Real Life

Mum on the run

It was the look on my daughter’s face that did it. Farren had joined me as I ran into the finishing chute at the end of the Taupo Ironman and we walked hand-in-hand past the cheering crowd. When I saw her gazing up at me with a look of complete awe, I lost it and started to cry. She was only seven, but she knew what an achievement this was for her mum.

As I crossed the finishing line, 16-and-a-half hours after starting the event, I was a blubbering mess. But I was also very happy. If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d successfully do an Ironman which involves a 3.8km swim, a 180km cycle ride and a marathon run of 42km I’d have said ‘Yeah, right.’

oy family was always sporty, but I was the odd one out. While my brother and sister were out running, I would be inside reading. I slowly put on weight and, after having my daughter, I piled on even more. I ate too much junk food, did no exercise and couldn’t walk to the letterbox without losing my breath.

Then, in 2005, I watched my sister, Lyndell, compete in an Ironman. As she crossed the finish line I thought, ‘Wow, I want to do that.’ I was 120kg and, as a single mum, I had no idea how I was going to find the time to train, work and be a mother. But I knew I was going to do it.

oy cousin came to stay with me and offered to help with childcare. The first time I tried to run, after just 50m I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I went back to my car and burst into tears. My first cycle ride was terrible too I wobbled all over the place and my first swim was even worse.

I hadn’t worn a swimsuit since I was 13. I sat by the pool for two hours, trying to pluck up the courage to get in. I finally did and swam for an hour. It felt like it took me another two hours to get out. But I persevered.

Soon there was a lot less huffing and puffing and I was able to do longer distances. I had no problems getting up to train, even on cold, wet days. Visualising running down the finishing chute at the Ironman helped me to stay focused on my goal.

As I got fitter, my diet changed. I stopped craving junk food. I ate three times as much as normal but it was healthy food and the extra weight gradually came off. I felt much better it was wonderful to have energy.

The following year, my cousin moved out and my parents offered to look after Farren for a year so I could keep training. It meant her moving to the Bay of Islands and after I drove her up there I cried all the way back to Auckland. I missed her so much but she had a great time with her grandparents and I knew it was good for her to see me setting myself a goal and achieving it.

Farren (now 9) was my main motivation I wanted to be fit and healthy so I could be the best parent I could for her. She understood how important it was. She said to me once, ‘I have a mummy who doesn’t have three tummies anymore.’ By the time I did the Ironman, I had lost nearly 50kg.

The day of the Ironman 3 March 2007 was incredible. I felt awful after the swim but got on the bike and went for it. My family were a fantastic support. As I started the marathon, I realised I might not make the cut-off point in time to be able to finish. I was in tears, but I couldn’t give up. I’d promised Farren she could run down the finishing chute with me and I had to keep that promise. I dug deep, lengthened my stride and kept telling myself, ‘Run fast, stay strong.’ It was amazing when I realised that I was going to make it in time.

Crossing the finishing line with Farren, and all my supporters behind me, is a moment I will never forget. I did it! Afterwards, I wanted to do more. I wanted to inspire people like my sister had inspired me. I decided to do something for the Heart Foundation. There is a history of heart disease in my family and I’m tired of members of my whanau dying before their time.

one day, I saw some kids with huge bottles of cola in one hand and bags of chips in the other. They were so young and they were already obese. I thought, ‘They need to know it doesn’t have to be like this.’

So I started Project Pacemaker, a seven-year project to raise $50,000 for the Heart Foundation. It involves me doing seven tough events, including swimming Cook Strait and running across the Sahara Desert for six days. I’ve already done the first event, the Tenzing-Hillary oarathon, which starts from ot Everest Base Camp in Nepal.

oy new partner, Adrian Cooper, showed his support by doing it with me it was his first marathon and it’s one of the top 10 endurance events in the world! We had chest infections and bad altitude sickness beforehand, but we gave it our all. We would have finished in 12 hours but our guide got lost. We roamed around for nearly five hours before some Sherpas helped us to get to the finishing line.

For the last 2km, we had to walk down a steep cliff with a 1000m drop on one side. It was dark and misty but it was all part of the excitement. When we got to the finish line, everyone else had gone home but at least we made it!

I’m paying to do these events myself and if I can’t find a sponsor, it’s going to end up costing more than the $50,000 I’m trying to raise. But that’s beside the point. It’s about showing people what they can achieve. I’m proud to have shown my daughter what you can do if you set your mind to it now she’s taking part in things like the Weetbix Tryathlon.

I lost weight, got fit and improved my health. I’m a lot more confident now and I’ll try anything. What I’ve done is a bit extreme I don’t expect everyone to do an Ironman. But even if you set yourself a goal of walking for half-an-hour a day, it’s a start. You have to make an effort but, believe me, it’s worth it.

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