I never thought 8 years ago that I could run ..any distance…I mean ANY distance..from the front door to the letterbox I thought was for crazy people! At the age of 45, while holding down a major corporate job, raising two great kids, supporting 2 step children, supporting my parents as dad was slowly passing away from dementia, and being there for my husband to set up his own business, I decided to enter a marathon (just because I had nothing better to do, clearly!), oh and I had 4 months to do it. It was in Paris, and I was in Auckland!

Thankfully I joined a great group, and although the fab coach said my core was buggered thanks to having babies 9 ½ and 9.1lbs I was mentally determined to do this and somehow find a way to not fail.  With 5am starts to fit in runs, being dropped XX distance from my kids sports on weekends to get longer runs in, some core sessions when I could, and 8 weeks later I managed my first half marathon race.  It was hot, open road and pretty fast, and immediately on completion my foot was in pain, sharp shooting pain underneath…

Long story short..there was no more road running prep for me..it was aqua jogging for up to 3 ½ shrivelled hours, smiling and chatting to the lovely retirees who hopped in and out of the pool with me on those long painfully boring, no music, nothing to watch sessions inside a stuffy chlorine stenched pool. I was “a science experiment” said the coach, hmmm that’s something I had never been told before, but I hung in there.

On the week of the marathon I was off to Paris (the joy of long haul economy seats, crammed legs and no sleep) but heck, I was in Paris…

The day of the marathon I did EVERYTHING they tell you not to do – I had new shoes, new outfit, new breakfast and no game plan of approach. My feet hit the ground in that amazing city. I went slow, stopped and stretched when I could, and said “come on legs don’t let me down now, we’ve got this bugger”. The mind games, oh the mind games, as I meandered through the streets.  “Why did I try that Powerade, and why have I now got a pain in my stomach so bad I could vomit, where is the end darn it? Where is the end…? Why is the Eiffel Tower so far away? Oh I might as well have a banana, see how that goes, wine? Wine? You are kidding me right? Oh my foot feels fine, just take this slow, you’ve got this……. “ 42.2km later I ran over that line close to tears with emotion, wishing my dad was not the way he was and if only my kids could be there to hug. The elation was immense, my husband was there and other members of our travelling team, and I did it…  just over 4hrs and no pain, and it was the most amazing experience of my life!

I officially LOVED running.

Roll ahead through 8 years..I moved my family from NZ to London for my career, tried running when I could to stay fit, entered the NY marathon but had to withdraw as the pain in my foot came back. Then another pack and move to Brisbane 6 years ago. Since then I have just dabbled in some small runs for myself and watched my incredible younger sister continue to complete over 8 marathons, numerous half marathons and an Ironman! And she worked in a serious job and then had a baby. She said she would fly to Australia and we should do the Gold Coast 10k and have a fun weekend away with the kids. Thought why not, I need a goal, I loved the thrill and the training kept me focused. It was a lovely race, really enjoyable and great crowd and energy and this was my second 10k race ever.

Then in 2014 she suggested we do the Sydney Blackmores Half as she wanted to run over the bridge. As I was flying to the US the following morning for work I thought what a great excuse to sit back, watch movies and be served food for 14 hours than on my bum recovering on a flight..I was in. Not so easy – pain in foot decided to haunt me again. Off to the physio, even the Broncos Dr couldn’t figure out what was wrong and they put it down to nerve in the base of my heel so to the podiatrist I was sent. I was now told that I had a slight pronation (after many physio visits, xrays and rehab for the marathon no one had ever told me that before so it was a surprise). Armed with an orthotic and new Mizuno shoes (good bye Asics) I commenced the training when I could, on my own with the same crazy life and with her motivating me across the ditch. I managed to finish in 1.47 with not only a sore foot that felt like it was running on an angle but added to that a niggle in my knee with some odd pain down my leg. No worries – I ran in an amazing city, crossed the bridge, got a medal and could sit back and rest on a flight.

