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Success story: Pip reaches peak fitness

August 2011

Pip and friend runningThere is good evidence [1] you can decrease your risk of developing two of the most common cancers, bowel and breast, with just one hour of moderate exercise or 30 minutes of vigorous activity every day .

Pip wasn't always a sporty person and she never imagined that when she started training for her first fun run, she was actually embarking on a journey that would see her climb one of the world's highest peaks, Kilimanjaro.

"I used to be really unfit. Both my parents were very into running and general fitness but I just couldn't see the appeal."

Five years ago Pip lost her mum to cancer. "Two years after Mum died I was driving past the Tan track in Melbourne and I saw a group of people taking part in a fun run. It was Mother's Day – which had become a really difficult time – as soon as I saw the runners I realised this was something I could do on Mother's day to celebrate my Mum and her love of running."

Pip started training for the 8km 2009 Mother's Day Classic. "I had found the motivation to take part and I think the key to starting was telling everyone my goal." Pip found three like-minded colleagues and together they joined a running group in November 2008.

"We joined a 4km ‘slow group' that met at Fed Square. To begin with I was always last, and did a lot of walking and complaining! It was hard and I hated it."

"By the end of the year I was running twice a week with the group and had taken up spin classes too. Around Christmas time, a couple of months into my training, things changed and it became easier."

Pip was no longer finishing last and found she could run 4 or 5km straight. She decided to do her first 4km fun run. "I felt so incredibly elated. I was blown away by how far I'd come in just a few months."

"Once the training became routine I realised I could no longer live without it. I had been struggling with the death of my Mum and after incorporating regular exercise into my everyday life I felt more relaxed. It also helped me to sleep properly and it provided me with a social and emotional outlet which helped me enormously."

In March 2009 Pip took part in another fun run.  At 14km, it was almost twice as long as the May 8km Mother's Day run. "It wasn't easy, but I made it. It was great to have exceeded my goal and gave me even more motivation for the May run."

On the day of the Mother's Day Classic, 40 of Pip's friends, family and colleagues went along to give their support or take part. Pip's Dad ran with her. "It was great to run a race with Dad – it felt good to be doing something together and to have the shared interest."

Since 2008, Pip has taken part in around 20 fun runs, the longest of which was a half marathon, which she has now done a number of times.

As well as meeting friends for coffee or dinner Pip regularly meets up with her friends and goes for a run or a walk. "One of the key things is making it routine, now I run three times a week, am part of a running club, and do spin twice a week, so I still get a couple of days off. I don't run for times - I run for fitness and it's become a big part of my social life."

Earlier this year Pip climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with her Dad and friends from his running group. "It was a fantastic achievement and definitely the most challenging thing I've ever done. People think of Africa and they think ‘hot' but it was freezing cold and really wet and slippery during the decent."

The mountain is nearly 6,000m high and the climb took seven days. "I'm off to Borneo in a week to climb another mountain – Mount Kinabalu. Then for a week of deserved relaxation at a beach resort!"

Here are Pip's tips for people wanting to take up running and to train for big challenges:

  • Get proper running shoes: Active Feet is good, so is Shoe Logic, just make sure you go somewhere that they'll fit you properly.
  • Combine it with stuff that's fun. I like to treat myself, so I'll go for a nice brekkie with friends after we've done a fun run, or take a long weekend if I'm doing an event outside of Melbourne.
  • Pick a goal (make sure it's achievable) and then start telling people about it.
  • Make it sociable – find a friend that's at your level and train together. Running groups are great for this.
  • Get into a routine. Work exercise around factors like work, family and your social commitments.
  • If you really don't feel like it just put on your running gear anyway. You can tell yourself you'll just do once round the block, but once you get out there you'll feel more motivated.
  • If you start getting bored, mix up your routine. Find new tracks to use for training – like the 1,000 steps at the Dandenongs, along the beach, a rail trail or track you haven't run before.

1. International Union Against Cancer (UICC). (2004). Evidence based cancer prevention: strategies for NGOs. A UICC handbook for Europe. & World Cancer Research Fund/ American Institute for Cancer Research. (2007). Food, nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective. Washington DC: AICR.

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