I have always been athletic. I played basketball as a kid. I was pretty good at it and made it as far as training with the Melbourne Tigers women’s WNBL team and could have gone further, but I lost the hunger. I was 17 and the possibility of hanging out with friends and partying seemed to be a better idea. However, during my basketball time, I started running. I always won the athletics carnivals at school, 100m, 400m, 800m, placed well in the cross country runs and made it all the way to Olympic Park once for the 100m and 800m… that was an eye opener. I was just a fast athletic kid with no running training – I never did Little Aths – and these kids turned up with their spikes on their shoes and these metal plate things to put their feet in, so you could imagine what I was thinking. Anyway, they slaughtered me, but I still beat everyone else to make it to Olympic Park!
So my Dad was a marathon runner, with one ultra (80kms around a running track!) under his belt. I would go on my BMX bike and ride behind him. He would push me up the hills and one day he let me ride on a long run with him for 20kms. I remember having really sore legs after that! My Mum, sisters and I used to chase Dad in the car when he was running his marathons. Mum would pile my sisters and I into the car and we would drive to the next location to cheer him on. I remember the excitement and anticipation, waiting for that familiar form of my Dad to come into sight, and when he did, we would cheer like mad! He’d always give us a wave and a smile, but fly straight past. He was a really good runner!
So back to the basketball days, I decided I needed to get fitter. Before school a few days per week I would run 2kms. My school friends used to think that I was mad like my Dad who they always saw running. So that’s where I started running. Of course I’ve given up many times, gained kilos, lost kilos, had 3 children, taken up running again, endured that pain the next day when you can’t walk… but I always went back to it. I would always start at 5kms, which I now realise, compared to others, is quite far. But I would never let myself stop or walk, I will allow myself to slow down, but never stop or walk! Oh it hurt, my lungs were on fire and I couldn’t breathe, my legs were dying, but if I was going to start running again, this is what you had to put up. I shouldn’t have given up again!
Around the year 2000 (I think) I entered one event, Mother’s Day Classic for 8kms which is 2 laps around Melbourne’s iconic “The Tan” track. Hated the event thing… hated running where I wasn’t familiar… what’s so iconic about The Tan?… didn’t get a proper finishing time as they missed me coming over the finishing line, nope events weren’t for me. So I just kept running on the same paths and roads, running just for me.
Before we had the kids, my husband would always say to me, mix it up, go on different roads, go at different times of the day, GO IN AN EVENT! Nope, I’m not interested. I was in a routine and wasn’t interested in events nor running with people. I did eventually start changing my routes, but only when it was light in the morning. Always the morning, the fresh air…. aaaah beautiful! I used to hide my running from people. I never felt like a runner. I didn’t think I looked like a runner, and felt like people were giving me that “you don’t look like a runner” look – you know what I’m talking about.
Fast forward, I’ve now got 3 beautiful girls and as we all know, sometimes you’re lucky to get a run in when you can, especially when they’re little. Then something started in me… this fire, possibly the hunger that I lost when I was 17. I had always wanted to be a successful runner like my Dad, but had never run more than 14kms. It was January 2018, I’m just about to turn 41, I sat in a team meeting at work and told them I was going to run a half marathon in March. OMG I said it out loud and to people other than my husband, family or closest friends. I have to do it now. And I did. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it felt, I had finally accomplished something with my running. I’d stopped being the “one day I’m gonna” and I did it! After that I ran another 2 half marathons that year and participated in the Wings for Life World run and made 17kms, it was dynamite! I even started talking to people about my running, but of course you get that blank look in the eye and a polite smile, they just don’t get it. Then my daughter’s acrobatics class had parents join in for the last class of the year, which I went hard at, of course, I’m so competitive, and then I hobbled out of there, I’d injured my plantar fascia. It had been niggling for a while before that, but now it was excruciating, I couldn’t even wear a shoe!
I waited out the healing process and was pretty disappointed that I couldn’t run over the summer. All those early mornings in full light, when you live in Melbourne, those early morning daylight hours mean a lot! I got jealous of my husband who took full advantage of my injury and off he went as much as he could on his bike… grrr… but I got better and I got back out there.
We had a big trip planned to Ireland for all of May 2019. The Wings For Life World Run was on when we were going to be in Dublin and they had an app run organised for Dublin. I was pretty excited, but scared. I was very popular amongst the other runners being an Aussie. I made 17kms again! Bucket list tick, complete a run in another country!
Once we returned from Ireland and for the remainder of the year I had lost my courage to enter events. My husband was trying to encourage me, but I didn’t enter anything. I started to feel a little lonely with my running. I’d never had a running buddy before. I desperately wanted someone to share those long kms with. But I didn’t know where to look and was too shy to join anything. But I plucked up the courage and entered the half marathon again in the Carmen’s Women’s Fun Run in December because I had enjoyed it so much the year before. I trained hard, I was going to PB it at any cost. And I did! At the event, the car parked next to ours had a sticker on the back window. I read it. RMA, then underneath Running Mums Australia. Whoa! What is this group? I have to be part of it! (unbeknown to me there was an RMA tent that I never saw at the event as it was hidden in the event sponsor area!) So fresh out of the shower after getting home I am on the internet searching RMA, Running Mums Australia. I think I signed up and paid up my membership that day! There was this whole world of mum runners that I never knew existed. OMG so exciting. And from there the real determination started.
I still had no running buddy to speak of, but I had this Facebook group of women completing things I never knew existed. It was going to be a big event year, I was going to run a full marathon and was going to do this just like all the Rummas. I’m a Rumma too.
