It’s a marathon (or in Rachael’s case a miler) not a sprint. She follows a simple mantra of finding what you enjoy, then doing it - despite the obstacles life throws your way.
Rachael is best found in her happy place, running in nature. A strong, independent woman, she credits the support from her mum and dad to helping her become the woman she is today.
Her journey to running began when she was in her 20s. Rachael wanted to become a police officer and started jogging to build up to the police fitness test. Unfortunately, she pushed herself too far and got bilateral shin splints. So she stopped training and got on with life. Over the years she’d attempt to start again, but was always met with pain.
Born and bred in South Auckland, Rachael spent her early adult years living in Whangamata, Melbourne and London before returning home to Auckland with her now fiance, Dean, in 2009. In 2012 Rachael and Dean welcomed their only child, Maddison (now 9 and a very bright spark and loving young girl.)
After having Maddie, Rachael made a decision. Instead of returning to work in an office she would pursue her passion of helping people and start her studies to become a nurse. So she stepped into a new phase in her life. Mother of a toddler and adult learner. Like many adult learners would tell you, it was hard work. But she was, rightly, proud to pass and gained her Bachelor of Nursing.
This time in Rachael’s life didn’t come without sacrifices. Mostly sacrifices to herself. A stage we’re sure many women can relate to - after years of yoyo dieting and bouts of depression, Rachael gained a significant amount of weight. So in 2018 Rachael made an empowering decision for both herself and her body and decided to undergo Gastric Sleeve surgery. The surgery removes 80-90% of your stomach to aid in weight loss and build a healthy lifestyle. It’s not a decision she made lightly. The inner voice was always telling her that if you wanted weight loss bad enough, you’d put in the hard work and lose it. But she’d done the hard work so many times. She failed over and over again, each time putting on more weight. Her relationship with food had become dangerous. She knew she wanted a healthier future, for both herself and her family, and surgery became the last resort.
Around 3 months after her surgery, Rachael downloaded the Couch to 5k app. She wanted to find her joy in running again, and immediately she fell in love. She slowly built up to running 5k, then 10k before getting a coach and following her dream of running over the harbour bridge whilst conquering the Auckland Half Marathon. This moment ignited the fire within, and Rachael hasn’t stopped since.
Rachael’s decision to train for an ultramarathon means it’s not unusual to hear the beep of her alarm at 4.15am. She admits it can be difficult to find the time for training. As a full-time worker (who now not only works as a Registered Nurse but also part-time as a Bariatric Nurse Specialist), running a household and being a mum and a partner it can be hard to prioritise training. So she rises early to train before life takes over her day.
Runners will relate to how mentally tough it can be. The decision to get out of bed and keep running when that voice gets loud isn’t easy. For Rachael she credits her get-up-and-go to her running coach and the plan she follows. She simply doesn’t allow herself the option of not getting up and moving each day. But when running doesn’t feel right, she’ll turn to another way of moving - often walking, yoga or strength work.
So why running? Rachael summarises it in 2 words. Freedom and strength. She feels free when running - these days her body does what she asks of it without much resistance (as long as she treats it right.) Running shows Rachael how strong she can be, both physically and mentally. It helps her overcome any issues she faces in life. Knowing she can push herself when out running, reminds Rachael she can rise over any hump in the road.
Inspiring women, inspire women. When Rachael entered the Spirited Women this year her Mum was part of the team. We originally thought Rachael had convinced her Mum to join. But it turns out the inspiration came from mum. She’d competed in a few of these events with other ladies in the team and they all thought Rachael would enjoy the challenge. She’s a huge inspiration to Rachael - not only for her perseverance in life but for pushing herself to complete massive fitness goals, including a half ironman, 6 half marathons in one year and climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. In turn - Rachael has inspired others to try running. She says some have picked up the running-bug and others have found something else they enjoy, instead. Either way, the people she’s inspired have found joy in moving their bodies in a way that works for them.
Rachael tells us her busy lifestyle, combined with her love of running means she’s not around home as much these days. But when she is, she’s present. Running has given her the grace of being a much better person - for herself, Maddie, Dean, her parents and everyone around her.
Like her Mum, Rachael has big goals. Her ultimate is to one day run a miler. That’s 100 miles (160km). She hasn’t decided which one, but most likely Tarawera. The anticipated feeling of wearing that pounamu is a constant driver. She’s putting it in the sight of a 5 year goal - wanting to put her body through a few more ultra’s, first. She’s realistic though. Right now Rachael doesn’t know if her surgery will hinder her attempts. She doesn’t know if she can fuel a run of this distance. Which is why, like everything in life, Rachael views this as a marathon, not a sprint. She’ll build up to it slowly. Doing what is right, when it’s right - for her.
In the nearer future, like many, she’s rolling with canceled events. Her biggest ultra was due to be next month - 60ks through the Hunua Ranges. It now looks like her next big event will be the Taupo 74k in 2022 and The Wild 20 miler in the lead up to the Tarawera 100k in 2023. She’s still undecided. But whatever she does, she’ll keep setting that 4.15am alarm and run with freedom, strength and determination for the goals she sets and gets.
If Rachael could put any short message on a billboard it would be this
Find what you enjoy and go do it.
And that’s a message Zeenya so passionately champions. Find your joy and move your body in a way that works for you. Anything is possible.