You hear a lot of inspiring stories when you start chatting to runners – what got them into it, why they run, what motives them. Everyone has a story.
One of those runners is Karen Low from Mackay in Queensland, Australia, who went from being a heavy smoker for two decades to running marathons and dropping 20 kilos in weight along the way.
“I gave up smoking in 2006, so I was in that…replacing a bad habit for a better habit, and running was it,” Karen says when dropping by for a cup of tea with two of her training buddies from the Mackay Roadrunners, Matt Stevens and Janelle Tilse.
They were in Katoomba for the Six Foot Track Marathon – a scenic but tough and very hilly 45k course in the Blue Mountains where runners ascent a total of 1,528 metres and descend 1,788 metres. There’s also a river to run through, which can flood. Matt, who’s always easy to spot being usually a head taller than everyone else, says the river level was “up to the knees” on race day, to which Janelle laughs, “yeah, right, up to the neck!”
Karen finished in 06:09:12, which is a great job on such a tough course, especially when you think that just a few years ago, Karen was struggling to even run 5k on the flat.
After devoting most of her life to family, working and raising her three daughters, Karen turned to running after an injury playing netball. She had done sprinting in her school years but no running since.
“I hadn’t run for many years, so getting the body back into shape to run has been good.”
While she’d never considered herself overweight or unfit, she said the weight just dropped off her once she started training, first towards the goal of running and walking a 5k and then slowly building up to longer distances, all the way to running marathons.
“I did my first marathon last year and my first half marathon the year before, and both of those training plans helped me to build in a good mileage and look at how to train […] and get some confidence to do that.”
Leading up to the Six Foot, she was running up to 90k a week. Wondering whether the training plan would work out is the scary part, she reckons.
“We’ve probably been going hard at it for three months and you don’t know until the end [if it works out]. So the jubilation coming down the hill and to think your plan’s held you up…yay!”
For Karen, running is great to clear her head after work and to spend time in nature. And apart from the obvious health benefits, it’s also the social aspects that matter to her, the people she runs with and the way her family responds.
“My kids think I’m great, and my husband,” she says, with tears in her eyes now.
“My daughter texted me saying I’m a champion. That’s what’s good about it.”
And the next goal? A sub four-hour road marathon, says Karen – her running friends are confident she’ll smash it.
Congratulations to Karen for doing such a fantastic job at that race, and to her friends from Mackay for their great achievement, with Matt Stevens posting a time of 6:14:10, Janelle Tilse of 5:56:46, Martin Lambert of 5:31:52 and Andy List with a lighting speed of 4:37:12.
Doing the hard yards is always easier in good company, and the Mackay Roadrunners offer an absolute deluge of that. I’m completely biased toward them as I trained with the club for over a year in 2010/11 when working as an ABC reporter in the area and have never had more fun running with a regular group. They are just a wonderfully supportive and fun bunch of people.
The Mackay club offers several weekly runs, long and short, marathon training groups, club competitions and large events like the Mackay Marina Run with thousands of runners participating in the half marathon, 8k and 5k distances. The King of the Mountains meanwhile is a steep uphill run to the Eungella National Park, where also the Eungella Trail half marathon is held. If you’re in the Mackay and Whitsundays area and are looking for some great people to run with, definitely get in touch with the club. http://www.mackayroadrunners.com/feature_events.php
Also check out the Hamilton Island Hilly Half Marathon in the idyllic Whitsundays near the Great Barrier Reef – by far one of the most scenic half marathons you’ll ever come across. http://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/sports-events/hilly-half-marathon