Why did I start running? I'm not really sure myself. I was active as a kid, competing in Little Athletics and netball for many years, but I was never a "runner". In fact I don't think I ever managed to finish the 1500 m event without taking a walk break. Running wasn't something I did to stay in shape or keep fit, like some of my friends did. Occasionally, when I was in my early twenties, I had little bursts of motivation that would see me running on the streets around home. If I made it to 10 minutes, I was stoked. I never lasted more than 15 minutes. During this time I still played netball once a week and I thought I was fit and healthy because of it. Never mind the terrible diet I ate...
In 2008 I moved to a country town for work, where I knew no one and didn't have much to do. As part of my employment I could sign up to the local gym for a good price, and this seemed to be what everyone else did so I joined too. I had never owned a gym membership before and my first class (BodyStep) was a disaster. But I persevered and soon discovered a love for exercise, much to my surprise.
Around the same time as this newfound fitness addiction, my then boyfriend (now husband) Danny and I had started looking around for novel things to do on the weekends, the only time we saw each other. I found an ad for the upcoming Melbourne Marathon, so I turned to Danny and asked if he thought we could complete the shortest distance, 5.5km. Neither of us had run that far in our lives, but we thought, "Why not?" It was one of the best decisions we ever made.
We managed to squeeze in a few short training runs before race day, but still nothing more than 15 minutes. Nervously we approached the start line, with thousands of other competitors. We had never even watched a fun run before, so we had no idea what to expect. We started right near the back of the pack, with the walkers and people with strollers, hoping we didn't stand out as newbies too much.
We successfully completed that first run, and we couldn't wait to see what was next. Immediately we wanted a longer distance, full of confidence after running five kilometres non-stop. At the start of 2009 we found a three part race series held at iconic locations in Melbourne, and signed up the 8 km distances. At this time I moved back to Melbourne, so it was easier to join in races. It was the start of my running boom, completing 17 fun runs that year and getting some sort of training plan going (although at this point, two 5 km runs per week was MASSIVE). We joined local running groups and free training sessions, keen to learn as much as we could to help us run faster and further. I purchased a Runner's World magazine subscription, adding in suggested workouts and following simple training plans. I still continued going to the gym, participating in a variety of classes, as well as playing netball. I had finally become that fit and healthy person I thought I was a couple of years ago.
In 2010 I pulled back on the fun runs. I realised I was paying a lot of money to run a distance I could easily do by myself, so why not save the money and spend it on something else instead (which ended up being a long holiday the following year). I started training for a half marathon, but unfortunately the stars didn't align and I couldn't complete it. The 21.1 km goal was going to have to wait a couple of years.
In 2011 we spent the entire year overseas, and very little running was achieved. Arriving back in Australia in 2012, our fitness had deteriorated significantly and it took several months to regain most of it. My eye was set on becoming a half marathoner, so this is what I trained for. In September, my dream was realised. I was extremely happy with how the whole race went and was proud to go sub 1:50:00 in my first half. It was only at this point that I ever contemplated the full marathon.
From there I mixed things up a bit. We moved across the other side of the country, to Fremantle, where the weather was beautiful and outdoor sports were the norm (unlike rainy Melbourne). While I was still committed to increasing my running distances, I also tried some other events, such as stair climbs, sand runs, obstacle races and triathlons. Although I am a terrible swimmer and a very average cyclist, I loved combining these sports with running during the hotter months. Instead of training four or five days a week after work, I was training six to seven days, often morning and night, just to fit it all in. I was still a gym member and I had also joined up to local kickboxing classes, giving me another form of cross-training in my schedule. During the intense weeks I was swimming, cycling and running three times per week, taking part in one weights session and two or three kickboxing classes, plus some core work at home. My life boiled down to work, exercise, sleep, repeat. I loved it.
In 2014 Danny and I decided it was time: it would be the year of the marathon. Once triathlon season was over, the swimming ceased, cycling was cut back to one session per week, and running increased. I still continued the gym and kickboxing sessions. I had a training plan that I followed almost religiously and I found my times getting faster. I became vegetarian at some stage during this training and concentrated more on eating well. While the last few weeks in the lead up to the marathon weren't ideal, the day itself was fantastic and I couldn't be happier with how it unfolded.
After the marathon it was back into triathlons again, stepping up to the Olympic Distance. I joined a swimming club but I think my was stroke was beyond help, so I just muddled my way through the swim leg and tried to catch up during the run. I knew I was never going to be a competitive triathlete but that didn't matter to me. It was just about being out there.
On the day I completed the OD triathlon, I headed off overseas again, this time for six months. Exercise took a back seat, with an occasional run every week or two. There were plenty of hikes undertaken and we were constantly on our feet, but running fitness quickly faded away. While travelling long distances on buses across the various countries, I listened to a variety of podcasts about running, exercise and nutrition. This led to two big decisions: when I arrived back home, I was going to compete in an ultramarathon, and I was going to become vegan.
Upon returning to Australia I found a 50 km race that appealed to me, back in my home state of Victoria. I devised a training program by amalgamating a few I found online, and got straight back into it the day after we landed. I had 14 weeks to go from almost no running to finishing 50 km in one go. Ideally a few more weeks would have been nice, but I made sure to use every moment to my advantage. In the end I didn't need those few weeks: I came away with first placed female, my first ever win in a running race. I couldn't believe it! Whether it was the right choice of training, the new diet or just luck on the day, I knew that I had found something that I loved and wanted to see how far I could take it.
I ended up taking it to Thailand. At the end of 2015, Danny and I moved to Bangkok for work and we are still here now. I had no idea what the running scene was like, but I joined a local running group as soon as I arrived and started asking questions. Within four weeks I was lined up for my next 50 km, which was markedly different from the first but just as incredible. From there things kept getting better and better. I joined a variety of races - road, trail, half marathons, ultramarathons - and have somehow managed to be successful in many of these events. While I don't think I will ever love running in the heat, I have become used to it now and somehow forget that sweat is pouring from every pore in my body. The people I met were wonderful and helped me to settle into this crazy city.
In 2017 careers ended up taking us to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The heat, the flat city, the lack of places to run was all the same as Bangkok. This was also the year I decided to undertake the Asia Trail Master championship. I ran six ultramarathons across five countries, and accumulated enough points to take out the title. This is easily my greatest running achievement to date, and has given me the confidence to go out and set further goals that would previously have seemed unachievable.
In the future I am hoping to travel across more of Asia to compete in races, taking advantage of the proximity of many great trail-running locations. This is a foreign concept to me, coming from Australia, where a five hour flight only takes you from one side of the country to the other. I am still working to increase my distance, hoping to reach 100 miles one day. Right now I am keen to continue my running adventures, but I never know what the future may hold.