A Londoner by birth, I later moved out to Surrey where I attended Nonsuch High School for Girls in Cheam. Being a rather free-spirited person and finding the constraints and curriculum of an all girls’ grammar school a bit too much, I left at 16 (to the probable consternation of my headmistress) and started an apprenticeship in structural engineering in London. However, after not developing much of a passion for designing oil rigs, I decided to return to academic life and studied Sports Science.
Initially, I went to W.L.I.H.E (now Brunel University) where I did a BA (Hons) and then later to W.S.I.H.E. (now University of Chichester) where I gained an MSc.
I had been a half-decent swimmer and netball player at school but only got into distance running after hanging out with my friends: Gary Staines, Stuart Paton and Kevin Sturman, who all ran for Belgrave Harriers. They humoured me when I showed some interest by taking me out for some short jogs, which I could barely complete.
It must have surprised them when I joined Belgrave, and I suspect they thought the novelty would soon wear off, but it didn’t, and I eventually gained an Athletics National Championship (AAA) medal in the 3000m, as well as various vests for road, cross-country and track. I can be quite stubborn and persistent!
While the guys at Belgrave sparked my interest, it was Geoff Hill (Swansea Harriers) who was really inspirational, and it was through his careful guidance that I reached the level I did. There were a few tantrums along the way, but he managed to ignore most of those and gently nurture his charge. Without him, I don’t think I would have achieved half as much. I was also lucky enough to have a variety of excellent training partners: Paul Collicutt, Tony Holborn, Kurt Hoyte and Andy Mitchelson to name just four.
After having surgery on a calcaneal bursitis and cyst, I decided to retire from running and travelled about for a while, including spending long periods of time in Portugal where my parents were living. Having already dabbled with French and Spanish, and some Italian, I soon picked up a working knowledge of Portuguese and began to get involved in helping non-Portuguese-speaking expatriates with bureaucracy and property purchase problems. It therefore seemed the logical next step to write a book in order to pass on the knowledge that I had gained in this area, and I was lucky enough to get two editions of Buying Property in Portugal published by Bookshaker and Summertime Publishing.
After moving back to London for a few years, I am now based in Somerset and have recently released a third edition of Buying Property in Portugal book under my own publishing name of Gabrielle Lea Publishing.
As well as this title, I have published British Marathon Running Legends of the 1980s, a project that was originally the basis for my MSc dissertation, and which was kindly sponsored by Sir Eddie Kulukundis, and I have also helped Life Coach and NLP Master Practitioner, Midgie Thompson, publish two books: Winning Strategies for Sports and Life and Winning Strategies Workbook.
Despite some recent ups and downs with a DVT in my subclavian vein, I have continued to train fairly hard since retiring from athletics and a few months before my 50th birthday I did my first physique stage competition where I finished 4th in the Over 35s Fitness Model category. I usually train four or five days a week lifting weights, and I also perform body weight exercises, circuits and a variety of cardiovascular exercise. One of my biggest bugbears is people putting limits on themselves, especially due to age. This is definitely an area I want to pursue further and my next book just might be about this topic… so watch this space…