Running Wild Lawson Long Course

I think i’m still in shock!

Yesterday I somehow managed to score my first ever trail running podium and I was so overcome with happiness when I crossed the line that I burst into tears.

Last weekend while I was sitting in the car being chauffeured home from the Six Foot Track Marathon, Maria and I got talking about the Running Wild race in Lawson that was being held the next weekend. I had contemplated entering earlier in the week when I received an email reminder about the race letting me know that registrations were still open, but hadn’t fully committed as I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel a week later. Somehow Maria and I came to the conclusion that it was a good idea for me to enter and before I got home I was registered for the 17km event.

The Monday after Six Foot was tough. My quads and calfs were very, very sore and I was hoping that my massage on Thursday would help alleviate some of that before the race. Thankfully it did and by Saturday my legs were feeling normal again.

I spent Saturday morning taking the walk/run group at the gym where I work and training a few PT clients, then headed into Pyrmont for the Nike Training Club Tour Sydney, a day of fitness and fun. I took it pretty easy as I knew I had a tough run coming the next day.

Sunday I was up at 4.30am and heading to the Blue Mountains. I had convinced my friend Amanda to come and join me for the run too so I was looking forward to seeing her. We are both doing UTA100 in May so we have been trying to schedule some weekend runs together and this would be the first! (ha ha)

I parked at the Lawson Bowling Club and headed down the (hilly) road to the start/finish area and collected my bib. There weren’t many familiar faces but a few people said hi and asked me about 6 foot (I wore my race t-shirt). My plan was to take the race pretty easy as I knew my body would still be recovering so this was to be my long, slow run for the week.

Amanda and her friend Vicki arrived and we chatted as we waited for the race to start.

There were 2 distances being run on the same course at the same time, so the 17km (long) option were doing 2 laps of the course, and the shorter course was just 1 lap of the trail. We eventually started and the pack seemed to be very slow moving. I had planned to stick with Amanda for the first section of the trail, but as I started to overtake people I noticed that she wasn’t behind me anymore. I didn’t think i was going that fast but maybe she was still recovering from her run at 6 foot the week before, or perhaps she had decided to run with Vicki. I hoped that she wouldn’t be upset I had abandoned her as it was not intentional.

There are thousands of thoughts that go through my mind while running, sometimes they are run-related and sometimes that are not.

The first out and back section was short and brought us back past the start area where we made a left turn onto an uphill section, we would have to do this section 3 times. Most of this course was fire trail so it was quite wide and meant for easy passing, which I seemed to be doing without too much effort. I noticed that I still felt cold as we went up the first incline, my hands were freezing so I decided to keep running up the first hill so I could try and warm up. Normally I would have walked a hill that steep but I was feeling pretty good and was keen to get warm.

The trail was very rocky and I was thankful for my new Brooks Adrenaline ASR shoes, today was the first time I had worn them on trails as I was breaking them in and they felt really good. There were lots of ups and downs and I worked hard to overtake several people on the down sections as this seems to be my strength.

We passed through a gate and headed down another steep hill as I shuffled my feet in small, quick steps moving fast and calculated. My left eye kept watering which blurred my vision a little and make it tricky, but I didn’t let that bother me.

Eventually (after another short uphill section & a spot for a photo) we got to the turnaround point and I saw my friend Luke who is a volunteer for the Running Wild Club and he cheered me on. I made a mental note to grab food there when I came past next as I knew i’d be out of my drink by then. I was carrying a 600ml soft flask with Tailwind (grape) and it was already over half empty. I had started the race with a grumbly belly (even though I had eaten breakfast before I left home and had also eaten a banana as I walked from my car to the start line) so I had been trying to get the liquids in for my body to use during the race.

We passed back down the steep hill and along the trail seeing many runners coming the other way. I cheered them on and chatted to a few others near me too, it always helps make the time fly past.

As we went through the gates we were directed down a trail to the right and it was a beautiful downhill single track section, my favourite! I raced down there to try and make up some time and really enjoyed this section. I was already  looking forward to doing it again on the second lap!

The single track ended and we were back near the start area and heading off up to the original out and back section. I saw many of the front runner as they motored back towards me and noticed that there were lots of females breathing down my tail. Little did I know that these ladies were all doing the short course and there run was almost over as they were only doing the 1 lap.

I got to the turnaround and headed back trying to keep up a descent pace on this flat section. My friend Kathy caught up to me and we chatted about Mile 27 and our coach Andy. I learned she was only doing the 1 lap as she was taking it easy and it got me thinking about how many other runners were almost done too, or were they speeding up trying to catch me too?

She motored off towards the finish line and I pulled up my socks for another lap of the course. I hit the steep first hill again and this time I power walked up that section. I kept trying to maintain a comfortable breathing pattern and staying positive. It was about this time that I met Dave and we chatted about 6 foot which he had also done the week before (and had beaten me by 10 minutes, ha ha). I ran with him for a while but he kept pulling ahead of me on the flats and the uphill. My plan was to try and stick with him as long as i could, so i kept him in my sights and caught up to him a few times on the downhills.

I got to the turnaround point and I had been pushing it a bit harder than the first lap so was starting to feel a little tired. I grabbed a piece of banana and scoffed it down as Luke cheered me off down the hill again. It was the last leg.

There was a lot of downhill here and I managed to catch up to Dave again so we chatted some more. I had been cheering on the runners coming in the other direction and if I was correct there were only 3 ladies in front of me, could that be right? Oh well, surely I was wrong and I should just stick to my race plan and enjoy the trails.

And then I saw the photo man again who confirmed it for me, he told me I was in 3rd place (but I knew he meant 4th place, surely I could not be 3rd!). How the hell did that happen?

And then the brain started ticking over….. would it be possible to get a podium? If i pushed it here and caught up to that lady I could see ahead would I be in 3rd place? Was it possible? Should I go for it?

I told Dave about my debacle and he made the call for me. He was going to help me get 3rd! (I owe him big time for that, thanks again Dave!). I told him I’d be happy with Top 5 but he said ‘screw that we are getting you 3rd place!’