I was looking at The Great Ocean Road Running Festival in May. This was for the Full Marathon. I was a bit scared, it was 44kms, not just 42.2kms. And it had 400m elevation. It would be hard! I didn’t sign up yet, thought I’d wait, but I couldn’t get accommodation anyway. Then bloody Covid19… The virus took off, the country got locked down, but I kept running and waiting. So Great Ocean Road got cancelled, and I stopped looking.
It’s early June the numbers on the virus are down and I see the Great Ocean Road is scheduled for 23 August. I count the weeks, 10 weeks. I can train in 10 weeks. It’s not like I’m starting from scratch, I already run about 40kms per week and can run up to 15kms comfortably. I book accommodation, but don’t book the run… yet. I search for training plans on the internet. I never found any that I particularly liked, so I put a bunch of them together and made my own. What the hell is a fartlek? Intervals, what are they? A slow run, why would I run slow? Eating when I run? YUCK! I’ve always had to hold my breath when running past the fish and chip shop! So many things to learn. And the training began.
I was going really well. I was sleeping really well! My legs started changing. Out of nowhere that handle on the inside of my knees disappeared! This is great. I feel so strong! Sunday long run, I was in the 30kms, my husband and kids were giving me toilet paper finishing lines at the end of the driveway, life is awesome!
More virus, numbers increasing, living next to one of the suburbs named as a hotspot. More restrictions and a reverse back into Stage 3. Lucky I can cancel the accommodation with full deposit refund even though it is the weekend after the new restrictions are supposed to be lifted. We won’t be going, bloody virus! I keep watching the Great Ocean Road Running Festival Facebook page… waiting for it to be cancelled and sure enough it’s turned into a virtual. I knew that, it was always going to happen. I still hadn’t signed up but was still training for it. I thought, well I am not letting this training go to waste, I will sign up to the virtual and I will do this!
So I kept training, the last long run I got to do was 33kms and I didn’t feel completely depleted afterwards. I’d figured out my nutrition. I was feeling pretty good about this. I can do this, even with an RMA buff as a mask. We were waiting for Dan Andrews to make another announcement, the numbers were increasing at a rapid rate. I was feeling pretty low – this virus started messing with my usually healthy mental state. My husband was fully supportive of me buying a treadmill. He even upped the budget I had in my head – BONUS! Did my research, I needed it to withstand possible marathon training on it and bought it, yay! Then bang, Stage 4 was announced and only 1 hour of exercise outside. OMG NOOO! This can’t be happening? Where is my treadmill? Where is my treadmill? How can I run a marathon in 1 hour hahaha it’s laughable. Fortunately the event organisers announce that because of the restrictions we can submit our distance over multiple runs… thank you, I appreciate that, but that’s not a marathon!
My treadmill arrives. Can I really run 44kms on a treadmill? I’m confident I can do the distance, but on a treadmill? You know what? I have trained hard, I have given everything to get to this stage. My husband and family have been awesome supporting me to get to this. I am left with no other option, if I want to run my marathon, I have to do it on a treadmill. What have I got to lose? A toenail? hahaha
I get acquainted with the tready… it’s different, it’s boring, I’m so thankful for Netflix!
The big day arrives. I’m ready. I’ve been psyching myself all week by telling myself it’s not going to be a usual run, it’s going to be incredibly boring, I’ve just got to go into my Sunday long run mode and dream away the time. I get on the dreaded tready and off we go. Good luck Kezza!
Thoroughly enjoying The Last Dance, the Michael Jordan documentary, time has flown, I’m already 22kms woohoo halfway! Feeling GOOD! The family hasn’t woken yet, not one visitor to the garage yet. I try to take a photo of the kms on the tready, so hard to keep the phone steady, I want to send it to my husband to let him know I’m already halfway.
First visitor, my husband. All sleepy, he’s so cute! He gives me plenty of encouragement and goes back inside. The two older girls come out, have a chat, encourage me then go inside. I can see my husband making pancakes in the kitchen for the kids while I’m slogging it out in the garage. It’s just a usual Sunday to them.
I get to about 26kms and start feeling crappy. I knew it was going to happen, but was hoping it would be in another 10kms or so. I can’t tell you how much motivational talking had to start happening. I can do this! I am not going to stop now! But my quads, ouch, they’re feeling the lactic acid and starting to feel weak, mental note to self, more quad strengthening when this is over!
I had gone about 36kms and the pain was real. My husband had visited a few times, but this time I asked him to please stay. I was struggling like I have never struggled before. I even broke one of my running rules, I had to walk, just for a little bit. I’d finished the Michael Jordan documentary, I tried to watch something else, it just annoyed me. I thought about RMA a lot. Of all the women achieving their dreams. I want to be one of those women too. This has been a dream to be a marathoner like my Dad. I have to finish!
My husband rallied up the girls, the little one decided she wasn’t interested, she wanted to go inside instead, whatever, I can’t stop. The two bigger ones were awesome cheering me on, playing the Rocky theme song for me on repeat (it actually made me feel better!) and shouting out encouragement. I did wonder if the neighbours were listening and what were they thinking? Too bad I just can’t stop!
And then the clock on the tready is getting up there, 40, 42.2 (woohoo marathon territory), 43, 43.5, 43.8, 43.99, 44.00 OMG I DID IT! I just did a marathon on a treadmill! Incredible! I am (almost) so thankful to the Covid19 crap now, I have just done something in my life that I never thought I’d do,
…A MARATHON ON A TREADMILL!…
I’m grateful for my strong mind and dedication, my strong body, my husband and favourite little support crew, my Dad (and Mum and sisters) for what he achieved and how I got to experience it as a kid and I am so grateful that I found RMA. The inspiring women, dedication and amazing stories made me believe that I could do this, even if it had to be modified, but I did it!
Now to find a running buddy… anyone?
By Kerry Downey, RMA, Melbourne Victoria.