June 19, 2020, by Emily Bateman
Alumni Spotlight: Dr Edwina Brocklesby BEM
The University of Nottingham alumni community stands at over 280,000 worldwide, and for many graduates sport continues to play a huge part in their lives.
This week, we hear from the inspirational Eddie Brocklesby (Economics BSc, 1963), Founder of Silverfit, a London-based charity that runs fitness sessions for the over 45s, and the oldest British woman to complete an Ironman.
Eddie shares tales from her time at Nottingham, her career as a social worker, her journey to becoming a triathlete and how Silverfit is supporting happier, healthier ageing and combating social isolation at a time when it’s never been more needed.
Recently awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the Health and Wellbeing of Older People, Eddie was also interviewed on last week’s Her Spirit podcast, sharing her story with BBC Breakfast Presenter, Louise Minchin, and BBC Triathlon Presenter, Annie Emmerson.
After running her first half marathon at the age of 50, Eddie proves that it’s never too late start a new sport. Find out more about her journey in her 2018 book, ‘Irongran’.
My Nottingham story
“My parents had lived in Nottingham, with fond memories of the city. My Dad was a powerful influence on me. He was a Boys Club leader, journalist, writer, influential in setting up Outward Bound, and Chair of the Juvenile Magistrates’ Bench in Bristol – and determined his oldest daughter would go to university (and not so many girls were going in 1960!)
“I was only 17 when started my maths degree, with psychology, economics, and statistics as subsidiaries. I gave up maths after 6 weeks, preferring economics, statistics and psychology. It was the very early days of computers, with the only university computer in the Economics Building, and we learnt to programme.
“I met Phil Brocklesby, reading civil engineering, in Freshers Week, and we married 4 years later. I loved my 3 years; living in Nightingale Hall, then Lenton Eaves, opposite Wollaton Park, with friends I have retained. I did NO sport, but spent time on side-lines cheering on Phil’s football team. I was part of the Ballroom Dancing Club, dancing every week with my Nigerian partner, John Eziashi – memorably representing Nottingham doing the Twist! I had so much fun, so maybe that’s why I finished with only an ordinary degree, not an honours!
“My grandmother, Georgina Landemare, had been Churchill’s cook and wrote the book, ‘Recipes from No. 10’. I loved cooking and went to the Uni Careers Adviser and said I wanted to be a Chef. He told me I’d have to start from beginning in terms of training, so I rethought and decided to do a year in social work. I remained in social work for 48 years, primarily childcare, adoption and fostering. I ran a Catholic addition agency and then Parents for Children, finishing my PhD in 2005 at University of Leicester, focusing on pioneering indirect contact with birth family via letterbox system. It was only after ‘retirement’ and increasing my own sporting activity, that my idea of Silverfit emerged.”
“When I was running the adoption agency, I created fundraising trail marathons down the Lee Valley to what became the Olympic Park, and my belief in the importance of physical activity for wellbeing led me to found Silverfit, as an Olympic legacy of 2012.
“Silverfit is a London-based charity running 40 sessions in 17 venues across 9 London boroughs, promoting healthier, happier ageing for over 2,000 members aged 45+. We run a variety of group exercise classes combined with social time at subsidised costs; aiming to target areas and groups of greatest socioeconomic deprivation, where poor physical health and social isolation are felt most strongly. During the Covid-19 lockdown, we’ve offered sessions via Silverfit@Home, offering free daily exercise videos, and set up a variety of social media groups to keep members in contact.
“We hope to further expand our Silverfit@Home programme to include audio-based exercise, targeting members who don’t have access to broadband or a smartphone, by delivering sessions over their phone line. This group is currently at the greatest risk of being left isolated and unable to access support, due to the vast amount of online provision offered by support services.
“Our online sessions are attracting hundreds of views, and by working together with partners, such as Sport England, we are aiming to expand our offer even further.”
My words of advice
“I was motivated to do my first half-marathon at 50 after watching a friend run the Nottingham Marathon around my old uni haunts. My husband, Phil, said I’d never be able to run 4 miles, let alone 13, and that was the challenge that changed my life. We moved back to Nottingham when Phil was appointed Head of Highways, Architecture and Planning for the County. When Phil died tragically at only 54, I joined a small running club and physical activity, plus the support of running friends, proved so vital and far more effective than counselling sessions. I ran the London Marathon 5 times before moving into duathlons, learning to swim at 56, triathlons, 4-women relaying Race Across America and finally my first Ironman at 65! I even made Kona! SO, IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO CHANGE! At 77, I am planning another Ironman next year – Mad gran or Irongran??
“My advice to current students would be to use the years to gain as much experience as possible – working as a shop assistant in Boots, a junior assistant in the kitchens of a general hospital and charity volunteering – all gave me such a valuable outlook on the inequalities of life. It won’t be easy graduating now, but you have the technical competence to stay in touch with each other. We are all the lucky ones – after a great University experience. How can we give back?”
Many thanks to Eddie for sharing her story. If you’d like to share your experiences in an alumni blog, email our Sports and Alumni Relations Officer, Emily Bateman, at Emily.Bateman@nottingham.ac.uk – we’d love to hear from you!
Visit the University of Nottingham Sport Health and Wellbeing Home to access a range of home workouts and wellbeing guidance.