Even small runs from then were just a pain in the leg for me..I started to go to a gym in East Brisbane and my fab PT Robyn helped me start to work on my naughty left side and my overall strength as I wasn’t young anymore. All my desk sitting and flying now back and forth to London every month was taking its toll on my fitness, my diet and my sleep. I made the decision last year I needed a goal to aim for and I entered the 2018 Queenstown marathon. Goal set – fitting in the runs what with managing a company and travelling every month, spending time with kids and so forth was the challenge. I made sure I had my PT sessions 5am once per week (occasionally 4.30am to fit it in) when in the country and then would go when my husband had his 2 PT sessions at 5am on other days, and back again when I could. I would get on the strider and just focus on getting an hour done to earn my coffee. We walked the dog every weekend for at least an hour and then I would fit one run in, usually on a Sunday – either around Hawthorne in Brisbane or Kensington Palace in London to get over jet lag – not as glamourous as it seems. It is exhausting, and every 5km felt like I was dying! OK, I am stubborn and didn’t really take it easy with any build up, I just had my music and wanted to at least get 8k nailed as a minimum. My knee had a dull ached constantly, my foot started to hurt and I just could never find time to get to a physio or massage to help.

Two months ago my son Jordan came back from a social gathering and said that since he and his a group of mates either just had or were about to turn 21, they had set themselves a challenge and a group of them, 21 to be exact, agreed to commit to running 21km in the Brisbane festival in August to raise $21, 000 for the charity Livin. They had witnessed and felt more and more the mental health issues youth were suffering and wanted to show that young people were supporting young people, and this was a way to balance all the parties and commit them as a team. Now, my son loves his sport – played and partakes in a lot of activity but running, umm no, never. This should be fun I thought. I agreed to run the half as a goal to keep me focused on reaching the marathon in November – this committed me and because he was doing it I had an extra great reason to make sure I made it that day.

Meanwhile, my knee never improved no matter what I was doing, I still felt like my foot was on a strange angle on my left side when running and I was taping my knee and hobbling up and down stairs. One Sunday morning I just decided to remove the orthotic. My son needed running shoes so we went to Intraining in Milton. I updated the young chap on my situation and got his advice, the Mizunos were being replaced with New Balance and on the test run he said that I wasn’t pronating. Four weeks to go until the run and I began to test drive these new babies – very much liked the feel and my foot took a bit of time to readjust to being back flat without an orthotic. It was going to be a slow process to undo the months I had abused my foot.

Anyway, no time to stop as a running date waits for no one. My sons friends became pretty impressed that I was running the half on course for a full, although they all pretty much said that anyone wanting to run a marathon for fun needed help. They were also fund raising and this was a great way to hear them share their recent distances and how hard it was to get to 5k even – haha old Doris here was thinking you young ones should try giving birth if you think that’s exhausting! But the comradery was great and the distances and twinges shared.

The weather in Brisbane was perfect the last few weeks to run some of those longer distances – and the city has soooooo many hills good grief! I managed to get in a 10k and then a 15k run until my left side decided to knot up and the pain shot down my leg. I finally went to the physio and shared my story – I had some dry needling and deep deep tissue to relieve a lot of pent up knots. The pain was agonising but oh so good and really needed. Joell was brilliant and also scheduled me with the podiatrist just to check out my foot. With 2 weeks until the half he filmed me running, tested my foot and proclaimed that although my hip dropped ever so slightly that I was right to not use orthotics and that I was a tidy runner and in good shape. The orthotics may have altered my running and brought on my knee pain and the readjustment was going to take some time with reformer pilates and some additional exercises for home and with my PT. I was told to run only 5km and then after my next appointment I could extend to 7.5k. The goal wasn’t the half but the focus on the full at this stage.

Just over one week until the half…and in that week my son is out socialising, wakes in the morning with a swollen lower arm and said it was hurting. After 4 hours in A & E, an x-ray and CT scan we have a broken wrist, of course we do….plaster on and replacement one on 2 days later. He still wanted to run the half as the Livin charity event was important for him and the boys.