And with that Dave motored me up the hills and told me that I would catch her on the downhills as she was slow and cautious going down. He was so encouraging and positive and his winning attitude seemed to rub off on me. The lady in front seemed to be pulling away from me on the hills but we had a lot of downhill coming and I hoped it would be her weakness (sorry Ros).

We passed through the gates and Dave cheered me on to “go for it”, so I turned right onto my favourite single track section and (with a hidden smile on my face) gave it my all as I headed down the trail and motored past the lady in front as she slowly clambered down the rocks. I felt like I was flying! I was now in 3rd place – far out! Really?!?!

Now there was the pressure of thinking about her creeping up behind me trying to catch up. I kept telling myself that she was closing in, that I could hear her breathing down my neck and it kept me pushing all the way down to the bottom of the track and also as i climbed back up the final stairs. At the end of the single track I turned right and just had the original out and back section to conquer.

I took a quick glance behind me to see if I could spot the other lady and she was nowhere to be seen. Could this be possible? Keep your head down Hailey, it’s not over yet. I knew I had about 1km to go so I tried to find another gear to increase the gap so she wouldn’t come flying past me on the last section, but I also wanted to leave something in the tank in case I needed to make a sprint finish. God this was stressful, but so exciting!

I’ve never felt anything like it.

We got to the turnaround and I anxiously kept an eye out for the lady runner behind me. Eventually I saw her and she wasn’t that far behind. She was smaller than me so probably much quicker on the flat sections so I had to keep up my pace and finish strong.

The trail went up and down and around and eventually I could see the finish line, this was it. I was going to do it. Oh my god!

I crossed the line and a lady walked over to me holding a wine glass and a voucher, she congratulated me and told me that i was the 2nd female. 2nd female! Was that right? Surely she was wrong. I burst into tears and bent forward as I tried to catch my breath and let my legs rest. She asked me if something was wrong and I told her it was my first podium, then she gave me a big hug and congratulated me again. Her name was Annie and she told me to go get a drink, some food and then come back for a photo.

As I wiped my tears I saw Dave crossing the finish line and I made my way over to thank him for pushing me and helping me so much, what a great guy. Trail runners really are a whole different breed of awesome humans!

After some food and water I walked bak over to Anne and we got a photo together. I think I was still in shock at the result, but you could not wipe the smile off my face! 😀

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I chatted to some other friends Stephane, and Jill and then I found the ladies who had come 1st and 3rd and congratulated them on their race. They were both super friendly and really nice, genuine people. Below is a photo of us, there’s Ros (3rd) on the left, Alicia (1st)in the middle, and me (2nd) on the right.

I’m so glad i got to meet these 2 ladies, they were so kind and I wish them both congratulations again 🙂

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A big thank you to all of the volunteers and organisers at the Running Wild event. They do an amazing job and it really is the quality people who bring it all together so well. Thank you for such a well organised and well supported event. I’ll be back for Series 7, see you then!

😀 😀 Happy Running 😀 😀

Stadium Run Newcastle – Half Marathon

What an amazing weekend with a great bunch of people!

Last Sunday was the inaugural Stadium Run in Newcastle, our RunLab founder Vlad (who just ran the Berlin marathon in 2:18, what an inspiration!!) had rallied a crew to organise this amazing event and he did an exceptional job. Aside from a little hiccup with road closures that delayed the start, I throughly enjoyed the event and thank everyone involved for the wonderful experience.

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As a RunLab(ber) we were given the ‘elite’ treatment at this event, which meant we had our very own personalised bibs, an ‘elite’ room to use before and after the race, and the best part…… I was lucky enough to toe the line with Victoria Mitchell, a running hero of mine and a beautiful sole! My bets were on her for 1st woman over the line, she runs like a gazelle and is amazing to watch. Go Vic!

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I have never been on the start line of a race before and the atmosphere was electric. Usually I self seed myself somewhere near the back and find a pacer to stick with during the run, but today I wasn’t sure what pace I should run. I can hear you thinking “what was my race plan?” and to be honest I didn’t have one. My running mate Robbo was trying to get me to stick with him but i didn’t think I’d be able to keep up and didn’t want to go out too hard then crash later on. Another good friend Amanda and I decided that we would run together and just see how we felt, perhaps trying to stick with the 1:50 pacer for as long as we could.

The gun eventually went off and we watched the elites go flying ahead with beautiful motion. Amanda and I chatted and realised we were going way too fast, but we couldn’t slow down (crap!). The hype of the start was exciting and we got carried away with it. But I felt good, so we chatted and kept trying to slow ourselves down to a pace that was manageable.

Unfortunately I lost Amanda at one of the drink stations and couldn’t see her when I looked back. I like to run through the drink stations, I’ve (almost) perfected the art so that I can keep moving while drinking, as i find it hard to get running again once stopped. As i ran along without her and without being able to locate a pacer, I changed my game plan. I decided to keep pushing at this pace and run to feel, this meant I would try to not look at my watch (to check pace) and just run to how I was feeling. It has worked for me in the past in time trials so I was hoping it would work now too. Fingers crossed!!

Okay, so I cracked and looked at the pace on my watch a few times and I was surprised to find that i was sitting between 5’00 and 5’10 pace, could I keep this up? There was only one way to find out.

So i kept pushing myself and picking people off in the distance to catch them. I was looking forward to getting close to the turnaround point as it meant some beautiful beach views and a chance to see the front runners in action as they ran back towards us (and the finish).

There were a few little hills as we approached the beach and along the waterfront, but nothing compared to the mountains I’ve run (walked) in the past, so I pushed myself to maintain pace all the way up the hills and over them just as coach Damon has trained us to do, he would have been proud! I saw the front runners battling it out along the beachfront and they looked ‘in the zone’ but comfortable and flying! I cheered them on and many others behind them as I approached the turn around point.

I was lucky enough to see Julianna, Amanda, Crystal, Robbo and a few other Runlabbers near the turn around point, we were not that far apart after all and I decided to try and catch Robbo, I told him “I was coming to get him” (ha ha).

Reaching halfway is always a massive boost for me, and I attacked the last few hills as I left the beachfront and cheered on as many other runners as possible. I did a check of how I was feeling and I felt good, well, as good as one can feel halfway through a 21km race at a pace they’ve never run before!

