FROM PARKRUNNER TO MARATHON FINISHER
by Michelle Carnegie
05 August 2017
She never pitched for the first ever parkrun she was supposed to run. Her reason? It was just too far! Fast forward three years later and Bev Leal has just finished her first marathon.
When Bev Leal’s daughter entered her for her very first parkrun, Bev backed out. How could she ever run a distance that far? It was only when members of her family came back from their parkrun and Bev saw their elation, that a little flame of hope was ignited within Bev.
The first attempt
“During the school holiday of June 2014 my daughter (Dianne Dempsey) and her children came to visit us in East London. She encouraged us to join the Nahoon Point parkrun and even registered us. She laminated our barcodes, put them on my bed and said: ‘Now we run!’ But Bev never went.
After seeing the sheer sense of achievement on the faces of her husband Carlos and two daughters when they returned form their parkrun, Bev decided to give it a go. “That’s when I began to think that maybe I was missing out on something.” Bev plucked up the courage to join in at the following Saturday’s parkrun, and so her love affair with parkrunning, and ultimately long distance running, began.
At her first park run she felt apprehensive and walked all the way, thinking: ‘What am I doing here?’ Over the next couple of weeks she progressed from walking, to brisk walking mixed with a bit of running to ultimately running the whole way. She was especially inspired by the words of her then 2-year-old granddaughter Lua: “Nana, you can do this!” So every time Bev lined up at the parkrun, she told herself: ‘I can do this.’
As Bev got fitter and stronger her confidence grew, to the extent that she completed the 17.5km Discovery Surfers Challenge in February 2016 alongside her daughter, Dianne. “That is a day that I will never forget and one that we are both very proud of.”
From zero to 50
Bev ran her 50th parkrun on March 26th, 2016. “I marked off each Saturday until the day arrived, and I was blessed to have two of my sisters, niece, nephew and husband run with me.” But this is not where her journey ends. Her love of running grew so much through parkrunning that she decided to tackle a marathon.
She describes her first marathon as an “incredible, amazing, awesome, bucket list event.” An innocent trip to her local running store late last year lead Bev to her very first marathon. “I saw the Buffs Marathon entry form and excitedly took one, then I marked the 42.2km entry block, and not the 21.1km block! I just told myself that I could do it.” Bev stepped up her training and joined a local running club, incorporating gym work and cross-training into her training schedule.
“The day had finally arrived and my husband and I set off at 03:00am to get to the start. The nerves set in. The starting gun went off. And my journey began.” Bev felt she could have prepared more for the marathon, but she was determined to finish. “It was far and tiring, but I never gave up. The volunteers along the route were amazing, the encouragement, love and support really helped a lot.”
Her ultimate reward was crossing the finish line and receiving her medal. “I will never forget that. After the race Bev got into her car and cried. “I think it was from exhaustion, exhilaration and the sheer fact that I knew I did it, just as my granddaughter had spurred me on.” Her body wasn’t really sore after, but she had very sore toenails. “I believe that goes with running marathons!”
Bev’s running journey continues and she is currently aiming to run her beloved parkrun course in under 30 minutes. Her current PB is 35:24. And if all goes well, this woman, who once thought 5km was just too far to run, will be completing her 100th parkrun later this year.
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