Jo Gallagher is a mum, a personal trainer, a business owner and now an international athlete. The masters runner has long dreamed of competing for her country but until recently never believed this would actually happen:
“I thought the chance to compete for England had passed me by and would remain just a dream. That is why the British Masters events are so important; they give people like me the opportunity to be part of the sport and attend really great events.”
Jo headed to Dublin last weekend to take part in the British Masters event and claim her first national vest. Jo seized her opportunity and in the open race placed third overall and first in her age category. The result was sweet for Jo but her journey to the Dublin event has been far from smooth. We asked Jo about her running career and how she has managed her ups and downs and balanced motherhood, owning a business and training.
From humble beginnings
Jo began running when she was at primary school, finding it a welcome escape from a stressful childhood. In her early days, Jo just went out running on her own and thrived in the great outdoors. When she decided to enter a race, however, she discovered a new purpose for her running:
“I remember turning up with my grandad and not really knowing what was going on. I used to run but never in a club or with any structure. I actually ended up winning the race and some guy came over to my grandad asked who I was and said I had to join a club. That’s how I got started really as from then on my grandad would try to take me to the local running club for sessions and races.”
Jo explained that her grandad was her biggest supporter, the person who was always there to cheer her on at Sports Day and, as such, a massive influence on her running. Her grandfather was an ambulance driver and Jo remembers hopping out of his ambulance at sessions and competitions whilst everyone wondered why an ambulance had turned up.
Following her passion
Jo continued to run after she left school but didn’t have the opportunity to pursue the sport seriously. She had a young child and was working in a barber shop so time for training was limited. Jo enjoyed working as a barber but always felt she was meant to be doing something else:
“I was always thinking about running and training, even at work. I would talk to my clients about running whilst I was cutting their hair. Clients would joke and call me the PT Barber but it made me think it was time for a career change.”
Jo’s clients inspired her to take a PT course and things started to progress. Jo knew she had taken a risk with the career change but felt it was her chance to work in a business she loved. For many years Jo focused on her work as a PT before taking another big step and setting up her own business, Functional Fitness. This gave her the opportunity to support others with their training and running.
“It was a big transition but following my passion was the best thing I ever did. Being able to help people with their rehab and give them more confidence in the gym and in their running makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
Life at F2 Functional Fitness
Having started from scratch, Jo now runs a well-respected business in Portishead, North Somerset with several members of staff. We asked Jo her favourite thing about working at F2 Functional Fitness:
“It’s got to be my clients and the people I get to meet. Everyone has a unique story and being able to help them with their running and training is so rewarding. I love being able to have a positive impact on people’s lives, motivating them to be active and achieve their best.”
Balancing life at the gym with her own training is a challenge for Jo but she makes sure that both have the time they deserve. After all, they do go hand in hand:
“Both compliment each other really. My own training allows me to help others and vice versa. I’m really lucky to have a job that allows me to place such a focus on the sport I love.”
Jo was delighted to have been selected to compete for England in Dublin. She told us a little bit about the journey to get there:
“I didn’t have a good race in Derby. Unfortunately, I had picked up a heavy cold in the week but knew I had to take part and at least give myself a chance of being on the plane. Fortunately, I managed to stay strong and qualify as a reserve.”
Heading to Dublin
Jo travelled to Dublin the night before the event and arrived at the race with the team. She was quick to mention how that created a real sense of community:
“The team managers were lovely and extremely supportive of all the athletes. I felt like I was part of something really special. On the bus journeys I sat next to people I’d never met before and they were interested in me, they just made conversation with me. At the event itself everyone was cheering for each other and even people I didn’t know were shouting for me. It was great to be a part of something like that.”
Jo went on to talk about the camaraderie amongst the athletes, how they supported each other and just wanted the best for everyone. She told us one story that summarised what the event was like:
“I got back on the bus at the end of the day and my fruit had gone off. I didn’t have anything else to eat as a recovery meal but one of the Irish ladies must have heard me talking and she then gave me her last sandwich. That act of kindness sums up what the masters event was like for me really.”
It’s never too late
Jo’s experience in Ireland with the England team was certainly a positive one. Having been to the event, it has also given her hope that she may be involved again in the future:
“Seeing the others race was so inspiring for me. Being a V45 and seeing those racing in the V65 category was amazing. It made me realise that I could still be racing for another 20 years. That was an incredible feeling as I have often thought I’m near the end of my running journey but in reality there is still lots to come.”
If Jo’s story has encouraged you to represent England at some of our masters events, visit our masters webpage. There are several events where you can get involved.
Would you like to do more running but are not quite ready for an England team? Why not head down to your local club? There are plenty of training sessions for all abilities. See local clubs in your area.
- Second image: Dig Deep Race Photography.