, the run got longer and easier; before she knew it, she was running her first half marathon. From then on, she had a new addiction: running and winning. Her first triathlon, however, was more than a little daunting with 57 men and only two women. Peggy laughs as she tells me: “I was so scared of being last out of all those men but in the end I wasn’t!”
Her first World Triathlon was in 1994 where she came 18th out of 36 and what started out as a bit of fun became serious. Even retirement didn’t slow her down; in fact, it just intensified her passion and allowed more time for training. Her schedule only allows one day off a week but it doesn’t always mean a strict diet: “I’m not into diets or protein shakes and the like. I love my chips too much! I always believe that if the furnace is hot enough it will burn anything! If you don’t balance the food taken in with exercise, it will linger around the waist.”
Some 33 years after her first marathon Peggy is still competing and represents Great Britain for her age group in triathlons which involve a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13-mile run. Yes, you read that correctly and may I refer you back to the fact that she is 73 years old? Age is but a number and a state of mind but to me this determination and level of commitment is truly inspiring.
Her family, she says, are great levellers: “Outside you may be a world champion but at home, whilst they are proud, they keep my feet on the ground! My granddaughter Hannah, however, is just 13 years old but challenged me to a bike ride from John O’ Groats to Land’s End. So, we did it over the summer holidays last year and raised thousands for charity in the process.”
So, as you sit on the sofa reading this magazine, perhaps feeling a little guilty, why not get up, slip on the trainers and get out there? You might just bump into Peggy!
Who Inspires Peggy?
“My granddaughter certainly inspired me and kicked me into gear to do the bike. Hopefully I will inspire her to do a triathlon one day!
“Chrissie Wellington - World Ironman winner - is also someone I look up to even though she is younger than me!”