An inspirational woman talks running, craft and special causes with Laura Cartledge.
Cake, candles and cards is how many people celebrate their birthday.
However world-record holder Susie Hewer, from Ewhurst Green, is marking her 57th this month (June) in a slightly different way.
To represent the ‘five’ in her age, Susie is running a minimum of 5k every day for five months and for the ‘seven’ – seven marathons.
There is no denying she is hooked, especially when you learn her world record is for crocheting while on the run.
“Someone made a comment that I should act my age and stay home with my knitting when I turned 50,” she smiles when I ask how the unusual combination came about.
“It was a natural progression to go from knitting to crochet, which is harder would you believe?
“When you are running you use your arms so much so with knitting, when you have a needle in each hand, you can get into a rhythm.”
This isn’t just an unusual hobby however, the crochet and the way it forms a series of interlocking chains is used by Susie to explain how dementia breaks the links between brain cells.
And in doing this she raises awareness, and funds – more than £30,000 so far – for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
“I’ve found the more I do the more it attracts attention,” Susie explains. “I’ve been called a knitting nutter before, which I quite like.”
This April’s London Marathon was Susie’s 34th marathon and saw her create a 139.42 metre-long crochet chain, beating her own world record from 2010 by 62m.
“London was wonderful, there was an amazing atmosphere as always, I think it was better than ever,” she says. “Lots of people had turned out to see Mo Farah run – he was just a bit quicker than me.”
As well as the record and a medal, Susie also got attention from the television cameras and she describes the reaction as ‘brilliant’.
“I was lucky enough to be interviewed by BBC Sport presenter Helen Skelton before the race, which was brilliant, and lots of people recognised me from the telly,” she admits.
“I had runners coming up to me and telling me I’d really inspired them, which was so touching it moved me to tears.
“Someone also asked me for my top running tip and that was on the BBC website, which brought a lot of people to my blog,” Susie adds, explaining that wanting to get people talking is a big reason she does what she does.
“There is a huge stigma about mental health, we speak about it in hush tones, but the more we talk about it the more we can help,” she enthuses.
“I heard someone call it the dreaded D the other day, it was the same with cancer a few years ago, it was called the big C. Now we are much more open about it.”
The charity is close to Susie’s heart and she dedicates each race to her mother, Peggy, who died of vascular dementia in 2005, aged 89.
“I started running with a Race for Life for Cancer Research. My friend had just died of leukaemia and at the time I was caring for my mum,” she recalls. “I got through that and I thought this is really worthwhile.
“For an hour each day my husband would watch over mum for me and it would give me some precious ‘me time’.”
Believing ‘anyone can do it’, Susie admits her own running achievements still take her by surprise.
“I have my medals hanging up in my office and sometimes my husband and I just look at them, giggle and ask ‘did you really do that?’
“I still stand at the start line and think ‘what am I doing here with all of these athlete types?”
So what would her advice be to others who want to start?
“Start small like I did,” replies Susie. “When I first did my 5k I couldn’t run for more than two minutes. I would look at my watch and think I had done about 30 minutes.
“My husband and I got a gym membership in a bid to get fit and I would set the treadmill to walk,” she recalls. “I would walk for two minutes and run for two then slowly I got rid of the walking parts.
“You can do it if you really, really, want to. Just don’t push yourself too much at the start else it is like the January diet and you won’t stick to it,” Susie warns.
“People are used to me now, the people in the village see me in the snow and the sleet.”
While the record-breaking crochet chain has been unravelled – Susie painstakingly unpicked it to turn it into a blanket as a gift for someone living with dementia – she shows no signs of hanging up her trainers or her hook.
“I’ve already started plotting what I am going to do next year,” she teases, refusing to reveal anything yet, “I find some of my best ideas come when I am running 20 miles…”
To find out more about Susie’s marathon efforts and more, visit www.extremeknittingredhead.blogspot.co.uk where you can also find a link to her sponsorship page.
For more information on the work of Alzheimer’s Research UK, visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org