This course was all on road so i had been worried about my knee leading into the race, and also the lack of training, but my knee had not given me any niggles and I was feeling pretty good. I was getting a bit tired at one point and a lady in a pink shirt came past me, I looked at my watch and I had slowed to 5’20. I wasn’t going to let this slip away. I made a decision to pick up my feet and get the pace back to 5’10 and I did, I caught the pink shirt lady and we chatted. I told myself to stick with her and i’d get to that finish line. So i put my head down and worked on my form making sure i was running efficiently and kept her in my sights.

There was another turnaround section and i got to see Robbo again, he was just ahead of me. I cheered him on and told him that I was getting closer, I told him he looked good and should finish strong. Helping others always helps me forget about myself and makes the run go quicker, plus i’m sure it helps them to hear positive encouragement so I do it as much as I can, even if I don’t know the person.

We rounded another bend and another water station, I didn’t need any water between here and the finish so kept pushing on. I passed pink shirt girl but she caught up to me (again) and we chatted with what breath we had. After a little while she got ahead of me (yes, again) and I just tried to get into a comfy pace not thinking about her and trying to relax into my strides. I felt tired and hot, but like I could push myself and hopefully keep up the pace till the finish. Here is an action shot, I think we had about 4km to go from this point.

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I kept pink shirt girl in my sights, she was only 20-30 metres ahead of me and there was less than 3km to go now. We ran back along the road we had earlier and saw the start of the 5km race. We actually had to cross in front of the runners to get to our course which was a bit of a challenge, but we found a break and made it through. I was starting to feel the heat of the day and i’m sure my face had gone bright red, maybe I should have stopped for more water? I’d taken a gel at 10km and had stopped 3 times for water/electrolytes so hopefully that had been enough.

Then I looked up and who did I see in front of me? It was Nat Lennon, she was doing the 10km and had only just got back into running, she looked good. I sped up to catch her and gave her a wave and some well wishes as I went past. It was so nice to see another friendly face along the course!

Gosh it was hot.

But there wasn’t far to go now and I could hear the stadium noise building the closer i got. Pink shirt girl was still not far in front of me and with about 1km to go I decided to pick up the pace and finish strong. I went past her and thankfully didn’t see her again (yay!).

As I entered the stadium the buzz was incredible, it pushed me to keep up the speed as I did a lap of the field. I rounded the last corner and heard people cheering my name as I approached the finish line. I saw the clock at 1:48 (and something seconds) and thought “My god, i’m going to break the 1:50!!” so I sped up and managd to finish in 1:48:51 – a half marathon PB for me!

I was wrecked, I was dizzy but I was so, so happy. I was given my finishers medal, then found some water, food and some RunLab friends. Below pic with Justine and Robbo.

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We chatted as I tried to get my breath back and I kept moving my legs which were ever so tight now. The dizziness got worse, so I made my way back to the ‘elite’ room to recover, chatting to a few other friends on the way back. I got to the room and lay on the ground with my feet in the air up against the wall, and eventually the dizziness subsided.

What an amazing run, an amazing event, with amazing people. I knew I had given it my all, I could not have given anything more and I was so proud for not giving up. And the best part was that it had been pain-free!!

Happy Running 😀

Southern Highlands Challenge 19km

On Sunday 30th August I competed in the 19km Southern Highlands Challenge in the beautiful Wingello State Forest, and I have to thank Runners Kitchen for providing me with the entry as I won a competition they advertised on facebook. I literally won the entry a week before the event so there was not a lot of preparation. I’m also very lucky that I have 2 wonderful friends who live 10 mins drive from the start line, as apparently there will little or no accommodation available in the area at this late stage. So thank you Urusula and Carlos for letting me crash again this year!

This race was a favourite of mine lat year, so many good friends and a great start/finish area with stands and food stalls to suite very runners needs. Hats off the April for organising such a great event, if you haven’t run it then you’re missing out and need to get in marked in your calendar for 2016.

A couple of days before the race I decided to drop back to the 19km (instead of the 22km) as I felt I hadn’t really done enough training and in hindsight I think I should have stuck with the 22km as apparently it had less hills (and perhaps would have been a little easier, oh well). So I toed the start line with some fellow Striders and chatted to ‘Mr Ultra’ Craig Thom. We stuck together for the first part of the run but eventually I think I let him go ahead, or was it the other way around (?), I think I let him go ahead. My knee was giving me a little pain but I focused on improving my technique and it get better.

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This was a tough course, lots of hills early on and I felt really good at the start, I felt strong. But eventually the gas wore off a little and this meant my technique faltered and brought on more knee pain.

I had to slow down, I event walked. Not happy with myself. Watched lots of people go past who were all so lovely and asked if I was okay, “was i limping?”. Crap. Kept telling myself to stand up tall and just keep moving, get to that finish line. It was ugly, my legs felt like lead weights and I probably should have been resting after the C2S the week prior.

We runners are so stubborn, we hate to miss out on a run. So I plodded on, found a way to run that didn’t hurt (as much) and kept moving.

About 2km from the finish line I was overjoyed to see some of my Striders friends who were doing the longer course versions, as we shared the course at this point. I got to see my buddy Maria who I ran with at TNF100 and that brought the smile back to my face. She was looking strong and enjoying the run, it really raised my spirits.

I bid Maria farewell with less than 1km to go and picked up the pace to finish strong. Maria had given me the kick up the butt I needed, even if she didn’t know it. And I crossed that line with a smile on my face after having conquered the inner demons pulling me down.

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After a sausage, bacon & egg sandwich (included in the entry) and a coke (my treat after long runs) I met up with all my mates and we cheered others over the finish line as they came in with smiling faces.

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Every run teaches me something new not only about myself, but about others. I learnt that I can ignore my brain (ha ha) and talk myself into (or out of) anything. Then there are the people I meet on the trails, they are such genuine, caring people and it’s good to know that there is kindness in the world which can seem so cruel at times.

I went home with a smile on my face and a medal around my neck. And I had made the conscious decision that the negativity which had been creeping into my brain during recent runs needed to stop. From now on only positive, encouraging thoughts and actions were allowed. Wish me luck!

