When I asked Renae Brock what drove her to take on challenges like the 240-kilometre foot race from Twofold Bay on the NSW south coast to the Mt Kosciuszko summit, she simply said: “The same thing that makes me do everything – just to see if I can.”
The Shortland 40-year-old only took up running in her late 20s, but has gone from barely making it between telegraph poles to this month conquering the Coast to Kosci.
I followed her progress on social media with awe and amazement.
And I was not alone.
After 41-and-a-half hours on her feet, the job was done and Renae was being inundated with messages saying how inspirational and amazing she was.
Humbly, she didn’t think she was any of those things.
“I’m just a lady who went to the top to see if she could, that’s all I am; a stubborn little bugger that refuses to accept that maybe she can’t.”
Renae may think herself ordinary but her extraordinary feats are motivating.
The first time I spoke to Renae was around 18 months ago, after she and husband Justin had completed the Ultra Trail Australia 100km event through the Blue Mountains for the second time.
It was the first I had heard of it and I thought they were quite mad, but somehow this year I found myself lining up for the 22km course.
“At least I’m not doing the 100km”, was what I kept telling myself as I battled through, using people like Renae and Justin as my own motivation.
Now, I have managed to convince a crew of my closest friends to do it with me next year. Some of them have never ran more than 5km before and, although I am pretty sure they will be hating me for a good portion of it, I am hoping they will thank me at the end.
“You get to see the best and worst of each other rather than just sitting at home on the lounge”, Renae told me the first time I spoke to her about the UTA.
In the Coast to Kosci, she took an incredible 300,000 steps, which left her “feet the size of elephants’”.
Only 50 people get selected to take part each year.
“The plan was to do the Coast to Kosci next year but somehow I got accepted,” she said.
“I did line up for this one accepting that it was probably bigger than my capability and I might not get there.
“But once I started, not to give any indication that it was easy because it definitely wasn’t and there were some really dark patches, but I never once thought I can’t do this and I’m out. It was only ever what do I need to do to go forward.”
When she was in pain, she thought of mates Benny Walton and Matt Storey, who both passed away this year.
“Saturday, which was when I finished, was Benny Walton’s birthday. I had a really, really tough time around 210km … where the sleep monsters really got me and I cried for a whole hour,” she said.
“It is hard but then you think, this isn’t hard, this is just running. They had to do worse than this just to stay alive every day.”
Another inspirational person I spoke to this year was Lauren Parker, the Newcastle triathlete left paralysed from the waist down after a freak cycling accident in April.
Six months later, through sheer determination, Lauren completed the swim leg of the Maitland Triathlon and now has her sights set on doing a full event in the new year.
Her story is just beginning but it is one that is sure to inspire many as it unfolds in the years to come.
As the year draws to a close and you begin planning your goals for 2018, draw inspiration from the many people in our community doing inspirational things.
It may be the thing that keeps you motivated.
Sizzling Summer Sessions
Stay on top of your fitness over the festive period with some quick but effective sessions.
Here are three:
Session 1: Intervals. Set distances or times. 4 x 400m hard: 400m easy; 8 x 200m hard: 200m easy; 10 x 100m hard: 100 easy.
Session 2: Strength intervals. 40 seconds working: 20 seconds rest. Aim for 20-40 minutes, depending on time. Squats, push-ups, lunges, dead lifts, pull-ups/rows, biceps curls-shoulder press, triceps extension, core work.
Session 3: Strength/cardio combo. Alternate 5 strength exercises with 5 cardio exercises. Continuous for 20 minutes.
Upcoming Fitness Events
Nobbys to Newcastle Ocean Swim, Nobbys beach, January 27: A 2km ocean swim from Nobbys to Newcastle beach. www.oceanfit.com.au/event/nobbys-newcastle-ocean-swim.
Summer Run Series, Race 2, Carrington, February 4: The second round of the inaugural ‘Country, City, Bay’ 10k series. It is a flat course, offering a good new year’s challenge. www.summerrun.com.au.
Sparke Helmore Newcastle City Triathlon, Newcastle Foreshore, February 25: The perfect new year challenge. There is plenty of time to get training and events cater for the novice to the diehard. www.newcastlecitytriathlon.com.au.
Renee Valentine is a writer, qualified personal trainer and mother of three. firstname.lastname@example.org.