On the 18th and 19th of May 2014, runners of all shapes, sizes and levels of ability descended on the coastal towns of Victoria to take part in the Great Ocean Road Marathon weekend.
Two days. Five events. Thousands of people, every one of whom has a story.
Here are two of them.
It took some gentle nudging to finally convince Heidi to join in the Operation Move challenge but once she had committed she gave it her all, becoming one of the community’s greatest cheerleaders. Whenever someone needed a nudge, some advice, a little sympathy Heidi would be there.
Her own expedition to the 14km Paradise Run on the Great Ocean Road was an epic one, with months of training and planning to get from her home in South Australia to a cabin in Apollo Bay with a group of Operation Movers for two nights. She made the long interstate drive having left her child in the loving care of her parents. This was a journey she needed to make alone.
Sara could well be held responsible for the very existence of Operation Move. When I was first learning to run and finding it impossibly hard, Sara was the person who told me to slow down; that it was more important to keep putting one foot in front of the other than anything else and that from the first day I was a runner, even though I felt like anything but.
Having recently moved interstate and dealt with job changes, renovations and the everyday challenges of parenting a young child, Sara and her family also travelled from South Australia for the GOR weekend. Duncan, Sara’s husband, ran the 6km race with their daughter in her pram while Sara had been preparing for the 14km Paradise Run.
With her long training experience in running and triathlon, Sara’s race got off to a fantastic start.
Heidi’s was less than fantastic. At one kilometre into the course she experienced a sharp pain in her leg and realised that she could run no further. With dogged determination she kept walking, refusing to entertain the idea that her race might be over. Having fought so hard to get there in the first place, she was not giving up so easily.
Sara noticed Heidi walking as they crossed paths well into the course, and saw that she was in some pain. Having needed to stop herself a little earlier, she turned around and ran all the way back to where Heidi continued to walk the course.
From that point, Sara did not leave Heidi’s side.
Despite having had her own hopes for a PB run, Sara knew that she had something more important to do that day. As Heidi battled through not only the physical pain of her injury, but the emotional trauma of having come so far and not run the race she had dreamed about, Sara was by her side reminding her that that she just needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
At the finish line, I watched with my Operation Move team mates as Heidi and Sara finally made it to the final chute. The race winners were long gone. The crew were starting to pack up the flags and take down the course boundaries. And still they came down the road towards us, hand in hand.
Two of our OpMovers ran out to meet them, the rest of us waited along the sidelines. I had my youngest daughter in my arms and I wept as I watched these women surround our teammates, our friends, and help support them through the final steps to the finish line. We cheered for them as they crossed that line, and in that moment I was so proud to be a part of this thing that had brought such amazing people together. To have created it.
Only Heidi will ever know the demons she battled on that long, painful course. Anyone who has ever trained for a race already understands the commitment and determination and sheer bloody mindedness that it takes to get to the starting line, let alone the finish. Anyone who has hauled themselves out in the cold and the wind and the blistering heat to train for an event already knows the cost of giving up your race to support another.
I do know this.
Watching Heidi and Sara cross the finish line inspired me in a way no super fast race time ever could. It reminded me why I created Operation Move in the first place, and it made me so proud to call these remarkable women my friends.
There are lots of places on the internet where women compete, and tear each other down, and comment on how other women look, and use fear and judgement to belittle and hurt each other.
This is not one of those places. We encourage. We support. We care about who you are; not what you wear, your shape, your size or where you live. We know you have a story, because we all have our own stories too.
This is Operation Move.
We’d love to be part of your story too. You can Get Moving with us right here.