When Porirua grandma Sharon Rose thought about the best way to celebrate her 50th birthday, she knew a simple cake and candles wouldn't cut it. Instead, she marked the milestone by standing in a carpark surrounded by 100 cheering onlookers, using the body weight of her 1.5m (4'11") frame to a pull a 10-tonne truck.
"I never believed I'd make it to 50 and I promised myself if I did, I'd do something big," explains Sharon, who struggles with anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from childhood trauma.
"I've survived five suicide attempts and once I got to 45, I realised I was probably going to make it to 50. I wanted to do something strong for it."
Known to family and friends as "Shazza", the grandmother-of-seven decided to set a six-month goal last year to get physically strong. She originally wanted to pull a four-tonne ambulance, raising money along the way for the Wellington Free Ambulance service, since they'd been there each time to save her life.
"They pulled me through and I wanted to thank them for all the hard work they do," says Sharon, who is a nail technician. "But because of Omicron, I couldn't use an ambulance, so I decided to pull a truck."
The mum of daughter Jess, 31, son Nic, 27, and daughter Steph, 24, admits she has always found it easier to build muscle than most people and has done powerlifting and CrossFit in the past. "I'm one of those people who naturally gets quite strong muscles without having to do a lot," tells Sharon, who turned 50 on March 9. "I grew up with a brother who was really strong and I always wanted to lift his weights."
When she started playing around making videos for fun on TikTok with her grand-daughters last year, Sharon came across a challenge. It said to write down goals and get up each day to work towards them for six months, then film it. Since she struggles with bouts of anxiety and depression that can leave her bedridden, Sharon decided the challenge would be good for her mental health.
"I saw it as the universe calling out to me and one of the goals that I made was to make it to 50," admits Sharon. "The second goal was to pull a vehicle."
Porirua bodybuilder and powerlifter Chris Nelson began training Sharon at the gym, where she went three to four times a week for high-intensity muscle training and powerlifting. Her exercise included pulling a 400kg sled that tore the soles off two new pairs of shoes!
Sharon first attempted to pull two utes at one time, which was a success. Then she started a Givealittle page named Shazza's 50th Birthday Give Back, with a fundraising goal of $5000 for Wellington Free Ambulance. Along the way, she documented her training progress on TikTok.
"I got some hate off TikTok because a few people believed this 4'11" grandmother couldn't be pulling utes. But everybody who knew it was totally authentic got behind me and donated," says Sharon. "Bryce O'Sullivan Contracting got on board and gave me the 10-tonne truck to pull on the final day. They were so supportive – it was awesome."
A few days after her 50th birthday, Sharon stood in the carpark of her local tenpin bowling building 15kg lighter because of her training, having dropped from a size 20-18 to a size 10-8 in just 26 weeks.
"I just changed the quantity of my food but didn't go on a diet or anything. I knew if I grew my muscles, it'd push the fat away and look awesome," Sharon enthuses.
Incredibly, Sharon ended up pulling the truck three times – the first with a stepping ladder and rope, and the second with just the pulling rope. For her third go, she did it using only the harness and her own body weight. And she surpassed her fundraising goal, raising almost $8000.
"It's all about finding the right technique. I needed to get down into a gorilla pose and get as low as I could, so I was almost doing a horizontal squat. But the real strength was being mentally strong enough to turn up to the gym every day," says Sharon, who is married to Greg, 49. "The day was really cool and I felt euphoric, almost like I'd won a gold medal! For me, it was like a gold medal."
Now Sharon wants to work towards achieving a Guinness World Record for pulling the most weight as a woman. "The only record we can find is a 14-tonne truck and I'd like to pull 15 tonne at 50 years old," she says. "That'd really make it a banger of a year."
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