INJURY IS A DETOUR : THE POWER OF SUPPORT

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My name is Jo Lum, I live in the Hills District in NSW. Im 43 years old, a Married MumRunner with two primary school girls, and fair to say, that ‘runnning just makes me oh so happy”. It has also helped me overcome depression twice in my life, and has lead me on a journey from self-discovery to discovering the best of friendships.

I discovered running at age 29 after spending my twenties working a corporate job where my lifestyle was that of “work hard play hard”. Enough was enough, and I needed a change of “pace” (pun intended!).

I rang a good friend who I had known growing up; we met through tennis where we spent our teenage years playing comp tennis together, and I knew he did this Triathlon thing. I asked him, “So I want to learn to run, what do I do, and what shoes do I need?” He said, just go to Rebel and get a pair of ASICS, any model running shoe. ASICS make shoes for running. So I did.

Horrified that I had just paid $165 for a pair of sports shoes, I eagerly went home and set my alarm to try this run business before work. I had a 30 minute window before work and I started with 3 mornings a week. I would head off from my apartment at Maroubra Junction, and first goal was just to run two telegraph poles, walk two telegraph poles. Eventually the walking intervals became shorter and shorter and fairly soon I could trot slowly for 30minutes continuously.

Each week the goal was to try and get a little further. After 15 mins I would turn and head back. It’s a big deal to go from “couch” to a 30 minutes continuous run, and I love reading the RMA posts from mums reaching this milestone as it reminds me of exactly where I started. I remember so clearly the day I rang that good friend of mine and virtually screamed down the phone at him “OMG I ran 30 minutes without stopping and I made it to the beach!”

After a few months of this I signed up for my first City 2 Surf. I had never run more than 20km total in one week so the thought of running 14km in one go was a pretty big deal. As soon as I crossed the City 2 Surf finish line I was hooked and couldn’t wait to set the next goal.

Over the next four years I had started dating that good friend of mine, took up triathlon which combined both my love of the outdoors, and tested new physical and mental boundaries by completing three disciplines in one event. Racing, running, and triathlon quickly became a way of life for me and by 2004 we had travelled overseas, married, and we both completed half and full ironman distance Tri’s. I had my daughters 19months apart (2005, 2007) and returned to part time work after both pregnancies when they were 8 months old. Life was busy, I was on this new motherhood learning curve, and we were going through some really tough financial struggles. I was diagnosed with PND and was on anxiety medication for three years.

Becoming a mum is such an epic and ongoing journey; so is our running journey, which is why I think mum runners develop a close and supportive bond so quickly. We all have a story. We all have struggles. To be able to connect and share our stories with so many other mums whether it be in person at our local clubs, parkruns, social runs, or in the virtual space of RMA, is a powerful and positive tool for each of us.

Through RMA we formed a local run group roughly 18months ago, at around the same time I ran my last marathon on the Gold Coast in 2014. The group today has 270+ members, many of them RMA’ers. The concept behind the group forming initially was “safety in running at night” and connecting local female runners to run in groups of 3 or more after dark. In my final weeks preparing for the GC2014 marathon, I had developed lower back issues, and what I now know was the beginning of an overuse injury in/around my high hamstring attachment point. I was forced to take six months off running, and on physio recommendations, we embarked on various strategies of yoga, pilates, rest, & strength training.

It was a case of 1 step forward, 3 steps back, and I kept finding myself ‘on the comeback’. What kept me going, was the connection with my local run group and in particular a group of ladies who I had been running with four around four years every Wednesday at a local athletics oval, where I informerly hosted a track session. Our group, She Runs The Hills, has women who are looking for run buddies on any given day, at various times from 5am, after school drop, evenings, early morning Sunday runners, and Saturday parkrunners. The weekly Wednesday run session has kept me connected to running, and the friendships in it. Without it, and these lovely ladies, I don’t  know that my positive outlook with injury and determination to beat it would have been there.

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This was really highlighted to me last Sunday when I completed the Western Sydney 70.3 Ironman triathlon. Half way through this year I decided to take a good chunk of time off running, and get concentrate on biking (for glute strength) and swimming, as a form of rehab for my lower back and hip, but also with the notion that if the body held up to minimal running, I could perhaps complete a long distance tri again, (my last one being 12 years ago, pre children).

What better way to kick these injuries once and for all. I spent August doing a lot of swimming, and biking only as a way to build strength and fitness and I very quickly could feel the results. So yet another ‘comeback to running’ was the inaugural RMA virtual run for Bravehearts in September, and I eagerly signed up to take part in this wonderful cause. The 42.2km for the month of September would tell me if my body would hold out enough to take on the final 8 weeks prep for the triathlon.

I entered WS70.3 on 22 September, and for October and November, I added in my weekly track run (7-8km), a Saturday parkrun, and a ‘long’ run once a week. The long run started at 8km, I did a few 10km, and just on 15km run before the event. I not only finished that triathlon, but was racing alongside my best run-buddy Courtney (first long course triathlon), her husband, as well as my husband a couple of other good friends.

We had a team of people from our local run group at various spots throughout the day cheering us all on. I honestly think I would have had an entirely different race that day without them there. The fact I knew they were there to cheer me, kept my feet ticking over and prevented me from walking on so many occasions, not to mention the lift it gave me each time I was to pass them on the 2.5 lap loop to loop run course around the lake.

It was an entire team effort, far from a solo run. Running (triathlon too) is often referred to as a solo sport but nothing can be further from the truth. The team I am blessed to be part of, is made up of many, my family, RMA, and some of my bestest friends who I have met in our club, She Runs The Hills, and I am grateful every single day for the connections and support I gain through them. To wrap up this long winded story, the message I would love to finish on is this: Injury is a detour, and never underestimate the power of your support network. Anything is Possible. Happy Running.

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Jo Lum

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