Distance runner Emma Stepto proves age is no barrier and is running faster than ever aged 43
With a UK W40 record for 5000m, an outright victory in last month’s Bristol Half-marathon and a huge 2:35:02 personal best at the Amsterdam Marathon on Sunday, Emma Stepto is one of the revelations of the year.
The 43-year-old Cornwall AC athlete has gone from strength to strength in recent months and smashed her most recent target, a PB in the Netherlands’ capital, shaving almost eight minutes off her previous best to see her become the third fastest ever British female over the age of 40 behind Priscilla Welch and Joyce Smith who both recorded their marks in the 1980s.
From 800m up to 26.2 miles, Stepto is demonstrating a Mo Farah-esque range of ability. The highlight statistically is her 16:13.0 track 5000m in July – a performance that took eight tenths of a second off Welch’s 27-year-old British masters mark.
But in September she clocked 73:40 to win the women’s overall title at the Bristol Half-marathon. Impressively, Stepto’s time for 13.1 miles in Bristol was quicker than any British woman ran at the Bupa Great North Run on the same day. While her PB in Amsterdam saw her finish 8th, with the time putting her at fourth on the overall ranking list for 2013 behind Susan Partridge, Alyson Dixon and Amy Whitehead.
In addition, the Redruth-based athlete has clocked 2:18 and 4:29 for 800m and 1500. Amazingly, Stepto’s recent form is despite having a couple of months off training with a stress fracture of the ankle in the spring – an injury that forced her to miss the 2013 Virgin London Marathon.
Growing up in the Cornish town of Wadebridge, Stepto took part in a huge variety of sports during her youth but says she was never pushed into running races and so failed to discover her potential at an early age. Work then took over in her 20s and it was not until she hit her 30s that she began to get the running bug.
In the last couple of years particularly she’s blossomed under the coaching of Alan Rowling and admits she is not fazed by the British masters records. In fact, she is surprised that so many – such as Welch’s 5000m mark and marathon best of 2:26:51 – have stood since the Eighties. “You have to set your targets high,” she tells AW, “so why not aim for them?”
With so many runners slowing down as they move into middle-age, how is Stepto continuing to improve? Perhaps it is partly due to the fact she did not run many miles in her younger days. However, there are other factors. “I don’t even think of my age,” Stepto reveals, suggesting that running well into your 40s is as much a mental as physical game.
“You also have to find out what works and keep doing it, but also adapt all the time and try different things.”
» This is an extract from a double page feature on Emma Stepto in Athletics Weekly magazine which has been updated to reflect her recent marathon performance. You can find the original article in the September 26 issue of AW which is available here or digitally here.