Zoe's Surfcoast Trail Marathon Dream
I’d been watching the weather forecast closely, and didn’t like the look of Saturday. My first half marathon, and on trails at that, was set to be windy and up to 20 mm of rain. My stomach was doing somersaults for much of the week. But a few short runs kept the nerves somewhat at bay as I remembered the months of gym training, physio sessions, practice runs, and pep talks from the START Foundation team.
I became a below knee amputee in 2014 following a boat accident. The road back to running was long and slow. I remember clearly the frustration of not being able to do something that had previously been so natural. A few years on I was up to plodding a couple of kilometres on my every day foot. Each time my fitness would somewhat improve, although I’d end up back on crutches.
My prosthetist mentioned the START Foundation grant to me in 2018, and I jumped at the opportunity. I was fortunate enough to receive the grant, and within a few months I was kitted out with my first running blade. Suddenly running was a joy again – rather than plodding I felt like I could fly. I felt my running technique improve, my speeds pick up and I was able to stay out for longer.
I made an off-hand comment to a friend one day that the Surfcoast Trail Marathon was coming up and there was a 21km option that covered some beautiful trails. At that point I was frequently running 5km on roads or easy trails, but not much more. This 21km run involved hills, mud and three beach sections, one more than 3km long. I was sceptical about whether I could pull it off, but with my friend’s support and backing I signed up.
And what an experience! It rained and the wind blew and there were muddy sections that were too slippery to run. But it just meant everyone helped each other out more, the sense of satisfaction was stronger and the shower at the end was all the more delicious.
I confess to shedding a few tears when my family bear-hugged me at the finished line. Having gone from being bed-bound and unable to walk five years ago, to completing my first 21 km on trails was a special moment. And one to be repeated!
I’ve learnt so much along the way. I’ve learnt about techniques, gear and training. I’ve learnt that setting a goal and asking people for help makes me so much more likely to achieve it than if I’d worked away at it in isolation. I’ve learnt that my mind is often my biggest battle. And I’ve learnt that things that can initially feel like the end of the road, actually might be the beginning of a trail with interesting twists and turns and stunning views at each corner.
By Zoe Creelman