Earlier this year, I ran my first half marathon. Twenty-one kilometres. I ran twenty-one kilometres! Even now, several weeks later, it seems hard to believe that it was actually me who did this. I have photos and video footage to prove it, which is lucky because it is still quite surreal.
I do not consider myself a runner. I never have in fact. I have always enjoyed running for fitness but never thought I was that good at it. Physical fitness and good health are key core values of mine and I prioritise them in my daily life. Running therefore has become a bigger priority.
The great bit about running for me is that the more I do it, the fitter I get. As a sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapist, I know my body really well so (touch wood) typical running injuries have not been an issue so far. I can run further and faster than I ever have before, and this is at the ripe old age of 41. If only I had got a bit more serious about running earlier on!
Naracoorte Lake Parkrun was really the catalyst for my current running journey. I attended my first parkrun there back in 2019, not long after the birth of my second child. Finding time to run was difficult while breast feeding and caring for my then 3yo daughter as well as managing and consulting in a busy physiotherapy practice.
When COVID came along in 2020, running became critical to my mental health and well-being during what was far and away one of the most challenging, stressful, difficult times to run (pardon the pun) a health business. Initially, I could hardly run continuously for 1km. But the weekly parkrun email with my time and graded average for my age and gender provided all the motivation I needed to keep going.
I have now completed over 70 parkruns around Australia, each 5km in length. I’ve raced at the Hobart Marathon festival over 10km and Megafest Naracoorte trail run over 15km. It seemed to be a natural progression to try for a half marathon, and the inaugural Robe Run was my pick for my debut over 21km.
The weather was tough - strong norwesterly winds, rain, humidity at times. The course was tougher - 4km along the seemingly never-ending sands of Long Beach, a range of surfaces from bitumen to rubble to sand tracks, and more hills than there are in all of Naracoorte!
My husband and children came to cheer me on. I didn’t know where I was going to see them along the route, which helped to keep my motivation going. The kids ran with me for a few sections, including the finish line which was super special. Their smiling faces cheering for me while they held out lollies definitely helped me get to the end.
When you run that far, there is a lot of time to think, so mastering your mind is part of the challenge. I had my running soundtrack in my ears, with some serious beats to pump me up at different stages. That worked well until near the finish, when I wanted to hear the noise around me and take it all in.
Seeing the finish line at the 20km mark is a moment I won’t forget in a hurry. I was physically and mentally tired. My feet were hurting. I just wanted to get there and see my family. I had to will myself along. When the kids ran up and held my hands as we ran to the finish, I knew it was a significant moment in my life, for my journey as a runner but also as a mother and physiotherapist. I was able to show my family that Mum can do hard things and succeed. Mum can set a goal and achieve it. Mum can run far, and fast. Mum is fit and healthy, which helps her to be happy.
While I wait for my finisher medal to arrive in the mail (they ran out on the day as they had so many entries!!), I ponder what’s next for these running legs. I’ve recovered really well - an ocean dip straight after the race, followed by an ice bath at home and lots of food and water, with some light walking the next day, meant no muscle or joint soreness afterwards at all. I’m very lucky in that respect.
There is more running in my future, and more races, but for now I’m happy to run for fun and keep happy and healthy in the process.
There are some very special people who I need to thank for the part they played on my journey to finishing my first half marathon - my husband Daniel, whose unwavering support of my crazy ideas is incredible. I could not have done this without him. To my children, who accept that mum needs to go for a run at random times of the day and night. It’s always parkrun time as far as my son is concerned, especially if I have my running clothes on. To my running mentor Fiona Dinham, for inspiring me to believe I could run further than 5km. To my best friend Annie Appleby, who I can feel cheering me on from her home in Hobart on every run. To my good friend Milly Wood, and her husband Ben, who kept me motivated throughout the Robe run, and at other times with their own running achievements. To my Naracoorte Lake Parkrun running family - Mardi, Fiona, Sharyn, Susan, Natasha, Marion, Pat, Tracy, Zeli and the many others who show up almost every week and cheer each other on. That’s what running should be about, always. I look forward to where my running journey takes me next!