My name is Geraldine, and I first became involved with Running Mums Australia back in 2014.  I stumbled across the Instagram page while I was getting into running, and saw a lot of RMA’s on the Gold Coast that July when I completed my first half marathon.

After that I became quite actively involved on the facebook group page as I prepared to tackle my first marathon in October 2014.  Completing that marathon taught me a lot of things – that with hard work I could succeed, that I was stronger than I believed I was, and that if I believed in myself I could achieve great things.  These were important life lessons for me as it prepared me for the biggest battle of my life.

It was just 4 months later, in February 2015, that I left my abusive partner.  I had spent 5 years loving and living with a man who I should have felt secure, safe and happy with.  By the time I left I felt broken, depressed and riddled with anxiety.

It’s hard to ever explain what it feels like to live with, and love someone, who you are scared of. His temper was explosive, and my daughter and I lived our lives on egg shells, carefully choosing our way so as not to cause arguments or set him off.  They were tough years for us both.

On 1 February 2015 this man, that I loved, assaulted me in front of our 2 year old daughter.  He threw me through a door way, and my daughter watched on and ran to the bathroom.  By the time I scrambled up and got to the bathroom, I found her hidden in the bath tub, crouched in a ball, hiding.  It broke my heart in a way I can’t ever explain.  I felt in many ways I had failed her, the person I loved the most in the whole world, and I knew at that moment that she and I deserved so much more.  Over the next few hours I tried to leave with my daughter, and was subsequently assaulted once more in front of her leaving me with a black eye.  When I finally convinced him to take me to a 24 hour medical centre, I limped in, my daughter in my arms, him beside me.  There was a security guard at the door, and once inside I screamed ‘he did this to me’.  He fled.  And the hours that followed that night involved hospital, police, and my family.

I had found the strength to leave.  But I had left with nothing.  I had the clothes my daughter and I were dressed in and nothing else.  I had to face my abuser and appear in a court room first thing the next morning, dressed right down to my underwear in my mother’s belongings.  It was the most humiliating experience of my entire life.  The events that followed that court room were traumatic.  Despite having an intervention order granted I was harassed and stalked, and I began to feel like I may not even make it out alive. It was terrifying.

Somewhere, in the midst of all of this, I had sent a facebook message to Nicole, our RMA founder. I sent her a photo of my face and said ‘last week I ordered an RMA shirt online, please don’t send it to my house, I’m not there’.  Subsequently, Nicole showed great care, respect and kindness to me when I needed it the most.  It was later, on the 6 February 2015 that I took this photo, and shared it to the group, asking for support as I attempted to go for a run that day.

The outpouring of kindness, care, empathy and support was something none of us anticipated.  I received 532 comments on that post that day, and beyond that the RMA group page was flooded with members across the country going for runs and posting dedications to me.  It made me cry the happiest tears.  On 14 February 2015 I attended Albert Park Parkrun where some of the Melbourne RMA’s had organised a run together to support me.  I almost didn’t go, almost backed out at the last minute, but I got myself there, still showing bruising, and meeting many RMA’s I had not yet met in person.

I ran along side some members, it was physically hard as I wasn’t eating well and had hardly slept, and as I got to the end of the 5km’s I remember member Erin saying to me “go on Gez, nice strong finish today”, I cried my way through the flags with my head down and looked up to see another member Zoe volunteering, I collapsed into her arms and we sobbed together for a long time.  The photo of that moment still brings tears to my eyes.

I realise now that I felt at that moment that I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t face the world.  What RMA did for me was to show me, that even when I didn’t believe in my own ability to stand, you all made me believe that I could run.  And what a gift that is.

At a time in my life when I felt so truly broken and alone, you all made me feel like I was part of a pack, an army of the most beautiful, strong, determined women.  And having you on my team made me stronger.  To say thank you seems so inadequate …. But thank you.

The years that followed have also been hard.  I have been to countless days in court, been let down by “the system”, but every time I have got back up, dusted myself off, and continued to fight for safety and happiness for myself and my daughter.  Running has remained by my side too.  It’s like an old friend, always there waiting for me, wonderful when we get together, and yet I feel like we never get to spend enough time together.

This is a sad story, but I am so truly pleased to tell you that it is a sad story with a happy ending. Today, you would not find a happier 6 year old than my daughter, nor a happier 35 year old woman than me.  Our lives are wonderful, and I am proud and grateful for all the beautiful aspects of it, as well as the most amazing people in it. Someone told me back when I was first leaving ‘the best is yet to come’.  They were right.  I have the best life, and to say my heart is happy is an understatement.

A few months ago I found out about RMA being part of a campaign to raise funds for share the dignity charity.  Since 2015 I have enthusiastically participated in their #itsinthebag campaign. And to watch this group raise funds through our run for dignity campaign has made me so very proud.  With almost 35,000 members, domestic violence is something that has impacted our group in a big way.  Share the dignity is important to me because it not only shines the light on issues facing many women in our country, including domestic violence and homelessness, it also provides a simple, practical way to help them.  And that is something that I feel so passionately about.

Well done RMA xxxxoooo

To join in our Run 4 Dignity this October head here. There is still time to make a difference.