The week before the half I extended my last run to 11km and felt exhausted! Going only 1k over what the physio had advised me. My knee wasn’t happy and the dull ache I had stayed with me each day, all day and at night it would “catch” so I popped a couple of nurofens and made sure I saw my PT for one session only that week. As I said to her, the goal for me wasn’t to win the half.

The Physio had sent me a txt checking how I was doing and said if I felt like it was ok to ‘Give the half a nudge”, but listen to my body ( yeah right, have you heard the debate in my head when I run?!).

I was really happy to have Jordan accompany me to get our running packs on the Friday to chat about what he should focus on during the run and how to manage his arm.

Morning of the Brisbane Running festival and Jordan was up at 4.15am to make crumpets and honey, I figured I might as well join him since I had been woken by my 18 year old daughter Alyssa coming home at 3.30am. By 5am my husband and daughter were up and ready to take us into the city to meet the guys and to nail this.

Jordan and I met with half of the boys doing the run with him and walking along the street in the dark I tripped on one of those small electric boxes on the footpath and took a fall. Yep! 30 minutes before the run starts and I had cuts up my left hand, taken the skin off my left knee (even though I had it taped) and fallen hard on the palm of my right hand and grazed it so bad it was numb straight away. I had also managed to give the boys a fright and worried more about Jordan leaping down to try and save me with one free arm! Oh well, that was a great start wasn’t it?!

I love, love, love the energy of runners before a race. I love that all around you there are people of all ages and nationalities chatting and there is a nervous excitement. I left Jordan and the young lads to themselves, joined the crowd and got chatting to a couple of men next to me who had never entered a running event before and were questioning what on earth they had done, and why they weren’t back home still in bed having coffee. It was a crowded start line with 10,000 runners all in the start area, a mix of marathon and half runners. I hadn’t really a plan in my mind, yet I looked up and saw the Yellow balloon pacer with 1:55 and it was then that I made a very conscious decision to try and follow him as best I could, I had no other plan so nothing to lose.

The city is magical at that hour of the day – no traffic, the sun slowly rising and the energy of people chatting and getting into their rhythm.  I hadn’t looked at the course map, it’s not what I like to do – I don’t want any idea at all as to where I am going. So when we dropped down onto Eagle St Pier I was surprised that it was chosen. I must admit I was a bit disappointed as the crowds trying to run in both directions along that narrow path was a little crazy. I wasn’t out to race, but it was frustrating to lose your rhythm, slow down to a walk, and get elbowed as people dodged in and out. It was great though to track back and see a lot of the boys including Jordan and all of them waved or called out.

Running over the Story Bridge is always something special I think – it never fails to disappoint when the sun is always changing. You can hear the breathing around you, those trying to dart around the slower runners to make up for the Pier traffic jam and then the elation of dropping as you go “down” the other side, heaven for the legs already. The meandering around Kangaroo point was also somewhat busy and I had to dodge the branches of the low hanging trees as we again went out and back and had to be aware of each other. What I didn’t need was another fall and to hurt my knees any further. Those first few Kms were slow but it was nice to enjoy the view and being able to run. I had lost the pacer in all the chaos and just forgot about it at that stage.

I did enjoy the 5 to 10k section, the temperature was perfect, the crowds had thinned, my breathing felt good and I was so busy focusing my mind on holding my core, keeping my hips up, trying to not worry about the knee or the pain and cuts on my hands, and thinking that soon my husband and daughter and sons girlfriend would be at half way to say hello. Meandering the base of the cliffs is quite incredible I think, what an amazing natural landmark and the run into Southbank is well worth it. What I was impressed with the entire way were the fabulous supporters at the water stations. They were energetic, organised and there seemed to be plenty of well positioned places to grab a drink – I always make sure I thank them and then apologise for the mess we make throwing the plastic cups after us.