Happy running 🙂

Woronora Dam 10km

I was having lunch with my friend Amanda a few weeks back and she mentioned the upcoming Woronora Dam run, a local trail run organised by JORG. She was entered in the half marathon and there was also a 10km option that she suggested I should enter too, so I signed up.

The weather on the day was not ideal and I was prepared for a muddy trail as it had rained the few days prior and also on the morning of the race, but that never gets me down. I actually like playing in the mud. The course was unknown to me, I hadn’t looked up the elevation chart but I was assured it was one hilly bugger.

I chatted to Amanda and some other friends at the race HQ and after hearing more about the course I decided that my goal would be to run the entire trail to use it as hill training, I didn’t set myself and goal time and wanted to just go out and enjoy it.

The half marathoners set off first and Amanda looked strong and ready, she was coming back from injury and I hoped she would do well. After a short break it was our turn to start the race, I was nervous but feeling good.

The gun went off and we ran up the first hilly road section towards the trail. It was a tough slog at first running up the wet road and having to dodge other runners, and my right knee didn’t like the concrete too much either.

Eventually we hit the trail and it got hillier, great (ha ha). This was an out and back course and there were mostly downs on the way out, which meant only one thing….. lots of ups on the way back! So I slowed a little and made sure that I reserved some energy for the way back. There were some nasty steep declines at the moment and I knew it was going to take a lot to run them all on the way back up, it sure would be challenging.

It was great to be able to see the front runners smashing it back up the hill as we came down, they looked pretty puffed which only confirmed my fears of how hard it was going to be to run all the way back up!

There was a drink station at the turn around point so I grabbed a water and turned to head back up the steep hill we had just come down. This was it, time to hit the run button and just keep running no matter what.

I don’t remember looking up much on those hills. I had my head down concentrating on finding a rhythm with my breathing, to keep swinging my arms and lifting my legs. I managed to pass quite a few people as I ran up the hills, most of them were surprised I was able to run them and they encouraged me along. This gave me even more determination to not stop and to finish strong. They were some steep bloody hills! I had my coach Damon’s voice in my head the whole time, pushing me and telling me that it was possible, to just keep running, and that’s exactly what i did. He would have been proud if he saw my run that day.

During the last few kms I had the pleasure of running with a young girl called Sian, she was running her first trail 10km and doing really well. We chatted a lot about running and life and it made the time fly past. We were making good speed and I was surprised to note that we might possibly finish in under 60mins, i’d be VERY happy with that considering the hills!

We flew down the last hill both pushing ourselves to try and make attainder the hour. We overtook a lady as we neared the finish line and crossed in 58:37 – wow! I hugged Sian and we celebrated our fortunate race result, it was a great way to end a run!

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After some food & drink I went for a short walk after the run to check out the pipeline and the views, it’s a great spot and i will definitely be back for some training runs.

I waited for Amanda to come into the finish line and chatted to the race director Jim as I hadn’t seen him for a while. Eventually Amanda came flying home to finish in under 2 hours, a very great time!! Go Amanda!!

It really was a great event and you should all come down and run it with me next year!

Happy Running 🙂

City 2 Surf 2015

I know i’t very late, but here it is…

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This years was my 9th City 2 Surf and I woke up very nervous on the morning of the race. If you’ve been reading my posts I’ve been having a few niggles with my right knee and running on the road seems to aggravate it sometimes, so I knew there was a chance today’s run could be painful.

Last year I had to line up for over 30mins to deposit my drop bag and almost missed the cut-off time for those so I decided to arrive (very) early this year to avoid the hassle and stress of that happening again. So I dropped off my bag and waited around stretching and trying to keep warm until my friends arrived. Ganesh was there and I had a chat to him about his running, such a lovely bloke and he has achieved so much with his running.

I had organised to meet Emma & Maria before the race as we were all in the same red start group, so once they arrived we made our way over to the start area after another quick pit stop to make sure I wouldn’t have to stop for the toilet on course.

My goal with this race every year is to beat my time from the previous year and in 2014 my time was 74:04. It wasn’t going to be easy to beat that time as I had not done a lot of speedwork and most of my training had been long, slow distance, but I always give it my all.

We ran a little warm up in the small area that we had and ran into some other Striders friends who were also in the same group. We chatted nervously at the start line and my thoughts turn to my grandmother… I had been raising funds for dementia research with CHeBA for the past few years and today we had a large CHeBA contingency which was wonderful to see. Today when I was struggling I would think of her to help push me along, I do this in so many of my runs and it always brings a calmness over me.

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When the gun went off we all passed on our best wishes and I tried to stay calm and comfortable with my running. I wasn’t sure if I would see the girls again along the course but I secretly hoped I would!

I felt pretty good that morning but felt that my goal time of under 74mins would not be doable, so I just tried to maintain a pace a little faster than what I was comfortable with and see how long I could hold it for. And I had decided weeks before that today I was going to make Heartbreak Hill my bitch!!

City2Surf is such a massive run, there’s so many people to dodge around and trip hazards on the road, but it also has a wonderful atmosphere and this year we were promised more music along the course which I was very much looking forward to.

I remember thinking how focused I felt in the first couple of kms, trying to remain relaxed in my body but pushing myself at the same time. A wonderful friend Brendan called out to me at one point as I was coming down one of the hills and we chatted for a short time about how he was running with his sister. I”m not sure how much I said to him at the time and I hope that I wasn’t rude, but I just had no breath to talk as I was really pushing myself to make up time on the downhills. Sorry Brendan!

Then I started to think about that Heartbreak Hill, it wasn’t far off and I was going to run it and push myself the whole way up and over the hill (like we had practised at Runlab so many times). So I dug in and kept my arms driving which kept the legs spinning over. I found a rhythm with my breath and tried to hold it the hold way up that bugger. I managed to pass a lot of people on this hill and when I got to the top I felt fantastic!I tried to keep up the pace on the next few sections and prepared myself for the several small hills that were coming up.

I remember looking at my watch at the halfway point and doing some calculations in my head, I wasn’t going as fast as I needed to get my goal time but there were quite a few downhills to come (a strength of mine) which I could possibly make up some time.

