Catching up with Susie Bush (née Anderson) from Hungerford

Susie grew up in Hungerford with big dreams of running in the Olympics and inspiring the world.  Aged 17 she was awarded an athletics scholarship in Kentucky, USA, and went on to compete for England in long distance running. She now runs her own graphic design business and during lockdown has launched a new programme to inspire people off the track (see Take7SimpleSteps below which Susie is offering for free during lockdown).

As a young girl, like many others, I had big ambitions, one of which was to become a great athlete, and the other was to help change the world!

As I watch my own children now and hear of their dreams, I realise the extent to which we have no idea, when we’re young, of how our lives will unfold and where our dreams will take us. If we did, some of us may not venture so far or choose not to dream at all. Yet, if we didn’t, then we’d perhaps miss out on learning some of life’s most valuable lessons. At least this would have been the case for me…

‘One step at a time’ is a saying I’ve heard often. However, I always tended to be so driven and focused in my younger years that I missed the simple beauty in life’s steps, and that’s something I’m trying to be very conscious of now – to appreciate each day – as I watch my own children grow up and listen frequently to the words ‘when I grow up, I want to be…’

At the age of 10 I made a bet with someone in my class at school that I would one day make it to the Olympics as a runner, and this was an ambition that dictated the course of my life for many years. I’d hoped that through a pursuit of athletics I would one day be able to help encourage millions of people, just like Kelly Holmes or Jessica Ennis. Little did I know that this encouragement would come in a slightly different form.

Growing up in Hungerford

Growing up in Hungerford was wonderful because I was never short of places to run. With my dad Geoff Anderson by my side, we would embrace the common, marsh and canal tow-path in rain, wind or shine as I sought to get faster and stronger. 

Always a consistent voice of encouragement, he and my Mum Dee provided patient listening ears for my future hopes and a wonderful home full of love for me and my brother and sister Carrie to grow up in.

I have many fond memories of summers spent floating round in circles with the current at the Whirly Pool in day-dreaming in dinghies with Carrie.

At both Hungerford Primary School and John O’Gaunt my love for athletics continued to grow, as did a passion for art as I benefited from the support of teachers such as Mr Downing (at HP) and Mrs Grant, Mrs Washington and Mr Strange (at JOG).

I loved running around the big school playing fields, sports days and area and county competitions at Park House and Bradfield College: wonderful, life-long friendships formed whilst training and competing regularly at Newbury Athletics Club with coach, Karen Yewer.

Moving to America

At the age of 17 I was offered a full athletics scholarship to attend university in Kentucky. I will never forget landing at Chicago airport, never having been to the States before, suitcase in-hand, to pursue my dream. As I look back now, I have no idea what it must have taken my parents to allow me to go. However, I will forever be thankful to them for giving me the freedom and support to pursue what I loved.

My experience in America was amazing with a collegiate system so focused on sport, I had all the support and access to facilities I could have asked for. For 4 years I had the opportunity to travel all around America competing, and gained a degree in Fine Arts specialising in Graphic Design.

At University I met my husband, an American football player, and we married in my Senior year. Although my time in America had been wonderful, I missed my family greatly and all that Hungerford and the local area had to offer in terms of the beautiful open green spaces and friendly community, things as a youngster I had in many ways taken for granted.

Each time I came home to visit, I relished pottering down the High Street, buying an iced bun from Barnaby’s (whilst reminiscing about the penny sweets I had brought as a child), a magazine from Martin’s or having an ice-cream from the Tutti Pole!  Kentucky was very different, and even the chance to walk to the shops, when home, seemed like such a blessing.

Competing for England

In 2006 my husband and I relocated back to the UK, and I got a graphic design job at a London University, which provided wonderful support and flexibility for me to continue my athletic ambitions. Not long after arriving back in the UK, I secured my first International selection, and over the course of the next 7 years was extremely privileged to compete sporadically for England in countries around the world. In top photo I was competing in Spain.

I was lucky to train in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with some of the greatest distance runners of the decade including Haille Gebrselassie, who shared tips with me on how to be a champion and Meseret Defar (pictured here), the Olympic Champion at the time.

But training at this high level didn’t come without its stresses, injuries, and in my case severe food intolerances which became more chronic. 

Athletics taught me a lot about life. It showed me the importance of discipline, perseverance and also patience, and these were lessons I took with me when I left full-time employment to start my own graphic design business a number of years later.

 

As I journeyed through life’s seasons, I experienced some very difficult personal times and wonderful moments too. 

When my husband and I reached our late 30s, I opted to take a break from running, as I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to have a family.

Having children is the greatest experience I have ever known, and there aren’t any number of gold medals or records that could have ever come close to what motherhood has meant for me.

 

 

Inspiring others off the track

After having children, I had high hopes to return to competitive running, however, it wasn’t something I was able to do initially. Although I missed it greatly, I began to think of other ways I could perhaps look to fulfil my childhood dream of inspiring others.

In March this year, at the start of the virus pandemic, I was forced to pause unexpectedly. My graphic design work, which I usually juggled on a daily basis with motherhood, drastically reduced and I had spare time, which as a business owner, I had not experienced for over 10 years.

 

I felt this was the perfect opportunity to really begin sharing and encouraging people in the way I’d always wanted to. 

It didn’t involve me being on a running track, but it drew on everything I had learnt in my years training and my artistic background as a designer in a creative way.

7 Simple Steps

7 Simple Steps’ is a programme that I launched in October this year which encompasses my key life lessons, which if I’d known 20 years ago, I believe could have helped me attain all of my athletic dreams. 

It summarises the things I most want to instil in my children and share with those I love. These 7 Steps in recent years have helped me to start running again, to overcome extensive food intolerances I struggled with for years, and to experience a level of balance, joy and contentment in my life that I am beyond thankful for.

The 7 week programme consists of a weekly 5-minute illustrated video (which I’ve sketched and narrated) and a daily inspirational recording, lasting just a couple of minutes, which is sent out via WhatsApp or Email to offer a word of encouragement.

I am very appreciative that it has received some wonderful reviews so far. Life doesn’t always go to plan. However, in my experience, by shifting your perspective, being thankful for all you have in this moment and living life one step at a time, you can run with the wind as opposed to battling against it, and that’s something I’ve always loved to do.

Susie is offering the first week free (with no obligation to sign-up) if anyone who read the article was interested and her sister Carrie Thorpe currently offers wellbeing pilates classes in Hungerford.
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