Trail running is not only a sport that showcases some of the lesser known locations around our beautiful country, it also brings people with a shared love of the outdoors and adventure together, and the Merrell Whale of Trail is no different. This year, it has brought a special group of women together, the Whale of Trail Supermoms, who are not only united by their common mom-duties and school runs, but also their shared goal of hoping to cross the final finish line of the challenging 53km Whale of Trail!
Therese Hansson, Carina Barker, Julie Hunter, Claire Lemke and Brigitte Hersch are all moms on the Garden Route, with a love of staying healthy, active and fit. Aside from Therese, who is relatively new to trail, the other moms have been running socially for about five years, although the Whale of Trail will be the furthest any of them have ever run. So how did they meet, and how did the Whale of Trail Supermoms become such a determined group of trail runners? We catch up with Supermom Therese Hansson to chat about the group.
“I had just started to run when I met Julie at a baby shower and she invited me to come and run in the forest with them. They were all already running then, generally after they had dropped off their kids at school in the mornings. It was more just to stay fit, chat and to get the dogs out,” says Therese Hansson. “We met about three days a week and covered about 8-9 km each time. One day, one of the girls decided to set a goal with the training and the Whale of Trail came up. I really don’t think any of us knew what it was all about, and I still don’t…”
In preparation, the determined group of moms have had the advice and support of Race Director, Graham Bird and his partner, Sarah Hearn (who has even taken them on their own training runs in a bid to get them ready). They also committed and travelled to Hogsback to tackle the 38km Merrell Hobbit Run, an incredibly technical and gruelling single day race that follows the Amathole Hiking Trail around, up and over the Hogsback peak. “The Hobbit was the big first one for everyone, and none of us have done longer than that, except for one of the girls who got lost in Hobbit and ran 49 km,” laughs Therese. It has been their longest run to date, and gave them an idea of what to expect from a 53km run.
Training aside, the journey has brought the five ladies closer together and formed an incredible bond between them, each learning more about one another, how to support and motivate each other and get one another through dark places. “We are obviously spending much more time together now with all the running,” says Therese, “and I think it’s natural that you get to know each other on a deeper level. We are all going through different stages in our lives and it becomes natural to chat about that when you are out on a run. In saying that though, there are some days where we are just there to have a good laugh and other days where we are more focused and have a very quiet run.”
Regarding the upcoming Whale of Trail, Therese speaks for the group when she says they’re nervous! “I’m scared I’m not going to make it before it gets dark,” she muses, “and I guess I will just have to run faster to overcome that!” Fear isn’t all that it’s about though, and Therese encourages all other moms and runners out there to give the Whale of Trail a bash next year – regardless of how nervous they are. “I do believe that anyone can do it, you just have to make the commitment.” Says Therese. “For a race like Whale of Trail I think you need to consider it beforehand, and you need to make a realistic plan to put in some hard training and commitment.”
Finally, what do the Supermoms hope to gain from the experience? For Therese, pride and a sense of achievement are what will be waiting at the finish line! “I’m going to feel very proud of myself when I’m (hopefully) crossing that finish line.” That’s not all however, and it becomes apparent that the journey to the Whale of Trail has been as significant for the group as the event itself will be. “I’m sure my fondest memory of the day will be the route, but overall it will be of all the different places I have been lucky enough to visit while we’ve been training for this. All the new routes, all the stunning views, the new friendships and beautiful nature that we have in this country that I’ve seen and run through have been spectacular. The joy of freedom and the happiness of being able to run is priceless.”
Are you as brave as the Supermoms? Will you be lining up on the 29th July with these five courageous women as they line up to take on the beautiful Whale of Trail? Entries close at the end of the week – so don’t delay!