An Interview with Sylvia Huggett, the lady who has ran every single Hastings Half Marathon.

There are 10 runners who have crossed the start and finish mats of every Hastings Half Marathon since its inception, all of whom have given so much to the race over the years. They are known now as the Heroes of Hastings Half, 5,000 miles of Hastings roads have been covered by those 10 alone, and that’s just on race days.

There is however, only one lady.

Sylvia Huggett, a member of Hastings Runners and an East Sussex resident for 43 years, is a true inspiration. She is running this year alongside her family members; three generations of Huggett’s will take part in either the Half Marathon or Mini Run.

We sat down with Sylvia this week to discuss her feelings towards the event and some advice to those who are doing it for the first time.

When did you hear of the first Hastings Half Marathon and what made you sign up?
I had run the London Marathon in 1983 and subsequently had my daughter so didn’t run for a little while. But then I saw the Hastings Half Marathon come along and I thought – got to do that! It’s just such a good event, it’s really expanded now with the support and I’ve just carried on and on. Somebody said to me the other day “are you going to do the 50th one?” and I just laughed. We’ll see.

How long do you think you’ll keep on racing the HHM?
I’m not sure, I enjoy running but road running is more painful than off-road with my knee. But I think, as long as I keep enjoying it, I will keep on going. There’s no point running if you don’t enjoy it.

You mention your knee, has there ever been a time where you nearly couldn’t race?
Not really. One I did walk, but I must have walked quite quick because I did it 02:30 or 02:40. Other than that I’ve been really lucky, I’ve been injury free really. It’s only this year that I’ve had any trouble, and I’ve ran for over 40 years, I can’t really complain. 

Going back to the very first HHM, did you run it alone or as part of a group?
I ran alone on the very first one, I didn’t belong to Hastings Runners then, so I just went out and ran it. I’ve been with Hastings Runners since around 1993/1994. I didn’t join originally because living out in Westfield you’d have to travel into Hastings each time. At the time the children were so young, it wasn’t fair on my husband to trolley off every time I wanted to run!

Is there anything that stands out as a really good experience during the HHM?
For me it’s when my whole family do it. The 25th one, the 30th one, the three children and my husband all did it. At the 35th, one of my son’s missed out but this year we’re all doing it. We’ve even got grandchildren in the mini run so there’s three generations doing it.

What are your connections to Hastings? Have you lived here your entire life?
We moved down here in 1981 with my husband’s work but when we were youngsters we used to come to Hastings on holiday! So, Hastings goes back a long time for us. We love the area, there’s a great community – we won’t move again. You can go for a run out in the country too, I quite like the fire hills to run over. Yesterday, a friend and I ran Sedlescombe, Brede, Three Oaks, climbing over the trees on the road – I really enjoy it.

We’ve got nearly 3,000 runners booked on this year, what tips would you give to someone who’s running the Hastings Half for the very first time?
Go out and enjoy it. Don’t put any pressure on yourself. Sometimes people think you’ve got to run all of it, you’ve got to go and just enjoy it. You get so much support from the crowds. I don’t know if it’s a good thing having your name on your t-shirt or not because everyone keeps shouting at you, encouraging you. But no, it’s great to just enjoy it.

We’ve got an official Hastings Half Marathon playlist where people can add their favourite running songs, would you like to add one?
Ah, and I’ve got to think of it right now?! Well obviously, Chariots of Fire is always a good one – it gets you going!

Chariots of Fire it is then, Sylvia! The race will take place on Sunday 24th March 2024 and tickets can be found on the Nice Work website.