Diss Athlete becomes fastest 60-year-old female 100m sprinter in the country after gold at UK Championships
A Diss athlete has become the fastest 60-year-old woman in the country by winning gold in the 100 metres at a UK championship – six months after having cancer surgery.
Janice Nottingham, from Louie's Lane, also took silver in the 200 metres at the British Masters Athletics Championships in Derby in June, after having an operation to remove a tumour from the side of her head in January.
The runner, who only started sprint training 11 months ago and runs for Diss Athletics Club as well as Ipswich Harriers, initially came into the sport after giving up years of competing in equestrian.
She said: “After several medical issues and soreness in my hands, I decided to get new homes for the horses and start in a new direction – though back then, I did not know what that was.”
Following her recovery from another operation, which Janice said she was not meant to survive, she decided to take up 5km and 10km runs, as well as triathlons.
But it was when someone said to her to try sprinting that she found her passion.
She said: “I just love the speed. When that gun goes off and you have to go off like a bullet ... there is no other feeling like it.
“I still cannot believe where this has gone in such a short space of time – it has been just mad.”
But it could have been so different a couple of years ago when she was diagnosed with skin cancer.
Janice said: “I started to find little bits on my face. The first time I went, the doctor thought it was eczema. It was only when I saw a specialist that I was given the news.
“It was such a shock. I was given chemotherapy cream, which was vile, but it seemed to clear it all up, until a lump on the side of my head came back.”
The sprinter underwent an operation at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which involved removing the cancer-containing skin in layers, until only cancer-free tissue remained.
She said: “It was slow growing cancer and the doctors said it could have gone into my brain and my eye, so I thought they should do it. They had to cut 6mm deep to the bone of my skull to remove it all.”
Only 26 days after having the surgery though Janice was back on a running track, taking silver at a meet in King’s Lynn, with her recovery bandage still on her head.
Since then, she has added numerous trophies and medals, including being the UK champion at 100m for her age – making her the fastest 60-year-old woman at that distance in the country – and the second fastest in her age group for 200m.
“I get goose pimples when I hear people say it like that,” she said. “And when I watch the video of the race, I still fill up.”
Janice said she could not have done any of this without the support of her husband, Edward, who has helped her focus on her sport.
She said: “He takes me everywhere to do this and pushes me as he knows I have it in there.
“He is also good with the mental side of it, and puts me in the right mind set, and gets me to believe I can do it.”
That focus, she said helped her to clinch gold at the UK Championships in Derby, but when she crossed the line, Janice said she was unsure whether she was the winner.
She said: "I was so focussed, we had no idea and the commentator had said it was another competitor, although I did not hear that.
"I started to cry as I thought I had let everyone down but, when the official results came in and I had got it, Edward and I broke down."
With all that has happened over the last six months, Janice wants her story to inspire those that are currently going through cancer treatment.
She said: "I want people to know, don’t give up, there is always something positive you can do to take your mind off the horrible stuff.
"I could have just put my dressing gown on and sat there in my slippers and no one would have thought anything bad about that, but you are only on the planet once and, if you can do something, just get up and have a go.
"At 60, you realise you have to do it now if you want to as you can’t say you will do it later."