Friday, 15 November 2013

Inspirational Women Who Run... Introducing Leigh Crozier

Readers, I like to introduce you to Leigh. I've been so excited about sharing her story. She has achieved something that I have dreamed about doing for a long time. And she has done it all while juggling motherhood!

When I read her story, it gave me goosebumps. I really hope you enjoy meeting her and are as inspired as I was.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself.
Hi, my name is Leigh Crozier. I’m a 47 year old mother of 2 who lives on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. I was born in South Africa but left there in 1990 when I got married to my husband, who comes from Scotland. We lived in the UK until 2000 when we immigrated to Australia. A few months after arriving in Oz, we had our son and a couple of years later our daughter. We had been married for 10 years before the family came along so immigrating to Oz bought many changes to our lives!
Can you believe how good this woman looks at the end of 89km? AMAZING!!

How did you get into running?
I ran a bit at school but was never fast or won any races! Even back then, I was drawn to middle distance running rather than sprinting. I’ve always kept myself fit but it was only in 2008 that I entered my first 10 km fun run. This came about after a routine medical where my doctor said I should use my fitness and challenge myself to do “something”. Little did he know what that comment would lead to! I remember sitting on the bus reading an advert for the Gold Coast Half Marathon, wondering if I could achieve it.... I loved the 10km fun run and went on to run the half marathon a few weeks later. From there, I stepped up to the marathon distance and ran the Gold Coast Marathon for the next 3 years.

What do you love about running?
Apart from the health and fitness benefits, I love how running frees my mind. Sometimes on a run I think of everything and it helps me to problem solve and find clarity. Other times, I think of nothing and just enjoy being out of the house for a bit of ‘me’ time.

How did you decide to do your first Comrades?
If you are a runner, Comrades is one of those events that you feel you have to do if you’re a South African. I grew up watching people like Bruce Fordyce (7 times Comrades winner) running Comrades. It’s part of South African culture. I always knew I’d love to do at least one before I turned 50 so with time running out, I decided I needed to make the commitment and give it a go!

How did you qualify, and what did your preparation for Comrades involve?
Qualifying for Comrades is fairly easy - you have to be able to run a standard marathon in 5 hours. Depending on your qualifying time, you are then seeded accordingly. My preparation involved following a training program with a 6 month lead in. I usually start Comrades 
specific training in December and take it from there. There are loads of training programs available, depending on your goal ie. just finishing or going for a specific time. You are awarded different medals for finishing in a certain time. The top 10 men and women get a gold medal: anyone finishing in less than 7:30 hours get a silver; 7:30 - 9:00 gets a Bill Rowan; 9:00 - 11:00 gets a bronze and 11:00 - 12:00 all get finisher’s medals. So something for everyone!

You then went back twice more, and are planning to do it again. What keeps you motivated?
Comrades is an amazing event...truly life-changing and a little bit addictive! The direction of the run is changed each year - one year is an ‘up’ run, the following, a ‘down’ run. After running the up in 2012, I knew I had to return and do the down. Although it is the same course, only done in reverse, it really is like running a different event! I also really wanted to get my back-to-back medal.

The decision to go back for a third time is more to try and improve on my time for my down run. As 2012 was my first, I spent a lot of time soaking in the atmosphere and chatting to other runners along the way - I know that I can do better next time round. Not sure how many more I will do but they do give you your green number (your own unique number) after you’ve done 10.... I’ve met people who’ve done 25 and someone ran his 40th this year!
I love this photo - she makes it look so easy! Can't wipe the smile off her face!
Is it the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
I found this year’s up run very hard. It was the worst conditions they’ve had for the past 20 years. June is usually cooler in South Africa but this year we had to contend with 32 degree heat with strong headwinds, bush fires and dust storms! It was brutal and the hills just seemed never ending! The attrition rate was enormous. 19 907 people entered, 14 336 started the race and only 10 188 finished.

Is there anything that you hate about running?
Not really...but you do have to make sacrifices.....getting up in the cold and dark, forgoing that extra glass of wine before a long run the next morning......time spent away from the family. And having awful looking feet....I usually have at least 2 black toenails with some nails at various stages of growing back. Not pretty!

What have you learnt from being a runner?
Patience, humility, self confidence.

How do you balance motherhood and running?
This is a constant challenge. We don’t have any relatives nearby so it really is a case of planning and negotiation between my husband and I. He loves to cycle and run too so we have to try and fit each other’s schedule in. Having a training plan is good because you know what it is you have to achieve for that week. Sometimes you have to get creative.... like going for a short run whilst you’re waiting for the kids to finish their sport.
I once did a 2 hour run on our ancient, rusty treadmill and then convinced the kids to come out on their bikes for another 10km...that way they didn’t complain too much and I managed to get a 32 km run in....you have to improvise!

What’s been the hardest challenge you’ve faced, either in a race or in life more generally?
Being a mother!


When things get tough, how do you keep yourself going forward - either in
running or more generally?

I think it’s important to have a goal....something to work towards and to give yourself the feeling of having a purpose.


And what is the thing (or things) that you are most proud off – both in running and more generally?
Definitely my children. They are a constant source of amazement to me!

And my Comrades medals...

After they hear you’ve achieved something as amazing as Comrades, people must tell you, “I could never do that”. What advice would you give someone starting out?
Most people who don’t run just think I’m crazy!! The thought of running 89km is totally alien to them.

My advice is to just start.....and to be consistent.....just keep at it and it will get better!

Some of my favorite quotes.....
“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start”. John Bingham
“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must: just never give up”. Dean Karnazes 
Leigh, you are incredible! What an amazing journey. And she has still got both  feet off the ground!

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