A journey of desperation, running for therapy, call it what you may, but here is my story and how our Roma Women’s Running Group formed.
Rewind to January this year and that’s where you find the version of me that was unhappy, overweight, menopausal, suffering from autoimmune issues, recovering from a chronic illness, unemployed and trying to cope with everything that comes from being in your forties. Put simply, I was an emotional and physical mess.
So, what does one do?
Not in a Forrest Gump kind of way, but I needed something that would keep me accountable; something to strive for. So that’s when I signed up to do the Gold Coast Half Marathon in July of this year. Those who know me know that when I commit to something, I am all in. But more so, I needed this for my mental health. Over coffee, I put the idea to a dear friend Megan, who, at first, told me that I was crazy! But as friends do, she committed to completing this journey with me since she really didn’t know how else to help me. She never wanted to run, but for months she tied her laces and supported me as we ran, and we talked, and we cried, and the process repeated. And through this process, Megan realised why I ran.
As we gathered more and more kilometres, we also gathered more and more interest from local women who possibly needed it just as much as I did. I had found a tribe that was making me smile again.
It was through this training that the idea of the ‘Roma Women’s Running Group’ was conceptualised after people kept approaching me to ask about running. People wondering how on earth we ran as far as we did, why we were running that far, why were we running in below zero temperatures and the list went on.
We live in a small-town community, so it was common for people to see us out running and recognise us. They got to know our routine, what days we ran, and where we ran. Running doesn’t come naturally or easily to me so I guess that people figured that if I could do it, so could they! Or maybe, it was the smiles on our faces – not the pain or grimaces that I would have previously associated with the activity!
There was enough interest that I put the call out on Facebook – ‘Any ladies wanting to run, meet at the Big Rig Carpark at 6pm’. The idea was, one hour, one day a week, no expectations, all abilities and nobody runs alone.
10 ladies turned up! I was ecstatic – double digits!
11 weeks in and 47 women turned up! We are talking women of all ages, abilities and walks of life – women in a small, somewhat isolated, drought-affected community in Western Queensland who just wanted (or needed) to run.
These women have a lot going on in their lives – the new mum who just needs an hour for herself, the small business owner struggling to balance the books, the farmer’s wife, the lady who isn’t feeling the best physically, or the stressed out mum juggling work and family commitments. As women in this modern world, we have all kinds of excuses not to do something for ourselves. This is exacerbated out here in our drought affected community where some of these women are struggling to keep themselves, and their homes, families and livelihoods going.
We don’t have the beautiful beaches, the running paths, the green tinged scenery, or the ability to regularly attend major running events due to our proximity, but we do have each other. This group is more than just running. It is about connection, encouragement and community to ensure we truly are women supporting women. At the end of the day, it’s about looking after our mental health. For most of us we can appreciate the deep conversations that can occur while we try and take the focus off how much we are hurting. It opens up the barriers that can torment us, it allows us to express our feelings whether they are high or low, it gives us a sense of belonging and it reminds us that we are capable; capable of things we never thought possible.
Watching the growing numbers take off each week as we warm up blows my mind. The chatter and laughter between the group is contagious. For some women, this weekly event has become their non-negotiable in their crazy, busy lives.
As the running group continues to grow, so does the admiration from the locals who see them every week. We receive so many positive comments about the sheer determination and the power in numbers we generate. The running women are becoming a movement – a movement to better the physical, social and emotional health and wellbeing of the entire community.
But this group isn’t about me, it’s about us. I just planted the seed. In a time where not much else is growing due to this horrid, heartbreaking drought it is encouraging and uplifting to see our numbers grow. No words can describe how this group makes me feel. It gives me a sense of purpose every week, and as long as it brings a smile to one ladies face, I will keep turning up.
If you talk about it, it’s a dream.
If you envision it, it’s possible.
But if you schedule it, it’s real. And this group is very real!
Carly Hicks, RMA Community Ambassador, Roma QLD