SETTING THE SCENE
The tranquil rainforest sounds of Dylan’s phone alarm get louder as if politely persuading him to roll out of bed. He eventually gives in. Moments after he opens the shower door, I hear a little murmur in the bassinet beside me. Two small feet covered in a muslin wrap fling up. It only feels like half an hour ago since Billy’s last feed but all the same I pop my head up to see our eleven-week old’s little arms stretching above his head. There is nothing cuter than his gummy grin and smiling eyes staring up at me. I pluck our little bundle out of his bed for a quick nappy change and carry him downstairs to sterilise the breast pump and a bottle. After a few minutes, Dylan races down/ in his work outfit with laptop bag in hand and gives us a quick kiss goodbye. I rest against a cushion on the couch with the pump attached to one side, Billy on the other and a piece of toast with almond butter resting on my knees (looking very vulnerable). As I sit Billy up to rub his back, I hear a frantic rattling of keys. Dylan is back to collect the glasses that he left on the bench. I chuckle – these days I can almost count the number of seconds before he will race back inside to grab something he’s forgotten. Our morning routine these days is a stark contrast to that of Summer 2019 but I love it!
Motherhood. Its a journey that so many of us are blessed with. The road is not easy, but we are all in this together. As athletes and mums it is easy to look at those at the top end of our game and wonder what the transition into motherhood is like for them. What sacrifices did they have to make to make this step? What was the dive into motherhood really like, what had to change, and when was the decision made to focus on this new path in life? What does entering motherhood actually mean for mothers in sport at their level? We talk to Olympic marathoner Jessica Stenson, and now mum of Billy about her transition to motherhood in this three-part series. It turns out the ‘hood’ (motherhood) is right where she is meant to be.
Where are you from and when did you start running? Have you always been active and involved in sport?
I was raised in the country town of Naracoorte in South Australia’s South East. Dad worked as a large animal Vet, Mum operated a swim school out of our backyard pool and my two younger siblings (Abbie, Jack) and I shared a passion for sport, animals and travel. The three of us feel very grateful for our happy and active childhoods. Family bike rides on the weekends, afternoons spent kicking the footy on the oval next to our house, scrub barbeques with friends, camping trips, hours spent doting over our menagerie of pets and late night Vet call-outs with Dad to watch him deliver a calf were some of the highlights. What I am perhaps most thankful for however is the love we continue to share as a family and the values that my parents instilled in us from a young age – a love for nature and the outdoors, respect, open-mindedness, a desire to learn and to get the most out of ourselves, an optimistic outlook and a strong sense of community spirit.
My first cross country race was at Naracoorte Primary School. I was five years old and recall being incredibly nervous. Despite intense pre-race nerves throughout my schooling years, I loved the sense of satisfaction that followed. Being able to overcome discomfort and at times a strong urge to stop, helped me to gain confidence and self-belief in all areas of life. Endurance running came a lot more naturally to me than sprinting (or swimming) and I loved the peace I felt out amongst nature once I found my relaxed rhythm. Funnily enough, my other favourite Athletics events were long jump, triple jump and high jump. I’m so keen to give the jumps a go again when I’m not in heavy running training!
What have been your most major achievements to date in your running career?
In March of 2012 my coach, Adam Didyk and I flew to Nagoya in Japan where I was to run my first Marathon. It was a step out of the comfort zone but also an incredibly exciting adventure with nothing to lose other than potentially a few toe nails! Entering the home straight and seeing the digital clock tick over to 2 hours and 31 minutes was exhilarating and a moment that I will never forget. Whilst qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics alongside two of my running heroes Benita Willis and Lisa Weightman was a major highlight, making it onto the podium at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and in front of a home crowd on the Gold Coast were other very special life experiences.
You are a pretty busy lady when you aren’t training, both working as a physio and as an owner of a business. Tell us a little bit about that and what that balance does for you in your life. What do you love most about these vocations?
As a young girl I dreamed of being a Vet like Dad, however as time went by I also discovered my passion for human health and ended up pursuing physiotherapy. What I didn’t realise at the time is how helpful the anatomical, physiological and biomechanical knowledge would be to me as a runner down the track. If a niggle pops up during training or a race, I feel more in control and tend to panic less when I understand what may be the cause.
In keeping with my passion for health, I have a deep-set desire to inspire more people to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of being active. I also love working with others to help define and work towards goals. Through my physio work, Rundies business with Dylan and Jack, speaking opportunities, ambassador roles, writing and racing, I feel like I get to achieve the above in different ways. Seeing the faces of students, clients, spectators, family members, friends, proud new Rundies owners or team mates light up with excitement and enthusiasm brings me a lot of happiness : ).
Whilst juggling these different activities can be a little hectic at points, I love the balance and perspective that they add to my life.
Why do you think running that has such a profound impact on people and what makes it so special?
Running can be incredibly empowering as progress is easy to measure. It helps people to develop self-awareness and resilience through exposing their strengths and vulnerabilities.
Despite running being labelled an “individual” sport, no one should ever feel like they are in it alone. The strong running networks that exist throughout the world offer a social outlet that I for one, can thank for my husband and many of my closest friends.
Perhaps what makes running particularly special is its unique simplicity – there aren’t many other sports that be done anywhere in the world at any time with as little equipment as you want. Running shows us the world from a different perspective and exposes us to nature at its best!
What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not running?
I have enjoyed drawing and painting since I was a young girl and still get excited about pulling out the pencils or paints in my spare time. Outside of running I also love catching up with family and friends, which usually involves good food, coffee and fresh air. When I have extra energy to burn, I love venturing to the beach, exploring forest and mountain trails (with plenty of nibbles) and camping trips.
Where is your favourite place to run?
It is hard to go past St. Moritz in Switzerland. I first experienced training there in 2017 ahead of the London World Championships and my coach Adam genuinely had to hold me back from running more than my program prescribed – there were so many stunning trails to explore! The turquoise waters, ice-capped mountains, dense forests and pristine lakes were breath-taking (irrespective of the thin air). At home my favourite places to run are along the Henley Beach esplanade and in Belair National Park when I feel like more of a hilly challenge.
To be continued……