Maria Lissenburg completes Run Down Under

On June 4th we celebrated the third person to complete Run Down Under – the 14,080km virtual run around Australia! After two and a half years of running and walking, Maria Lissenburg from Castella in Victoria will cross her virtual finish line. Here is her story.

“When I first started I thought it would take a lot longer to finish and to come third overall is pretty special.” By her own admission, Maria Lissenburg is not an elite runner. Two and a half years ago, Maria was like tens of thousands of other Australians who enjoy running and walking for the fitness benefits and may stretch out for the occasional half marathon. Now Maria is “obsessed” with running and about to accomplish a feat only two others have done before her – complete the 14,080km of Run Down Under.

The 55-year-old mother of three from the town of Castella will celebrate the final kilometres of her amazing virtual journey at her local Lillydale Lake parkrun on Saturday 4 June. Maria only really started to get into running about six years ago when her daughter Sarina encouraged her to run in the Great Ocean Road half marathon with her. “I knew it was a long way but I thought ‘what the heck’ and signed up. “After finishing the race, I was done in and sore everywhere, but the sense of accomplishment was amazing. After that I never looked back. I was hooked.”

So what then brought about the transformation from recreational runner to someone who has averaged over 110km per week since the beginning of 2014? “I first heard about Run Down Under in an email from Women’s Running magazine and thought it sounded interesting,” said Maria. “I checked out the website and decided I’d like to try for a top three place in my age group. By adding some walks onto my runs, I thought that was achievable. “Before joining Run Down Under, I was running about 35km per week with my longest run at 25km. “In the first week of this new challenge, I went all out with my running plus added longer cool-down walks and extra walks. Then I saw I was coming third overall. “At this point my competitive side kicked in and if I wasn’t running I’d go for a walk to increase my kilometres.”

Maria discovered that the extra walking she was doing not only increased her kilometres but helped her running. “I had a goal to run a marathon too, but kept thinking the distance was too much. “So I decided to walk the length of the Lilydale to Warburton rail trail which is a total of 40km. “Once I knew I could walk the distance I figured I should be able to run it.” And Maria did, one month later. Not stopping there, later in 2014 Maria completed her debut marathon race, the Melbourne Marathon, in four hours 13 minutes.