Monday, 5 March 2012

Inspiration from all places

"Chrissie Wellington remembers my name!" I excitedly sent a text message to the SRO.
"That will be handy when she has to request a restraining order against you". Came the reply.

So I am not really a stalker, it just turns out that the weekend after Run With Chrissie was the London Tri Show... Really. Honest.

After Run with Chrissie, I found out that Lisa Gonzales, a super ace runner from America, was a big fan. Of Chrissie I mean; I am still working on my fan club!

Now I'm a bit of a fan of Lisa. Firstly because she did her first 50km just before me so I could watch and learn. She's now done a handful of runs that distance so she's in a completely different league to me. I also am a fan because she admitted that the first few years of running were hard. I can definitely relate to that. I rarely put my sneakers on thinking "this is easy" or "such fun". It's always something I have to work very hard at. Not many people admit that or they do, but actually they go out and trot out 13miles in a heart beat. Not me. But what I really liked about Lisa was the journey she has been on running; that she ran to lose weight and lose weight she did! And she's never going back. She looks like a different person. I thought that Lisa would easily do all her ultra races as nothing could be so hard as the physical transformation she's been on. That was inspiring.

So when I had the chance to get a copy of Chrissie's book signed at the Tri Show, I thought it would be a nice treat for Lisa. She's worked hard and the book isn't out in the States till May. A perfect treat. Now this might seem a bit odd but those who are friends with me will tell you I am the "saw this and thought of you" type person. I will never remember your birthday (or the joke is, I only remember it when you have cancer so it's best I don't) and am lousy at Xmas but I am a trinkets and dead birds kind of girl randomly throughout the year.

So I rock up to collect the reserved book and Chrissie has already signed it. I'm half pleased (job done already) but half disappointed (it's not personal). I know from the talk that Chrissie is only staying for an hour or two as she has a surprise birthday lunch for her mum. Chrissie is still in the Q+A when I collect the book so I wander around a bit thinking of what to do.

Now let's be honest here, I got distracted. I can't remember what by, but I did. And then I got talking from my old Running School and notice they are next to the Chrissie stand where she is autographing. I look at the queue, snaking round the room, look at the clock, ticking on towards the time she has to leave, and leap in the queue. Two others jump in behind me and then the queue is closed to make sure Chrissie can leave. A security guard is assigned to the end. Smug.

Now from the little I know of Chrissie, I can't just shove a book at her and say "for Lisa". She will chat. So I get my mobile phone and download a pic of Lisa from her blog so she can look at it! And then I pick one of the things I find most inspiring about Lisa which is her third birthday post. I figure if I was in the same country, Lisa would probably sucker punch me for this.

Everyone in the queue is really nervous. The woman in front lives in the same town as Ironman SA and has never run more than 10km. The girl behind is petrified and her mum is telling her what to say. Ahead of us, the woman who meets Chrissie next whispers something in her ear and Chrissie envelopes her with a hug. She is no aloof athlete this one.

It comes to my turn. "Hi it's me again," I say in case she does have a sense of deja vu. "It's Rowena isn't it". It's about all I can do not to jump up and down on the spot shouting "She remembered my name". I tell her the book isn't for me, it's for Lisa, who has inspired me through running. I tell her Lisa bikes and runs. I don't think I said she gets sea sick in pools! :) I show her a pic of Lisa and Chrissie is just about to sign the book saying "that's cool". Then I explain to her why I think Lisa is amazing and show her the third birthday blog post. Chrissie's eyes nearly fall out of her head. "That is amazing" she says in wonder and then without prompting signs Lisa's book with the words "Lisa, you are an inspiration"

Lisa wrote a lovely blog post on this from her end.

There's a moral to this story. All of us running, riding, swimming, walking. We can all be role models. We are all an inspiration. No matter how short the distance or slow the speed, you are faster and further than the person on the couch. There is always someone wanting to know "someone like me" can do it. There's always someone taking encouragement, reading your words, watching your journey. They might not tell you, but they are there. They might train when you train because they know they are not the only person up at 5am. They might go for a run when not in the mood because you're injured and can't and you reminded them to be all they can be. They might run round a carpark to get that last few yards in because knowing others do it makes it seem less silly.

You'll notice that I wrote "we can all be role models", not "we are all role models". Not all people make the slow and new feel welcome. I am lucky to be surrounded on twitter by people who are. If running, swimming and riding to the limit is a gift, then the beauty of that gift is the humility with which we share our achievements and encourage others to match them. I think this is something Lisa and many others who have supported me do, so look out, maybe one day I'll arrange your inspiration to come back to you with a note too!


  1. hahaha, loved reading your side of the encounter. Thanks so much for stalking her! That makes the book even better. :) Also, you explained perfectly why we find people inspiring. Much better than I could have done. You inspire me too! You have great passion!

  2. Me again! That's a lovely story and how beautiful for you both. You certainly are role models and inspirational women. Just keep on doing what you do and thank you both for sharing it with the rest of us! :-)x