Age no barrier for Bishop Auckland mum and veteran athlete Joss Harwood

PUBLISHED: 13:06 16 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:38 20 February 2013

Bishop Auckland athlete Joss Harwood

Bishop Auckland athlete Joss Harwood

World champion hurdler, award winning business woman, cancer survivor and charity fundraiser, Bishop Auckland athlete Joss Harwood talks to Sue Campbell

Joss Harwood often gets taken for much younger than her age. But this is a woman who has been competing in top flight athletics spanning 40 years. And after a break during which she battled cancer, shes back to try for another world record.

Joss, born in Edinburgh, brought up in Hartlepool from primary school age and now living in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, hopes to hurdle into the world and European record books by competing in the 55+ age group at the European indoor athletics championships in San Sebastian in Spain next March.

Joss (actually Jocelyn but only my mother calls me that) started in hurdling when she was 14 and got to national schools championships level. Like a lot of young people other priorities, including marriage, took precedence for a while, but she returned to athletics in her 30s.

My first coach was a woman called Doreen Watson from Hartlepool. She was my contemporary, a wonderful coach and great friend. She died at aged 31 from breast cancer and I can still see her in my minds eye when I stand on a start line, ready to race, said Joss.

After she was diagnosed and the news was bad, I remember her sitting talking to me about my future and all I could think about was hers, and how it was being cut so short. It seemed such a waste.

In Olympic year 1988, Joss was picked for the Scottish national team and two years later aged 32, she ran her fastest time of 8.52 seconds to break the Scottish indoor record for 60 metres hurdles a record which stood for 20 years.

I then moved into being a Masters Athlete, and aged 35 went on to compete and break records in Japan and the USA in 100m hurdles and 200 metres. It was a fantastic period in my life.

Then, aged 40, she competed in her age group on home ground, in Hexham. She broke the British, European and World records for the outdoor 80 metres hurdles in one fell swoop.

There was a huge satisfaction at beating those records at that age. I ran faster than I had when I was 17. It was a really amazing feeling and the British record of 11.68 seconds still stands today.

Joss then took a break and concentrated on her career. She is founder Director of Eldon Financial Planning of Bishop Auckland, which she has built, with her partner Tony Conner into an award winning business.

At 50, athletics called Joss again and in 2008 she went to France to win the 60 metres indoor hurdles with a world record time of 9.62.

It felt great. But the real inspiration was watching the athletes who are 90 years old plus, and thinking look at them go!

A brush with cancer a melanoma, which has been successfully removed, although still under review took her away from the track for a while. But now Joss is back training hard, with her sights firmly set on a new world record for her age group, which currently stands at 9.84 seconds.

Training in the dark, running up hills, going until you feel sick are some of the sacrifices you make as an athlete, said Joss. And that discipline transfers into business setting goals, overcoming adversity, team working. Its a process that makes you successful in life.

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