A Berkshire company granted its employee the sporting opportunity of a lifetime last September when it sent Natasha Norris to compete in the European Masters Athletics Championships.
The ten-day long tournament hosted in Venice between September 5 and 15 welcomed athletes aged 35 and over from teams across Europe to compete in the events.
Representing GB in the women’s 40 100m and 200m was Natasha from Crowthorne who- aided by sponsorship from her employer Berkshire Consultancy Ltd -was competing outside of the UK for the first time.
Ms Norris said: “Berkshire Consultancy sponsoring me was an overwhelming feeling. It was like they understood my dream. I’m lucky to work for a company that believes in and supports its staff.”
And speaking on behalf of the company, Principal Consultant at Berkshire Consultancy Ltd, Nicola Griffiths said: “The nature of the work we do demonstrates our passion for supporting and growing talent.
“As well as supporting our clients to do this, we place huge emphasis on it within our core team, which was reflected in our recent Investors in People Platinum award.
“We encourage all employees to bring their whole selves to work and be the best they can be, so supporting Tasha to fulfil this dream meant a lot to us. We have loved hearing about Tasha’s experience and have been warmed by her increased confidence and drive since returning”.
Among those competing in the championships were a mixture of ex GB athletes, those with national and club standard, and people who found their passion for sport later in life.
Commenting on her path into athletics, Natasha said: “I’ve watched athletics since I can remember. I particularly admired Daly Thompson, Tessa Sanderson and Kelly Holmes and how confident they came across.”
“I loved athletics at school but thought it was for more confident kids and therefore didn’t view it as an option for myself.”
“It wasn’t until the age of 37 when my eldest daughter’s coach from Bracknell AC encouraged me to consider training with other mature athletes, that I debated getting into the sport.
“I started training and have never looked back. It has helped with my confidence, bereavement, discipline, and learning to be gracious in winning and losing.”
And despite having a 6-month-old baby when taking up training, Natasha felt her age gave her the mindset she needed to stay motivated.
Natasha added: “Being older I think you worry less about what people think and about what you might perceive as failing.”
The runner- who began competing in December 2014- added: “I know a lot of women who have competed after having babies and have had to breast or bottle feed and change nappies between events; it’s just what you do and a reality of life.”
Delighted by the cultural experience of visiting Venice for the first time, the runner also described the eye-opening experience that accompanied competing in September’s race.
She said: “I met so many incredible ladies who had their own story and tribulations, and for them just getting to the start line was a fight against the impossible.
“I didn’t make it to the final but I did get to have the race of my life and stood on the line with some amazing athletes whilst representing my country. One of my proudest moments.
“I hope that as my girls grow up this story will help them to never give up on their dreams. I was lucky enough to have my closest friends come out to watch the 200m which made it even more special.”
Also competing in team GB were athletes Naana Adusei, Karen Burles Susie McLoughlin and Joanne Frost who made a new European record for the women’s V40 age group in 4 x 100 relay.
Chuffed for the women’s success, Natasha also reflects on her owns triumphs from the event.
She said: “When I arrived at the venue I had a little wobble questioning if I deserved to be there. I couldn’t believe it and it was hard to comprehend until I reached the start line.”
“My parents came over to the UK during the Windrush. I’ve always been lucky that my friends have never made me feel that I’m not British, however I believe its up to you to determine how you feel about yourself and where you belong.
“I felt so proud to compete at the championships and for the first time I felt truly British.”
And regardless of background, Ms Norris believes that Masters Athletics is something more people should consider starting.
She said: “You can get into athletics at any age and you don’t need to have a background in athletics.
“You can push yourself as much or as little as you want to. You decide what success means for you rather than someone else telling you if you are successful or not.
“It’s an incredible community that supports each other and it helps with so many other areas of your life including keeping you mobile, increasing your focus, and in some cases that I have seen, helping people to overcome illness.”
“It’s a growing movement and I hope more people become aware of it and decide to give it a go.”
Whilst not on the track Natasha occupies the roles of Project Coordinator at Berkshire Consultancy Ltd where she oversees its assessment centres, works with senior stakeholders and leads interviews.
For more information about the European Master Athletics visit https://european-masters-athletics.org/.