Don’t you just love it when your mind starts to argue with itself? It never fails to amaze me how I do that…of course I spent a couple of kms saying I would see the family soon..then another couple of kms wondering where on earth they were and were they simply enjoying a nice coffee and pastry somewhere? ( well they did manage a coffee I found out on Instagram later!). 11..12..13km and no sign. Oh well, I decided to focus on wherever this run was taking us..Somehow I managed to find the 1:55 pacer and figured this was something to distract me and to stay with him as best I could. I also saw some more of the boys and chatted to a couple of them that had run up behind me, and then passed me with the bounce that only those who are 30 years younger than me can muster! I also enjoyed watching out for other RMAs on the course..I am still constantly amazed as to how I feel about this group of women I have never met yet feel so connected too – the focus and commitment was written over every face I saw. At one point I heard this hello and energy and thought that “Superwoman” was calling out to the man next to me and I thought very rude he didn’t acknowledge her!! Then I realised “ Oh no, it was me, It was RMA and I should have jumped and waved back as she was smiling and excited” She really was Superwoman.

Only a few minutes later I heard more cheering and energy and maracas’ and saw this stunning woman leaping and almost dancing as if she were at a party (or on a catwalk!) not smashing out a marathon..it was so exciting to see Ana who I had seen on posts as a I scrolled the RMA Facebook pages. I was so happy and waved with delight. It was the best timing ..

My mind was starting to argue with itself again and my knee was really starting to hurt as I limped and felt the ache so I focused on my stride and holding my hips. In my head I was starting to say “I will never get there, why did I do this, are we nearly there yet, where on earth are we going, are we going up a massive hill, oh for goodness sake surely the last 5km has been measured wrong”. It was with 1km to go I saw my hubby, Alyssa and Jordans girlfriend shouting out and smiling. I laughed and jumped up and down and they called out that most of the boys hadn’t been passed them yet and that I was looking good. I actually felt great aerobically, I hadn’t consumed anything other than a few sips of water and I felt fit. This was great timing and all I need and let’s nail this.

One last bridge to go and I thought it was good to be back with other people running and more supporters gathering to cheer everyone. Running over a finish line is always the best feeling and sense of achievement. I went up to the pacer and thanked him and his balloons and then waited to take photos of some of the boys as they came over the line..wanting to see my son achieve his milestone as well. I was fortunate to be right there when the marathon winner crossed the line and I was in awe of the pace and how easy he made it look!!

Seeing Jordan was brilliant, he was holding his arm up quite a bit and said to me he had “officially retired from running” and how do I do this..bless all 6ft 2 of him. A few minutes later chatting to a few parents who had gathered to watch their sons I heard a squeal and turned around to see my daughter run throwing herself around my neck shouting  “Oh mum congratulations I am so proud of you” and she held me close for what seemed like forever. Now that is what it is all about.

I got some photos of all the boys celebrating and looked at them all and thought..”RMA…all these boys have great mums, look at what they did and the reason why, we created that too..we created these young guys to step up and show that they can be mature and responsible, that they care about issues facing their mates and that they are facing challenges – we as mums created these babies and they were kneeling in front of us with medals and smiling and celebrating the euphoria of the run and of the kudos they were given by “Livin” for helping to raise over $23, 000 to help a serious cause – youth mental health”

On reflection, the moment I saw all these gorgeous young men celebrating achievement together, I realised that all I had been trying to fit in over the last months was on my own, in between long haul travel for work, kids, injury and just tiredness, with not many runs under my belt I reached a significant milestone for me and I was going to keep going with the goal I made myself for November with the Queenstown marathon. I would be 53 when I run it and I am determined to do it, wearing my RMA singlet with pride.

It was a privilege to wear the RMA singlet for the Brisbane half. I admire every single one of you and love the stories I read. Celebrate every success you have ever achieved – the walk, the run and the kids, it all goes by so fast.