To my dearest RMA,
This is letter is one of thanks and utter gratitude for the support and sense of community I have gained from this group. It is like no other community I have ever been a part of, its both saved and changed my life.
We first met back on the 15thAugust 2015, I was invited by a friend of mine – Kate, who invited me to join your group where she told me that it would help me with my new found love of running. What she didn’t know was that this invitation would change my life in so many ways. Here I have found a community like no other, and for that I will be forever grateful. Because of you, running has become more than the physical act of exercise – its connected me to a community I never knew I needed, a hole I didn’t know existed.
A few months prior to finding you, RMA, I had decided to change my lifestyle because I was overweight and I was struggling to keep up with my two year old. I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t fit down a slide. My GP had been expressing concern about my health and to be honest I was on a one way track to type 2 diabetes and other diet related diseases. I joined a weight loss company as I knew I needed the support. I started walking and soon became quite bored and decided after joining parkrun that I should attempt running. My friends laughed at me and this was enough to light a fire in my soul to prove them wrong, and that I certainly did. Little did I know, you had my back.
I started C25K and meeting up for a run with a local RMA member Dani, I learned some tips on how to run and was soon running 5km. This led to 10km and eventually 15km where I ruptured my hamstring. On the return to running from this I tore my calf muscle and looking back now, my body was speaking to me, but I wasn’t as in tune as I thought I was. All the while I had met many RMA members and created a running community around me through parkrun and this was going to be crucial in the year following.
Almost a year after we met, on the 16thof August 2016, a decision to go to a local shopping centre changed my life forever. I was with my then 3 year old son and was the healthiest and fittest I have ever been in my life. We were walking in an underground carpark when we were struck by a car. I was pinned and suffered severe injuries as a result and my son, Reggie was fine- scared, confused and bruised. You were there again, in the hospital as my friends from my RMA community and close friends rushed to support us.
I awoke in the Royal Melbourne hospital the next day, not knowing what had happened, not being able to feel my legs. You guessed it, the first question was ‘Will I be able to run again?’ This question was to be asked over and over again as I sought second opinions and worked on regaining my strength. As they wheeled me into the surgery to reconstruct my pelvis the answer was ‘you are going to need to learn to walk again first…’
And so began my rehabilitation. I had learned from running to trust my body, to trust the training process. I listened to my therapists, I trained hard, every spare moment I had in hospital I was training. This time I was not training for a half marathon, I was training for my life. This mindset that I learned in the year proceeding the accident was what got me through. Running taught me to be consistent and this was crucial to my recovery. Here you were again, with advice, friends who were visiting calling and messaging. All the while saying, you will run again.
There was one weekend where I trained hard. I was given a walking frame and told by my physio to practice walking. By Monday, I was efficient and he bought me crutches. You taught me that I could do whatever I set my mind to. Soon after I was discharged but feeling disconnected. That was, until Mick took me to parkrun. He looked at me one Saturday and said I know where you need to be and promptly drove me to there.
Over coffee with Gary and Sue (ED’s at Highlands) they said how can we help? And I was immediately added to the volunteer roster for the next few months. Friends and family drove me to and from parkrun to volunteer as I learnt to walk without the aide of crutches, all the while staying connected to you.
This is why running is so much more than the actual physical act, it’s a community. In the meantime I had returned to work, remained consistent with my training, withdrawn from heavy pain medication and still all the while was asking ‘when can I can run?’
Asking when was important, I had an unwavering belief that I could run again. It was just a matter of when.
I had been watching my RMA friends from afar and had been cheering their achievements and had continued to make many more friends and connections despite not being able to run. Here you were again, encouraging me keeping me warm until I was ready.
One cold July day last year at parkrun, almost two years after the accident, and having medical clearance, I returned to running. I didn’t tell anyone, and crossing that finish line was so emotional and my community at parkrun and you, RMA were there to witness it.
I have now returned to running 5km and at the moment this is my limit but I am OK with that. Thank you for being here when I have needed you, when I have needed to see what is possible I have read the other RMA stories and this has inspired me.
Thank you for having supported me in my goals, and inspiring me to reach for those goals I had been told by medical professionals that were out of reach.
Without you, RMA, my return to running would have been harder. Having a friend to run with, a friend to come back and collect me on the course, a friend who understands how important running is. That running is more than running- it’s community, and the feeling of being free. I feel free when I run. I feel like I can achieve anything and when you have a community like this – that have your back- you have found something special.
So, I thank you RMA, all of you, with all that I am.
See you out on the course,