01 Apr 2017
“Marathons are my thing”, Lesley opens up by saying. “I love everything about it. Once I ran around the Bay, it thought, why not try 10K, then why not try a half marathon, then why not try a marathon. When I ran my first marathon I knew it was for me. I just felt it in my bones, well actually I hurt all over but you get my point. I decided that day that my big audacious goal was to run the Boston Marathon, and signed up to run my second marathon straight away. After running 3 marathons (none of them a Boston Qualifier), an opportunity came up to run the 2017 Boston Marathon for 261 Fearless - a charity set up by Kathrine Switzer to empower women through running. I applied and was accepted as 1 of 120 women from around the world. So on April 17th 2017, my dream is coming true.”
In 1967, Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to wear a race bib in the Boston Marathon, and she had to defend those numbers from an angry race director who tried forcibly to remove her from the race at the two mile mark because she was a woman in what was then considered a Men’s only event. Her race bib number was 261.
Kathrine courageously finished the race, and now the number 261 has come to mean Fearless in the face of a challenge. In celebration of her 50th Anniversary of that barrier-breaking run, Kathrine will again run the 2017 Boston Marathon with her 100 + special charity women running alongside her to mark this special event. Lesley Mason is one of these women.
Boston 2017 will be Lesley’s fourth marathon. The fundraising element of her preparation is a new experience and was daunting for Lesley at first. However, the opportunity to engage with people about her journey has been inspirational and definitely helped keep her training on track. At first Lesley was a little embarrassed as she hadn’t achieved a Boston Qualifying time, but she quickly realised the efforts involved in fundraising $8,000 USD+ meant she most definitely earned that race bib.
We asked Lesley about her running history and her journey with Run Down Under. Lesley happily tells us, “As an avid non-runner for most of my life, the most frequently asked questions are based around why I run and how I ended up running marathons. My reason for learning to run is very straight forward. I wanted to lose weight. I didn’t enjoy spending hours at the gym, and I live near the Bay Run in Sydney’s Inner West. The plan was to learn to run around the Bay nonstop. I signed up to the Michelle Bridges 12WBT Learn to Run Program and to cut a long story short, in 12 weeks I could run 5km nonstop and then 8 weeks after that I ran around the Bay Run (7km) for the first time without stopping. After that I worked up to 10km, then Half Marathon and then marathon.”
Lesley continues by saying “Running makes me happy. It is such an awesome feeling to be outside enjoying whatever the day brings. Goals are a big motivator for me and I enjoy training for big events. Fellow 12WBT runners introduced me to Run Down Under in 2016 and thought it was another great way to keep in touch with running friends from all over the world. Regardless of your location, pace or distance, through Run Down Under we all run together as a group and have a little friendly competition at the same time.”
So how does Lesley fit all this in to a busy lifestyle? “I find that getting my runs done first thing in the morning leaves time for everything else. It is also important to be flexible and prioritise. IE what’s the focus for the week? If it’s a peak training week, running comes first and when you need to prioritise other areas of your life, they come first. It’s about balance overall and fitting in training whenever you can or wherever you are. When training for a marathon (as I am at the moment), running very much dominates and it helps greatly to have an extremely supportive husband. I am very blessed!”
Lesley finishes our interview by telling me more about one of her role models. “Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. She is one of the most amazing people. She didn’t just raise awareness about equality in running, but she challenged and changed the status quo by activating the women’s running community and ultimately getting it accepted as a given today. She is the true definition of being the change you want to see in the world. Kathrine turned 70 this year and is running the Boston Marathon to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of her ground breaking run. I want to be running marathons at 70!
By making the choice to try, RUNNING CHANGED MY LIFE. The more women I meet through running, the more I understand that my experience is not at all unique.
Running changes the lives of women because it exposes a part of ourselves we didn’t realise was there. In addition, there is a surreal moment when you realise that inspiration and support are both within you as well as being around you.
This is where 261® Fearless comes in. Most women in the world live in fearful situations. Even more have little or no self-worth. By providing safe environments for women to go through this discovery process, more women will learn to run and experience their own life changing moment in their own way. My goal is to help as many women as possible experience the same empowerment that I do through running. This is why I am running the 2017 Boston Marathon for Team 261® Fearless.”
And Lesley’s running motto …….. “Get Up & Run”.
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