Hitchin mum rediscovers love of running during lockdown and smashes four British track records

Sally told ITV News a lot of hard work eventually led to a record breaking performance

A woman from Hertfordshire has broken four British track records after 30 years away from the sport.

Sally Cooke re-discovered her love for running when she had to close her hairdressing business during lockdown.

She has now broken the British track records in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m, with her 400m time of 57.75s being a world record for her age group.

Sally, a mum-of-two, is the first person to hold consecutive British records over all the distances from 100m to 800m.

Sally's rekindled love for running started when she decided to jog around the track to stay warm:

"As a youngster I used to run and I was pretty good, but then the running fizzled out because I started an apprenticeship after school, and it just wasn't the right direction or circumstances to continue - it just didn't fit in.

"I hadn't been running for 30 years, since I left school because I lived in London and I was more into my career and I was more of a creative person, so running was the last thing on my mind.

"Then I had my two children and I started to take my children to running clubs.

"I decided it was the right time to join in.

"I was just standing there, watching my children and shivering cold, and I thought I could just be running around the track and getting warm and getting fit, so I started doing that a few years ago", she added.

"I was very unfit; I was so out of breath running around and I was last in the group.

"I just joined to try and get fit really and I was dropping in and out, and it was all quite casual."

Sally Cooke training on a track in Bedfordshire Credit: ITV News

It wasn't until the pandemic hit that Sally started to train more seriously.

"I couldn't work at all during the pandemic, so it was filling the time, me and my daughter would go running together.

"All through the pandemic I was running and getting fitter, so when the tracks reopened, I discovered I was actually very fit, and I felt good.

"I started doing track sessions and I discovered that I'd improved so much that I thought maybe I should do a 400m race.

"The club were competing in a local competition, and I won the race.

"When I finished everyone told me that I was only one second off your age group British record.

"I just started trying harder and stepping up my training a bit more and was so determined from then on.

"Each week I'd just try and chip off a tiny bit off my time and try and improve."

In 2021, Sally broke the 400m and 100m British records for her age group W50, for women aged 50-55 in Masters Athletics.

The following year, she conquered the 400m world record, 200m British record and the 800m British record, which was only two seconds off the world record.

"When I got the 400m record, I just couldn't believe it, when I was running the race, it was like I was in auto pilot and I don't know what came over me, I just felt like I was floating on a cloud I was so happy."

'A natural talent'

Sally's coach, Gordon Edison said: "We didn't expect Sally to be that good!

"When she started, she was at the back of the field, in fact there was a girl who was quite heavily pregnant who was quicker than Sally, but she came through quickly and it was astounding, I couldn't believe how good she was.

"I've coached people for 30 years and I've never seen anyone as good as Sally even at Sally's age.

"Her daughter was coming to training and was a very good athlete herself, and Sally joined in at the back through accident almost and we weren't expecting it, she's a natural talent."

'Like mother, like daughter'

Sally's daughter Bluebell has followed in her mother's footsteps and said: "Mum was the one who got me into running when I was younger, because she used to be a really fast runner.

"Ever since I started running, she's always wanted to join in again, so I was really happy for her - it felt like her childhood running had come back to life again.

"When she broke the records, I was really proud of her, all the hard work paid off!"

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