“YOU are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

AA Milne’s famous words could have been written especially for Indi Allen.

No wonder it’s a quote, referenced in this interview, that resonates with the 54-year-old.

Mrs Allen is something of a running machine. Gusty, determined and eager to push her body to the limit.

The mum-of-two has just completed an astonishing 1,000-day challenge, running every day since October 1, 2017.

In that time she has clocked up an eye-watering 5,000 miles, which is more than the earth’s radius of a mere 3,963 miles.

And what did she do on the first morning after completing her mammoth challenge - on the first day she could have had a well-earned lie-in?

She went for a run. Of course.

“I love it so much and can’t live without it,” said Mrs Allen, who lives in Vista Road, Clacton.

“Everyone can run - I truly believe that - but I wanted to test myself.

“I knew my legs could cope but wanted to see how I’d deal with the mental challenge.

“I’ve had many a day where I thought ‘I’m not going to fit this in’.

“But I was determined to keep it up and it became a question of how much I wanted it.

“Running clears your mind. You become more resilient and it becomes part of your DNA.

“It’s about learning from each experience from the dark, foggy, freezing runs that challenge every instinct to the freedom of a spring day with the warm breeze at your back.

“That’s when running feels at its natural best but sometimes, at our weakest, we find our strength.

The difficult runs are the most important ones and so important to build resilience.

“Some people focus solely on speed and can be put off when things don’t go well.

“For me, it’s about pushing yourself.

“It’s about developing a rhythm and learning from the disappointing runs, when things don’t go as you hoped.”


  • Keep on running - Indi Allen's family

Mrs Allen, part of a team of volunteers who run Clacton’s Mad About Theatre Company, still pulled on her trainers when nursing a sick friend in spring 2019.

She still found time for a jog when her daughter needed an emergency C-section in April.

So what inspired her to take on such a monstrous physical, mental and logistical challenge?

“I’ve run for years and taken part in, and worked at, various charity events,” she said.

But for my 1,000-day challenge, I was inspired by the Japanese monks of Mount Hiei.

“They’re known as the marathon monks, who run as part of their spiritual training.

“Their Tendai practice, as it’s known, is a gruelling challenge, often without food and in the harshest of conditions, on the premise that because of the industrial revolution and new digital age, we don’t use our full physical prowess.

“Part of the Tendai Buddhist teaching is to trust and worship the natural world which challenges and sustains us.

“As runner, we have to trust our instinct and rely on nature to inspire and challenge us.”

Mrs Allen, also a keen sea swimmer, was spurred on by husband Philip, daughters Emily, 29, and Jas, 25, their partners and an “energetic brood” of grandchildren - Harvey, nine, Evie, six, Zaynn, three, and Esa, seven months.

“Philip has been pushing me to get on and do it,” said the 15-time marathon runner (four at London).

“His support has been exceptional, objective and sometimes challenging, which is what an athlete needs.

“I’ve been sustained by the courage of others - my family who have supported decades of running events and spur me on and the daily encouragement of friends.

“I’ve always been a runner, love the peace and solitude and see it as a source of discipline.

“Lockdown has been a great time of reflection and given us all a chance to take stock of our lives.

“If you’ve got something to think about, it’s a measured time to prioritise and chew things over; to get things in perspective.

“My favourite time to run is first thing in the morning, when it’s quiet, and I often gravitate to the seafront. That’s the best place to run.

“My distances vary from three to five miles but I also managed four half-marathons last year.”

By day, Mrs Allen is a strategic projects officer with Community Voluntary Services Tendring, run by the community to support, promote and develop voluntary and community action.

She is also deputy director of operations at Tendring Specialist Stroke Services.

She undertook her running challenge to try to raise funds for the charity.

“Having a stroke can feel like a personal massacre,” she said.

It affects a person both physically and emotionally, as well as their family, so by running I hope to support our Tendring Specialist Stroke Services charity.

“We provide rehabilitation, support and activities for stroke survivors and their families and it’s vital that people who’ve experienced a stroke have the opportunity to start the journey of rehab as soon as possible, to ensure they gain a level of independence and continue to be part of their community.

“Any donations can be sent to Rosemary Garrey, via Tendring Specialist Stroke Services, at 85 Frinton Road, Holland-on-Sea.

“I’m not into self-promotion but hope my story inspires other athletes, both old and new, to get out and experience the highs, joys, lows, meditations, experiences and friendships running brings.”