Whether you’re running 5km or 100km.. Here are some insights to give you courage & inspiration

SECOND WIND - An interview with Meredith Tucker. Written by Brendan J Murray

I met with Meredith Tucker of G’onya Adventures today. I arrived to talk about her recent conquest of the North Face 100 and the launch of the inaugural Lamington Eco Challenge. The insights I got left me with a jaw dropping amount of respect for her and fellow ultra marathoners. I also emerged feeling warm and seriously inspired to take on a new level of challenge.                                                                                   “I hate the first 50km, its hard work to me. I love the second 50km that’s where the challenge lies to pull it out when you’re exhausted and tired”  I’ve been thinking recently about working towards a 100km, perhaps starting with a 50km? My motivation is that I'm finding through my marathon training something I lost about seven years ago - the bliss of the second wind and the ecstasy that arrives when you come through the wall of a challenge. It’s finding the unknown and the enlightenment and strength of mind that we are gifted on the other side.                                                                                                                                  Meredith tells me about her Lamington Eco Challenge. The keynote event of the weekend is a double marathon on trail held over two days. The course starts and finishes at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.“Winding down through rainforest, onto pastures - passing livestock and cattle grids. Climbing up and across long sections of flat range and reaching the small town of Kerry” I’m picturing something that reminds me of my back yard in southern New South Wales. I think about being in this place for a good three to four hours on a Saturday, simply running and taking in every moment of peace . I see the contest of the climbs and all the moments with the sun on my back. A visit to the town of Kerry and its people brings a surge of energy for the return. Thoughts of comfort, food & friends back at the retreat brings me home. Happily exhausted. Stories of the days shared laughing like a jolly old man. I’d hit the pillow and dream of doing it all again tomorrow..... And I can. I dream of a second wind and I pray: please make tomorrow even better than today.

I couldn’t think of a better dream. I think I’ve found my next challenge.

Completing a second North Face 100 and establishing her own endurance event, I sense there some real passion here. After talking to Meredith I understand her motivation to create the Lamington Eco Challenge. It’s about extending the opportunity for people to experience what magic that happens out there on the trail. It’s what happens after you cross through the realm of what you could imagine and into new territory. You’ll find out there is no real truth in excuses. The outcome is a confidence that opens up life to you – on and off the trail.

It all started back in ‘09 when Meredith completed her first Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge - a 96km team event. This was also backed up in 2010. In these couple of years Meredith experienced the power of camaraderie and trust developed between people when spending hours in training and competing. The 2010 team was called the ‘Yabba Yakka’s’ (Australian slang for ‘talking whilst working hard’). The Yabba Yakkas were formed by four busy mums and Meredith was amazed by some of the emotion that was shared within the team. Meredith believes all runners will find some form of therapy through their endeavours - whether they come out and say it or not. These four mums soon realised the physical endurance/ social combination was ‘good therapy’.

It’s quite common that runners, especially ultra-distance competitors, are often referred to as ‘crazy’. I hold the belief that we are the enlightened, the wise. It’s those who aren't supposedly ‘normal’ that find less effective and possibly less healthy therapy - whether they realise it or not.

After two team events, Meredith was seeking a little more of a challenge. To find out what she alone could do with her own body and mind. Meredith and her good friend Tam heard about the North Face 100 in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. Whilst it was an individual pursuit the girls decided to knock it out as a duo. The girls finished in 23hrs a little way off their goal time due to Meredith having problems with her iliotibial band and Tam suffering asthma attacks at the 80km mark. The magic in this story is that to begin with Tam was quite a shy person and wouldn’t train on her own, and was even very nervous of running down hills. Since completing that initial North Face 100, Tam has since been back to do it alone and is now training for her first road marathon. She is doing it solo and thriving on the confidence gained from stretching her boundaries to complete these challenging events. This is such positive growth in a person.

Meredith now really needed to get back to the North Face 100 and rock it out alone. The lure was the chase for the belt buckle that awaited those finishing in less than 20 hours. She kept this to herself on a goal card in her pocket. It was her ’dream goal’. In being realistic 22 hours was the goal she put out there. It’s a little trick athletes commonly use to reduce the intensity of their high achieving personalities. It’s something that seems to be learned after crumbling under the stress of setting goals that aren't too big but create too much stress. The new formula is an entry through the side door so to speak. It allows the runner to be relaxed and confident in the achievable goal. Deep down inside they know this relaxation will be the thing that allows something special to unfold, potentially giving birth to the dream goal.

Meredith’s experiences in ultras over the years had developed strength in her– mindset. In 2013 Meredith would go on to defy physicality to finish. This was only made possible by her strong head. The attitude was ‘just do it, get a job done.’ She knew her training had been inadequate but the lure was the goal card in her pocket. Meredith crazily wanted that ‘belt buckle’.

Defy you say? What did she go through?                                                                                                    Five weeks out Meredith received a diagnoses of torn meniscus (knee cartilage). She should not have been at the start line. At the 40km mark her groin muscle in the same leg also went. From that point over the remaining 60km Meredith’s action to move forward up the hundreds of stairs that faced her was:

“I used both arms to lift my right leg and move it forward. Then step forward with my left. Repeat over and over”.

That’s true endeavour. It’s understandable some serious demons were battled out there. At 89km she was defeated. Her legs were ‘so stuffed.’ Meredith wrote off finishing because of the concern to wreck her legs for life. Her husband cheekily asked her: “so you’re not going to finish?”

Completely “off the planet” after 18hrs of battle, something kicked in. She realised her time was still on track. “Get me a coffee!” Her strong head came on, her goal came on, and she chased down that finish line. Meredith finished in 20hr 36 mins. It nearly killed her to come so close to the dream goal.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Sleepless nights have been spent thinking about the 36 mins she could have saved. Meredith also realises her training can be stepped up massively to improve her starting condition.

In two years’ time Meredith will go back.

“I suggest they start engraving that belt buckle, I’m going under 20. Under 19 to be completely honest. ”

I doubt there’s anything that could possibly stop that. Will you take a little of Meredith's tenacity?

Tackle Meredith’s new two day endurance event - The Lamington Eco Challenge. The event features some tough and beautiful terrain across the Scenic Rim Hinterland, South East Queensland.

The inaugural Lamington Eco Challenge entries are open now. The event will be held 17 and 18 August. Check out the website for all the race options including single and double marathons/ half marathons for teams & individuals.

Brendan J Murray