When I started to hurt I turned my actions top encourage other runners who had began to walk, most of them started running again and thanked me for the push. I like to do this and take the focus off myself when i’m running, plus I know how much it helps to encourage someone as I’ve been in their boat before and it sucks when you feel alone and beaten. They always smile and have a crack, just what I like to see!

And we finally approached the last hill, I ramped it up a notch as I knew that I had slowed for some reason, probably just getting tired. I was going to smash these few last downhills and I kept doing the calculations in my head to see if I would make the goal… it was going to be close.

Secretly my goal had been to get under 70mins…. and I started to think it may be possible!

The last 3km of that race are the hardest I have ever pushed myself before. I knew I really had to finish strong if I was to get close to either of my goals and I just ran my little heart out, passing many people as I headed towards the last bend on the road and down the small section to the finish line.

I was sprinting, I was hurting but I felt like I was flying….. I made it in 70:35!

To be completely honest, as I crossed that line and looked at my time the first thought that came into my head was negative as I had not cracked the 70min mark. I kept thinking how or what could I have done different during the race to get that 35 seconds back, what had I missed?! I kept playing over scenarios in my head, I shouldn’t have stopped for those 2 drinks stops, I should have positioned myself better at the start to avoid the crowds and having to dodge people, I should have….

Some much needed friendly faces appeared at the finish line, it was Georgie & Michael and a few others from SHR (Sydney Harbour Runners). I hadn’t seen them for a while so it really made me smile and we chatted and laughed about the race. I also chatted to a group of Runlabbers near the finish and then made my way over with Georgie to collect our drop bags.

We grabbed our bags and put on some warm clothes, it was a beautiful sunny day but I always get a little chill after a race, it’s the body taking time to recover from the exertions you’ve just put it through. I ran into Peta from work and some other SHRunners and it was great to see so many familiar faces, especially amongst an entry field of 65,000 people!

I planned to call past the Sydney Striders tent and the RunLab tent however after searching for 20-30mins and not being able to find them I gave up and headed to meet my CHeBA team mates for a bbq at one of the beaches south of Bondi. The walk to meet them gave me some time to reflect and take in the beautiful surroundings. The weather was picture perfect and I felt so lucky to be able to be a part of this sport we call running.

My mood started to lift and then it dawned on me, I had just run a PB by almost 4 minutes. Now that was something to be happy about!!

Heidi and a few others from CHeBA were there to greet us with big smiles! Most of them were very impressed with my time and I thought about how much of an idiot I had been for being so hard on myself. We are our own worst enemies sometimes!

I got some food and drink into me and was so happy when Megan arrived excited and happy with her run, she had smashed her goal and also done an amazing job in raising funds for CHeBA. Megan is a friend and PT client of mine and I had introduced her to CHeBA, I was very proud.

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We chatted for a long while as other CHeBA champions arrived and we heard there race stories. Unfortunately we also learnt that Prof Sachdev, one of CHeBA’s founders, had taken a fall during the run, he’d hurt his shoulder and been rushed to hospital. He was such a lovely man and we all felt sad when we heard the news.

Aside from the Professor’s bad luck it has been a pretty awesome day. I had learnt a lot and would be back in 2016 for my 10th time at this race, and I wold be ready to crack that 70mins!!

Happy running 😀

Back into the swing of things

After a few bumps in the road I’m just starting to get back into running again on a regular basis, and the time off really did make me appreciate the fact that I can run. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on how far I have come over the past couple of years, and all of the wonderful friendships I have made along the way, and I feel super lucky to be where I am today!

I can still remember the first few run group sessions in the city with my bestie Megan, who dragged me along each week and got me to enter events with her. I remember meeting Todd for the first time, our run group leader who helped push me along and got me running a full 5kms without stopping, a major feat for me back then. Both Megan and Todd have seen me grow from these early days, and supported me at everything from from 5km to 100km events. I’m very lucky to have met both of them and will be forever grateful.

From my beginnings at Nike Run Club, to run leading at Sydney Harbour Runners, to learning the trails with Sydney Striders, and working on my speed with Runlab, I have improved and learnt so much from each of these groups, and I know I will continue to do so in years to come. Every group has offered me so much and the friendships I’ve made along the way are ones that will last a lifetime.

Last weekend really highlighted to me just how much I love the sport and how much it means to me. I spent the day volunteering at the Centennial Park Ultra and I was surprised at just how many runners I knew and could assist/encourage while they were out there on the course. Their smiles, hard work and determination made me really appreciate what we have and are capable of doing when we put our mind to something. The sky is the limit!

So back to my running.

Term 3 of Runlab started 2 weeks ago and I was very nervous about getting back into the interval sessions as it had been longer than 6 months since my last session. The first week was Kenyan Hills and it destroyed me… I went out too hard and had nothing left for the last few reps. I was knackered.

Second week back at Runlab was Time Trial (TT) week, and this scared me even more. First up we did some intervals of 800/400/400/800 and to my surprise my average pace for these was 4:05, much quicker than I thought I would be (especially with my lack of speed training). We then had a short break and got stuck into the TT, which was a 1 mile distance. We all set off and I tried to stay with the front 2 runners as long as I could, which went well for the first 2 laps and then they started to pul away from me. I felt pretty good and pushed myself quite hard so I didn’t have much left in the tank when I finished. My time was 6:33 for the mile which equates to an average pace of 3:45, a massive sock to me as I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast before at any distance!!

The funny thing is, I did’t realise my average pace times for these Runlab sessions until last Sunday when my friend Maria pointed them out to me. I had been feeling a bit down and felt slow on the day, so I didn’t even bother to look what the pace had been, silly me!

So there you have it, i’m getting faster and i’m coming back stronger than before. So who knows what’s in store for me next…. bring on City2Surf this weekend, stay tuned!

Happy Running 🙂

Redemption at The North Face 100

Like most of my race reports this is a long one, so grab a cuppa and get comfortable while I take you on a ride through the 2015 North Face 100.

On the Friday before race day I picked up my running buddy Maria and we made our way up to Katoomba in my little Toyota Yaris. I wish I had taken a photo of the boot of my car as it was chockers with gear for the run. We looked like we were going away for a week!!

