Natasha Cockram: Welsh runner breaks national record despite horse kick

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Welsh record breaker Cockram targets Tokyo 2020

Heard the one about the woman who got kicked by a horse and four days later broke the Welsh marathon record?

Natasha Cockram set a new national women's record of 2hr 30min 50sec, finishing fifth in the Dublin Marathon.

Remarkably, she completed the feat just two years after her first race, four days after being kicked in the leg by a horse and despite working full time.

"I didn't have the best week before the race," Cockram told BBC Sport Wales. "I was in panic mode after the kick!"

'I didn't think I would even make my flight'

Cockram's rise in Welsh athletics has been extremely fast, having fallen off the radar because of injuries after a promising junior career.

She had not even run the marathon distance until 2017, but she ran so well in Dublin (running 2:49:37) that she decided to try and take athletics more seriously.

On Sunday at the same venue the Cwmbran runner beat the previous Welsh best of 2:31:33 set by Susan Tooby at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and did it despite having a big bruise on her knee.

Cockram rescued a horse and when she went to visit it last Wednesday, got an unpleasant surprise.

"I didn't have the best week. On Wednesday I went to check on my horse and I got kicked by another horse in the field," she said.

"So I had a bit of panic mode and didn't think I'd even make my flight to Dublin, let alone the race.

"It did cross my mind when it happened I might not be able to race. I was straight on to the phone to the Welsh athletics physio, but he assured me it was just a bruise.

"It didn't hurt during the race, my leg went numb in mile 18... but I pushed through.

"It didn't really register right away that I had broken the record, I knew I had the time, but I think I was more disappointed I didn't get the Olympic standard, as I was on course to hit it."

Natasha Cockram
Cockram shows off the damage after being kicked by a horse

Full time work and told she would never run again

Cockram is now targeting a place at the Tokyo Olympics after finishing 80 seconds short of the Team GB marathon qualifying time.

She says she will run the Houston Marathon in January and the London Marathon as she looks to hit the Olympic mark of 2:29:30, having just failed to do so in breaking the Welsh record.

Her success is all the more amazing considering she is not a full time athlete and has suffered with severe injury issues.

"I always liked the idea of doing a marathon. Dublin in 2017 was my first one so it's a good place for me. I have always liked the distance and I have always looked up to people like Paula Radcliffe, I would watch her race as a child," she explained.

"I did Dublin in 2017 more for fun but I ran two hours 49 seconds and thought that was a pretty amazing time and I should do it more seriously again."

At that point Cockram, who went to university in the USA, had all but given up on running professionally.

"I headed out to university as quite a high achieving junior, but university didn't go my way, I think I was over-training and then I got quite a serious injury and was told I would never run again," she added.

"Just to be running again is a blessing. I tore the tendon in my knee and had my patella bone scraped, it is just a serious surgery. Quite a few doctors here said it would be a career ending injury, so I headed back out to the USA to talk to doctors until one said he would give it a go.

"I went into surgery and came out and it took me about two years to get back running."

Natasha Cockram's time in Dublin beat her previous best of 2:34.18
Natasha Cockram's time in Dublin beat her previous best of 2:34.18

All eyes now on Tokyo 2020

Cockram works full time for the Welsh Government and admits it is only after breaking the Welsh record that is has dawned on her that Olympic qualification is a realistic aim, having previously mixed training with a 'normal' career.

"Most days I am out of bed at 4, 4.30am to train then and I do a full day's work before training in the evening until about 9.30pm," she said.

"A normal Monday would be a ten mile run in the morning, followed by working all day and then heading straight over to Sport Wales to do strength and conditioning training and then head out for another run and then home and to bed. Repeat it again for the rest of the week!

"I have not run any major championships yet, which is weird to say when I am talking about Tokyo, but I don't see why I can't give it a go.

"I think knocking off 80 seconds is something I can do, especially as things didn't really go my way in Dublin, even leading into the week before.

"Before the race the Olympics didn't seem realistic at all, I was thinking more about 2024, but as the race went on, I was close and now I've definitely got to go for Tokyo 2020.

"My consistency of training, working with my coach and Welsh athletics, it has all contributed to my times getting better and better."

Cockram knows she may have to make sacrifices at work to turn her Olympic dream into a reality.

"I do value my work and life outside of running, but I think to improve and go to the Olympics I will need to be thinking about sponsorship and at least dropping some of my hours in work," she said.

"I don't really sleep enough for an athlete or have the right recovery time, so I would like to give it a go as a full time athlete.

"The motivation is the fact I love it. Even when it hurts I enjoy it and now the Olympics being on the cards is the goal to keep me going."

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