On Monday 2nd March, I was invited to speak to a group of 40 plus ANZx female employees as part of International Women’s Day. On the panel, I sat alongside:
- Maile Carnegie, Group Executive, Digital and Australia Transformation
- Jo Weston, Professional Netball player, Australian Diamonds and the Melbourne Vixens
- Sara Blicavs, Professional Basketball player, Dandenong Rangers, WNBL
- Emily Edgeley, Tech Public Speaking Coach
This was my ‘imposter’ moment where I questioned the importance of my story. Where did my story fit alongside these 4 strong women? Then I remembered the reason for being asked to talk; it’s because I am a woman, a female vegan ultra-endurance distance runner who does have story to tell.
Here is my story. I share this on a day where it’s only been in the last year, I have found the importance of celebrating being me, a proud strong woman. Where I understand what my voice and my story mean. Enjoy the read.
“My name is Amanda Meggison and I identify as a female vegan ultra-endurance distance runner, meaning I run distances over 42.2km with my preferred distance being 100km.
I have run 13 x 100km races over the past 4 years running my first 100km race a week after I turned 40.
It’s my vegan endurance lifestyle that puts me in the minority.
Let’s start with my diet; only 1% of the nation identifies themselves as a full-time vegan and as a female ultra-endurance runner we only make up around 32% of the field across various Australian events.
So, do I feel like the minority? Absolutely not. I show up at races to show the way, to show how it’s done. Ordinary people shy away from negative situations. What great people do is the opposite.
My most memorable race was in late 2017, The Great Southern Endurance run, a 181km endurance adventure across the Victorian Alpine region from Mt Buller to Bright, a run with 10,000m of elevation gain. In this race only 13% of the field were females with me being the only vegan on the start line.
There was no us against men; we were all one as we embarked on the inaugural race which was to have us run in severe thunderstorms and less than ideal trail conditions. It’s amazing how something as raw can bring you all together as runners, as a family of runners each travelling their own journey on the same route.
What are some of the reasons why females shy away from such endurance adventures?
- Family & work responsibilities
- Fear of getting lost
- Safety concerns while running alone
- Lack of trust
- General fear
Whilst these are all valid reasons, they are not reason enough to stop me from living out an experience where you are forced to dig deep inside yourself, to face pain & doubt, to look fear in the eye and come through it with a life-affirming experience.
During this run I was isolated and running alone for a good part of the race; although I did have company in the way polar bears, grizzly bears, children and parents at bus stops and a community shelter full of volunteers selling bric-a-brac! Hallucinations due to fatigue will think you have company around you when in fact it’s your mind playing tricks on you.
If it wasn’t for my hours training alone early in the morning and late at night in the Dandenongs, Mt Macedon and the You Yang to name a few, this uneasiness might have made me feel vulnerable and fearful but instead it gave me strength, power and a warrior like prowess.
The Great Southern Endurance run took me 47 hours to complete and be the first female to cross the finishing line to take the win – if I wasn’t so tired and confused I would have been ecstatic with this result.
Towards the end of this race I had to log onto Facebook and Google Maps to find out where I was, what I was doing dressed in running gear and why was I wearing trail shoes?
Also, on the other end of the phone helping me find the finishing line was my husband, friends and family who helped settle the confusion; showing that this isn’t just an individual sport, it takes support from those around you to finish.
At the end of the 47 hours, I had gone beyond the world of hurt and even when I was hurting, I choose not to give the hurt a voice; if I surrender my race was over. As I remind myself regularly, surrender to hurt as this shall pass, everything has an end point.
Why do I run ultra-endurance races? Simply because I do not wish to live an ‘easy’ life. I want to feel comfortable in the natural environment, I want to learn more about my surroundings and most importantly, I want to know and understand what it takes to survive on my own. I’m not afraid that with every moment of pain and suffering, that I am acting out what David Goggins, an ex-navy seal says: ‘callusing the mind’ to make me stronger.
I have determined energy and simply wish to endure with WILL being my internal power which can never be affected by the outside world.
WILL is the discipline of the mind & the body and it is this discipline that helps strengthen my heart and soul.
Ultra-endurance running allows me to feel something of my wilder self…the longer I run the more I realise that what I am chasing is a state of mind – a place where problems outside of that moment seem almost trivial and where the beauty of my environment and the concept of time, of the present moment, is all that is important.
The relationships I have with my fellow female training partners and runners is one of support and admiration. We lift each other up not bring each other down for reasons such as jealously or sheer competitiveness.
Despite when I run, each of those females are my competition I continue to treat them with respect and kindness although when it comes down to the wire, I will become ruthless, I will think solely of myself and I will become a warrior. Because there is a time and place.
Thank you for allowing me to share my endurance story of will, vulnerability, strength, determination and most importantly internal trust.”
The day is irrelevant
Whatever the day of the year; we all have a story to tell. We must feel comfortable and confident to share our words even if only one person is listening. I am becoming prouder of my story as I tell it, as I open up the pages of my life’s book with others. I am proud of where I have come from, where I am and where I am travelling too, despite not knowing the road I travel.
So, to end this tale, I leave these words with you; we gather strength as we go. Believe it.