When we got to Katoomba we did a grocery shop and the amount of food that we bought could probably have fed a small army. It’s quite hard to know what sort of food you’re going to feel like eating when you’re out on the trail for such a long period of time, so you always end up taking more than you actually need. And we only ‘just’ fit the shopping bags it into the boot with our gear, ha ha

We then checked into the 3 Explorers Hotel which was old but very comfortable and cosy, as it had a working heater and electric blankets. Maria and I carted our gear up to the room on the first floor (and spoke of how much we would hate these stairs on Sunday, ha ha) and got our gear ready for race day. My sister (Shelley) who had generously put her hand up to be our support crew (for a second time) would arrive on race morning to drive us to the start line.

My training in the lead up to this race had fallen (very) short of the kms I would like to have run, but a few small niggles had held me back along with starting my own business and not having the time to fit in as much training as I would have liked. I had spoken to my coach Damon about these issues in the weeks leading up to the race and to be brutally honest we thought that perhaps I should drop back to the 50km event, which I almost did. But my stubborn Taurean nature kicked in and I decided to lower my expectations for the race, so instead of aiming for a time my goal of 18 hrs that Maria and I had previously spoke of, instead I would be just aiming to finish the race. This decision meant that perhaps Maria and I would not end up running the course together because I did not want to hold her back from her goal, especially when she had been running up a storm and smashing her running goals lately!

So Maria packed her drop bags in case we did not end up running together and then we caught up with our good friend Emma who was staying at the same hotel. I helped Emma with her drop bags too, as she was missing her ultra buddy Dominic (our team mates from Oxfam last year), and we all jumped in my car and headed to Registration near Scenic World. Both Emma and Maria had never run this race before and were very nervous, okay I was very nervous too but I was just trying not to thin k about it!!

We had a fun time at rego and saw lots of our running mates, it seemed everywhere you turned there was someone that one of us knew. I saw friends who were doing the 50km for the first time, a friend Todd from High School, some friends from old workplaces and other running friends I had met on the trails over the past couple of years. The excitement and buzz in the room was electric!

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For some reason it didn’t feel quite real to me yet, that I was actually going to attempt this run again and I think I had been in denial about it all for the past week. Last year I got injured on Nellie’s Glen (halfway) and I pushed on for a long while, but eventually made the tough decision to pull out at 78kms or risk further injury, I was devastated. I had trained so hard for the run and felt more ready than ever to finish, but (like life) sometimes your run does not go to plan.

This year I was going to be rocking up to the start line with a race plan that i’d prepared the day before (last year I worked on it for weeks!!) and with no expectations, just the goal of crossing that finish line. My race plan is a document that I give to my support crew which has goal times and items needed for each checkpoint, and is usually 4-5 pages long but that’s because it also includes directions and maps to each of the checkpoints.

Now where was I? After a lovely welcome from the local Aborigines from the area, and some funny antics and information provided by the race director and the safety crew, we left rego quite late and headed back to our hotel for some much needed sleep. Setting and checking the alarm had been set a few times before our heads hit the pillow.

Our synchronised iPhone alarms went off at 5.00am, so we got up and prepared ourselves for race day. I had some breakfast (banana, muffin and a coffee) then dressed for the start. Shelley (support crew and sister) arrived at the hotel on time as planned and drove myself, Maria and Emma to the start line. Emma was starting in the wave before us so we let her out of the car close to the start line and then parked the car.

We made our way nervously to the start line and wished many friends well along the way. As we walked up I managed to see Andrew (a friend from my gym) and several of my Sydney Striders mates as they set off in the earlier wave. It was starting to feel real and I could not stay in denial mode for much longer.

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Maria and I chatted to Leah and Liz and slowly made our way to the start area where all too soon the gun went off and we were running!!

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

Start 6.40am at Scenic World (10.5km to CP1) 

The first section of the course is road and includes a few hills, it’s also an out and back which I like in this race because you get to see your mates running back towards you and wish them well for one last time before hitting the trails. It’s also nice to run back past the start/finish area and be cheered on by all of the many supporters, including my wonderful sister, as we would not see them again until we hit CP3 at 46kms.

After the road section you head down Furber step and then head right towards the Landslide and the Golden Stairs, before heading up to Narrowneck. Just after Furber steps somebody had managed to fall and was being taken care of by some other runners, and as I approached them I also slipped and managed to land on my (well padded) butt, cut my hands up a little, and ripped a hole in my tights! But thankfully I was not hurt and I’d chosen to wear black undies that day!! 😉

This section was lots of fun and we chatted to many runners through the different terrain. It felt cooler than last year and there was some cloud cover, and I hoped it would not rain. A man playing music and wearing a fluorescent vest (already) went past us up the hill, so we chatted to him and many others who were all in high spirits at this point.

CP1 at Narrowneck (20.5 to CP2) ETA 8.25am 

Maria and I arrived at CP1 10 minutes ahead of schedule (8.15am) and it was nice to know we had a bit of a buffer up our sleeves, even if only a small one. We both had a quick toilet stop, I grabbed a band aid for my finger as it had been bleeding since my little stack earlier on, and then we got back out onto the trail.

This section had some magnificent views as we run at one of the highest points on the course, however I did not stop to take any photos this year as I wanted to keep my momentum going.

Maria and I enjoyed running together and were keeping the same pace, much to my surprise as I thought she would be much speedier than me on race day (but that came later, ha ha).

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

We took in the views and eventually got to Tarros Ladders to find a short queue and we waited for our turn. If you have read my blogs before you will know that I do not like heights, so I was a little nervous about climbing down these ladders strapped to the side of the cliff. Okay, I was VERY nervous about it!

It came my turn to climb down the ladders (after I let MAria go first) and I tried to calm my breathing and my nerves. And I was doing really well until I got to about halfway and had to walk the narrow ‘plank’ to the next ladder, which meant that I looked down and freaked out. I lost control of my breathing and water started coming out of my eyes, but I just kept saying to myself “One step at a time, keep moving and you’ll get there”. Eventually I got to the bottom, after some much needed encouragement from Maria who was counting the steps for me to let me know how far until it would be over. And when i got to the bottom Maria gave me a big hug and we carried on our way down the mountain.

