As we walked to the start line of Run Melbourne, I stopped and looked east as we crossed Princes
Bridge. The view was breathtaking. As the sun broke through the darkness of the night and
promised a kiss of warmth as we ran in the middle of a Melbourne winter, the river sparkled and
reflected the light upwards to the sky. The MCG was framed in a halo of gold, and the parklands
that had looked dark and intimidating became green and inviting. What a morning for kicking goals
and achieving dreams. ! !
But, let me take you back a little bit to the journey that was the lead up to Run Melbourne 2014
before I tell you of the race itself. ! !
I am not typically prone to sickness or injury. I try to eat very well and rest as much as is possible
with 4 young children, only one of whom consistently sleeps through the night! I stretch and warm
up/cool down well. I research and try to educate myself on how to run well and look after my body
for the long haul called life! ! !
However, in the lead up to Run Melbourne, 9 weeks out I suffered incredibly bad shin splints and
could hardly walk let alone run. 3 weeks with no training and then 2 more slowly getting back into
it. Shins just about good and I run with laces tied too tight delivering an inflamed tendon in my foot,
again rendering it nigh on impossible to walk. Thankfully, this only took me out for 5 days. 4 days
after recovering from the inflamed tendon, I find myself nearly unable to walk for a third time, with a
severe muscle spasm in my lower back that leaves me looking like a human leaning tower of pisa
(and that’s no exaggeration!). ! !
By this stage, my training plan is out the window and I’m seriously doubting that I’ll achieve my
original goal of a 1.40-1.45 half marathon. My original goal was perhaps somewhat audacious
anyhow, as my previous PB 3 years ago was a 1.54.57 and since then I’d had another baby,
another c-section and had only been back running seriously for 5 months. However, I had been on
track. ! !
3 weeks out, as I ‘sat’, or more accurately leant, in the waiting room to see my physio who also
happens to be my coach, I was feeling somewhat sorry for myself. It felt as though something was
out to attack my dream and my ability to achieve my goal. To purport a lie that ‘you’ll never make it’
‘you always miss out’, ‘what were you thinking in the first place, you’ll just be disappointed’. And it
was at this crucial moment I made a choice. ! !
So much of life is about choices we make – and here, I chose not to feel defeated, although
circumstances could lead to that conclusion. I chose not to feel hopeless. I chose not to feel
frustrated. Instead, I chose to feel determined. I chose to believe that I was strong and that I would
run that race. Goal aside, I would run that race and every step that I took was going to be making a
statement – that I am one who achieve’s goals. I am one who will take part and be happy. I will not
allow life’s ‘stuff’ to get in my way. I will take back all thats been stolen with each step I take. ! !
Even in the week leading up to RM, I came down with a cold, had a womens event for 160 women
to pull together and host (with little voice!), and children who decided to wake every 2 hours or so
the night before RM.! !
And so, as I looked across the Yarra on July 27, 2014, I was determined. Head cold and all, I was
going to make this run count. ! !
As I waited to start with my running buddy (who I have worked for before but not run with in 3
years!), we hear some guys ahead of us who are clearly elite level scoffing at the 21.1km distance
– just a stroll they say. Yea right, I think to myself. You don’t know what this run means for so many
people. For many it’s fund raising for ones they’ve lost or are seriously ill. For family and friends
who are living with special needs. Every step of that 21.1km was going to mean something for me,
and for so many others. ! !
The starting gun went and away we go. Rounding the corner near Flinders Street station it was
somewhat tricky to find a rhythm as there were lots of people in not a lot of space! Round onto
Southbank, it was the same… at 2km in I was wondering how on earth I was going to keep pace
for 21.1km. ! !
We rounded a corner to head back up onto St Kilda Road, and I had to take control of my head. My
legs were fine. My back was fine. Thanks to the marvels of the medical world, my nose was fine as
was my cough. It was my head that needed to be reminded of what we were here to do. We were
here to fight for freedom and peoples health, so legs, move! ! !
From 3-8km, I was feeling pretty good, and took a gel at the 8km mark. At the 10km mark the gel
kicked in. But I still had to keep my head in check and continue to think of the things that fuelled my
heart and my mind. I needed the physical fuel of the gel, but more than that, it was the mental and
emotional fuel that kept me pushing hard. At this point we were just over time for reaching the goal
of 1.40. ! !
Rounding through the 10.5km mark, we ran over the Yarra again in the sunshine and a wave of
bubbles. Joy. Joy is your strength keep running sister. Keep running. ! !
One of my favourite marks in the race is coming through the half-way marker. Psychologically I
know it’s all ‘down hill’ from here, even though there were a few more hills to conquer. ! !
As we came to the 16km mark, my hip flexors were burning. I was starting to feel the hills, even
though they were small, and I was definitely dreading each of the sharp corners and u-turns as I’d
lose momentum and had to find it again. But I kept returning to the truth that so much of the run,
and so much of how I will respond to what happens in life, is all in my head. How will I deal with the
pain? Don’t let it defeat you, use it as fuel Hannah. ! !
My running partner, a bloke, was cruising comfortably this whole time. The encouragement was
vital. As was the delight of having my name on my bib! To have random strangers calling out ‘You
can do it Hannah’ ‘You’re doing great Hannah’ ‘Great running Hannah – keep it up Hannah’ – Why
yes, yes I can. ! !
The 18km mark came and I knew I was going to be ok. It was at this point in my first half that I
literally felt like my legs would not go a step further. ! !
19km and I started to pick the pace up again slightly as I knew that I was actually going to come in
somewhere between 1.40 and 1.45. I couldn’t believe that despite all the injuries and challenges
and head colds, I was actually going to achieve my goal. ! !
20km, we ran past one of the bands singing ‘500 miles’. Hip flexors were burning at this stage, and
I had to talk to myself to not go too hard too fast as I’d run out of juice. Keep it steady, keep it
steady. As I the 21km sign came into view I started to push a bit harder. I had a sprint finish in me,
but I had to time it right. ! !
I rounded the corner onto the blue carpet and pushed the turbo button. I don’t know where the
power came from, but my legs turned over fast and they felt strong. I looked up and saw the clock.
1.39.29 was what I read. I had about 100m to go. OMG. I was going to do it. I put everything into
that last 100m and crossed the finish line with the start clock under 1.40 (official time was 1.39.12).
I was ecstatic. I was in shock. I cried. ! !
I had done it. I had done it for me. I had done it for my family. I had done it for all those out there
who felt like life was giving them lemons. I ran for them. I ran to reclaim joy and fun and life. I ran
with a fire in my belly, and determination in my soul. ! !
This is one of the things I love about running, that what you conquer, learn and experience in
running, can often be transferred into day to day life. Persistence. Determination. The importance
of encouraging one another. The importance of how we speak to ourselves. The importance of how
we choose to respond to curve balls in life. Sometimes it’s really hard, really hard, but if we can
make the choice to turn what seem impossible and difficult situations in running and in life into fuel
to do something good for ourselves and others around us, we will always succeed. We may not
always hit the target, or make the goal, but we will always succeed. ! !
You are incredible. You have been made for this. You can do it. As a mum, you are a superhero. As
a running mum – well, lets just say we figuratively wear our knickers on the outside and have
invisible capes! You make a difference in someones life everyday. Thank you. ! !