Veteran runner Edith Beek will miss this year's May 24 half-marathon.
Veteran runner Edith Beek will miss this year's May 24 half-marathon.

Edith Beek, 72, will miss this year’s race for the first time since she started competing in 1987.

While you won’t find her name on top of the leaderboard in any of those years — she was 694th in 2012 with a time of 3:31:52 — she is a well-known figure in the early stages of the race because Beek gets an exemption to start the event early.

And like nearly all the runners who participate in the Derby, she does it because it’s a wonderful day with all the festivities and crowds lining the streets.

She hurt herself at her great niece’s sports day recently and will have to cheer on the other competitors.

“I felt something twitching and went to my doctor who said I wouldn’t be able to run his year.”

Operation

Beek came to run in the Derby later in life as in 1958 she fell down some stairs at school and was told to avoid athletic activity.

“It took me about two hours to get home and my leg all swelled up.

“I called the doctor and they rushed me to the hospital. They had to operate right away as I had a cyst.

“When the doctor told me I couldn’t run, it hurt me because I really liked to run.

“They told me I would not be able to do sports for a long time.”

It wasn’t until 1986 she started thinking that she could actually do the May 24 Marathon.

“I was watching the May 24 Marathon and wondered if I could do that.

“So I tried it and then decided the next year to run for charity and I did that for 13 years.”

She said her first Derby was exciting.

“I’ve never been able to run the whole race without stopping because I get shortness of breath.”

In spite of that handicap, Beek showed the true spirit of May 24 by continuing to press on and join the other finishers as winners by completing the race.

“I was determined to finish,” she said.

Her inspirational can-do attitude has her own set of fans who cheer her on.

“I get a lot of people asking me ‘Miss Beek, are you going to run?’ I get this from a lot of people.”

She said her first few races she started with the crowd, but after being jostled about at the start, Beek was one of the few runners allowed to start early along with the likes of Ludwig Cann.

“I don’t know if it was because I was short, but I used to get knocked about and I would nearly fall on my face so I asked Mr Tucker and Mr Cann if I could start early.”

The first several times she did this she got an hour early head start and it meant that it wasn’t until the fourth or fifth mile the lead runners would surge past her allowing her to enjoy the accolades of the crowd.

“They knew I had left early and cheered me on. Even some of the runners who passed me would say ‘good running’.

“It’s very exciting because my biggest enjoyment of the race is hearing people cheer me on, which makes me run even faster.

“I’m not looking to come in first, my main focus is to finish.”

This year she will be along Cedar Avenue “and I’ll be cheering the other runners on wishing I was out there”.