CP2 at Dunphys Camp (15km to CP3) ETA 12.00pm

We got into Dunphys Camp at 11.10am which was 50 mins before our scheduled arrival time of midday. Woohoo!! We got some food, filled up our water and queued for the toilet. We spent a little too much time here queued for the toilet, but I did not want to have to go in the bush later down the trail.

After a quick chat with our friend Paul we left Dunphys Camp and headed for the next landmark, the Ironpot Mountain. Most of this section of the course is on Private Property so not very many people get to train on this section of the course.

There is a very steep hill section up to the top of the Ironpot Mountain and Maria is much better on the hills than me due to her smaller frame. My goal for this early stage in the race had been to just stick with her for as long as I could and so far it had been going to plan, but I feared she would move ahead of me soon.

Partway along the ridge Maria got ahead of me and I got stuck behind some runners. On top of the ridge there is an out and back section again, so you get to see many other runners coming back towards you and wish them well. I really like this and just about every runner gives you a smile and wishes you well. The camaraderie out on the trails is amazing.

On top of the ridge there was a gentleman playing a didgeridoo, the same gentleman who had welcomed up at the registration the night before. I didn’t stop to listen like last year, but I thanked him (both times I went past) and continued up to the turn around point hoping I would catch up to Maria again soon.

After the turn around point I eventually caught up to Maria and we headed down the slippery section off the Mountain and into the beautiful fields that greeted us at the bottom. Then it was onto some fire trail and up a large windy driveway which met the start of the Megalong Road. It’s a tough, continuous slog up that hill and every bend reveals another incline. So you just keep moving and pushing and praying it will end soon.

We got to the top and Maria started to run, I needed a minute to breath (or so my head was telling me) so I walked for a little while at the top before gathering myself and catching up to her again promising myself not to lose her yet.

Just before the checkpoint there was a professional photographer and we got some great shots (below).

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

CP3 at The Six Foot Track (11km to CP4) ETA 2.40pm

We arrived at CP3 at 1:48pm which was again 50 mins before our scheduled time and we could not locate my sister who was set to meet us there. I gave her a quick call and she was shocked to hear we had already arrived! She was just leaving the car and she sprinted up to meet us with food and clothing while we filled the water up in our packs.

My awesome trail running buddy Sarah-Jane was the first person I saw coming into the checkpoint and I have to thank her for the photo below. It was great to see a familiar face and seeing all the support crews waiting and cheering us into the checkpoint was such a lift!

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I changed into some warmer clothes and we chatted nervously to my sister who was so happy that we were progressing as well as we were. She told us we looked fresh and gave us a big hug before we headed out onto the trail again.

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We left the checkpoint after a 14 minute stop (longer than planned) but felt much better to be in warmer clothes. Maria and I both knew the next section of the course very well as it traveled along the Six Foot track, a trail we had raced and run many times. So we knew the joys of the HUGE stairs that awaited us at the foot of Nellie’s Glen.

Maria was looking strong and I was starting to fade a little. We ran together for a while and we collected and chatted to a lovely lady called Ellen who was from the Mountains (Glenbrook I think). Eventually we got ahead of Ellen and then I also had to let Maria go ahead of me. My head was telling me to walk (stupid brain). I was angry with myself for walking these flatish sections, but felt I needed the break to prepare myself for the 900+ muddy, uneven stairs that were coming up.

I ended up power walking with a gentleman who was doing his 6th TNF100 and another lady who was running it for the first time. We got to Nellie’s Glen together and I let them go ahead of me as I thought I would be quite slow on this section. Unfortunately I was right and soon I could not see them ahead of me, plus I got overtaken by some speedy runners who were doing some very heavy breathing as they went past. My friend Rob from Nike caught up to me at one stage too and we chatted for a while. He had taken a fall and was not doing too well, he wasn’t very optimistic about making it to the finish line, but I tried to change his mind and keep him positive.

To my surprise I caught up to a lady, but she was not in a good way and was vomiting on the side of the trail every 10-20 steps. I didn’t want to get to close for fear that it might make me feel sick too, but I kept an eye on her and talked to her to help her get up the stairs one at a time. Taking the focus off myself for this brief section seemed to make the time pass more quickly and before we knew it we were at the top of the stairs and celebrating!

It was about here that I realised how light the sky was. That might sound a bit silly, but at this point last year it had already gotten dark and I had needed my head torch to see the trail and stairs coming up the Glen. But today it felt like there was a lot more daylight left which really lifted my spirits as it reminded me I was well ahead of schedule.

At the top of the stairs there was a short section of trail followed by some road into the next checkpoint. As I ran along the street there were people out the front of their houses who cheered me on and wished me well, and I actually overtook some runners before I got to the checkpoint.

CP4 at Katoomba Aquatic Centre (21km to CP5) ETA 4.40pm

I arrived at CP4 at 3.55pm which was 45 minutes ahead of schedule, so I was still traveling quite consistently and on target to an 18 hour finish. Was that really possible!! I started cry…

My sisters smiley face was waiting to greet me as I came into the checkpoint and she helped me change and feed. I put on some dry clothes (thermal shirt) and picked up my AyUp headlamp (thanks Nigel). I also had some help from Sarah-Jane who came over to assist and got me moving and out the door again quickly to make the most of the daylight that was left.

I saw Maria just before she was leaving the checkpoint and I would have loved to leave with her but I still needed to eat! So off she went with my blessing and I stuffed some food down my gob. I think it was rice pudding and nutella sandwiches. I only stayed in this checkpoint for 12 minutes, much quicker than last year when I spent more than 20 mins here, and felt elated to be out the door with the sunlight still beaming through the trees.

How good was this!! I was so happy!! But this next section was one of the toughest parts of the course, full of stairs and I had bad memories of it last year when I had hobbled most of it in pain. But this year I was determined to run a lot of this section, even the stairs, and I really was feeling fantastic so I pushed it a little harder than I had all day.

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

And eventually (to my surprise) I managed to catch up to Maria who I think had stopped for a toilet break. I was so happy to see her again! You can tell by the smile on our faces below.

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

This section included some really pretty areas. We ran past Echo Point where you could hear runners being cheered over the finish line in the distance. The beautiful Leura Cascades where I had stopped many times for photos during training runs. There was also Lillians Bridge and Wentworth Falls but it had grown dark before we got to these and so the starry sky was now our only view.

There was a water point at 66km and we were delighted to see our friend Brad here to greet us with a smile. He had been following our progress after he had completed the 50km race earlier in the day (what a LEGEND!). I quickly made a toilet stop here, then grabbed some lollies and we got back out onto the trail again, into the darkness.

It was somewhere in this next section that I lost Maria again. She was still looking so strong and I was still struggling a little, so again I pushed her to go on ahead and kept moving my legs as fast as they would carry me.

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

This year there seemed to be much, much less stairs than last year. I don’t know why, but the mind does play tricks on you when you’re fatigued (and injured like last year). I kept moving at a consistent pace and hoped I would catch Maria at some point.

I was still feeling very positive about how I was travelling and even though the legs muscles were feeling tight I did another check of my body and was feeling much better than I had expected to feel at this point. I had changed into different shoes at the last checkpoint and so was enjoying the luxury of the extra foam in my Hoka One One.

When I eventually reached the end of the trail and hit the road section which I knew took me down into checkpoint 5, I started to cry. Last year I had started to cry at the same spot but for a totally different reason. This year I was still running, and I promised myself to run all the way down the hill and into the next checkpoint. And I did.

CP5 at Queen Victoria Hospital (22km to Finish) ETA 8.20pm

I sobbed my way into CP5 at 8.06pm which meant I was still on track to finish in under 18 hours, it felt like my dream was still within reach. Some of my beautiful Sydney Strider friends were waiting at this checkpoint for their runners and they cheered me in very loudly. Leonor and Margaret had a hilarious sign that said “F**k the wall” and I agreed!

Shelley and Brad greeted me with big smiles and were excited at how well I was doing. They told me that Maria had only just left the checkpoint before I arrived and I was thrilled to hear she was doing so well, she would definitely crack the 18 hour target. How exciting!

We got me into some more dry clothes and I put my CHeBA (UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing) singlet over the top of my thermal. I had been raising funds through this event to help Dementia research, as my grandmother has Alzheimer’s, and the singlet reminded me of her and would push me through the hard parts of the next section of the course.

I then scoffed down some noodles that I had been craving too and got myself moving again before I got too cold (and comfortable)!

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Finish at Scenic World ETA 12.15am

I spent 16 minutes at CP5 which wasn’t too bad considering all that I got done and in the back of my mind I was trying to calculate whether or not I had a chance of making the finish within our original 18hr goal time. I headed out into the darkness up the hill towards the start of Kedumba. Kedumba is a 10km downhill section that would tear up your quads and knees if you let it. I had promised myself that I would run down all of this section and despite having some knee pain I stuck to that plan all the way, passing many runners as I did so. It felt pretty good to be moving past people and keep the legs ticking over, and it also meant that I kept warm.

Mos of the downhill here looks the same, wide fire trail with trees either side. There are a few small concrete sections but not very much.

I reached the clearing at the bottom of the mountain at 11.05pm and there was a water stop at the 91km mark. This meant that I had about 1.5 hrs to get to the finish line. It was do-able, but there was a lot of up hill to come so I would need to keep moving, no walking.

Here a girl called Ellen caught up to me, we had met earlier on the trail, and we chatted some more as I sat in behind her and just tried to keep up. We were moving at a pretty decent pace (or so I thought) and this section of the trail was  very muddy and tricky in some parts. I managed to stick with Ellen all the way to the bottom of Furber steps where I proclaimed to her that I had 20 mins to get to the finish line within 18 hrs. She moved aside and I shot up past her to push myself and use up every last bit of energy I had. My breathing got really heavy and so did the legs, but I wasn’t going to slow down now, I was too close and had come too afr to give up now. A gentleman moved aside to let me past and nicknamed me “Darth Vader’ due to the sounds that were coming out of my mouth (not the first time hey Damon, ha ha). They seemed to be a bit longer than I remembered.

When I reached the top near the boardwalk I was completely out of breath and thought I still had about 1km to go. As I looked at my watch I saw there was roughly 5-6 minutes till 18 hours and my head dropped as I feared that I wasn’t going to make it.

But to my surprise as i rounded the next corner the finish line was only 50 metres away and I sprinted over the line with the biggest smile on my face! I had done it. I had come back and finished the 100km course in 17 hours 55 minutes!!

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

Getting to bthat finish line is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It had taken me 18= months of training and preparation, but I had finally beaten the TNF100 course. I did not let it beat me a second time! It just goes to show that you should never give up on your dreams, no matter how big they are or how far away they might feel at time, just keep striving and learning and planning and you’ll get there. Never give up! Here’s a pic of me holding my Bronze Buckle which is given to everyone who completes the course in under 20 hours.

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And for all the statistics lovers, here are some more numbers for you:

Distance: 100km

Elevation Gain: 4,308m

Rank: 546th overall (out of 840), 95th Female (out of 187), 45th in my age group (out of 75)

The above results do not take into account the large amount of people who withdrew from the race on the day (DNF). There were actually 1,126 Entrants who toed the start line on Saturday morning but only 840 people who actually finished the race. That means 25% of people who ran did not make it to the finish line, a true testament of how tough this race really is.

So if you include all of the runners who started the race then my ranks looks more like this:

Overall: 546th out of 1126

Female: 95th out of 249

Age Group: 45th out of 102

tnf100 with shell

Now I must say a big thank you to my beautiful sister (pictured with me above on race day) who was not only there for me at this race, but has always been my support crew and motivator at every big race in my life. It has meant the world to me and I will be forever grateful.

Thanks Shelley!

And a big thanks also goes to the generous people who have have supported my running and helped me raise over $5,000 to help UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA). They are:

Kristian, Ganesh, Leah, Don, Sharon, The Tracey Family, Keira, Brendan, Lisa, Rebecca, Anonymous, Carol, Duncan, Anonymous, Matt, Kelly, The Roland Family, Joyce, Angela, Claire, Toni, The Hall Family, Sam, Anonymous & Anonymous

If you would like to donate to Dementia research through CHeBA you had better do it quickly here: https://cheba2.everydayhero.com/au/haileyrunstnf100

 

Happy Running 😀