DIANNE ASTWOOD

What's your story? Where did you grow up? When and why did you start running?

I grew up in Nelson, New Zealand but have lived in Melbourne since 1990 just a few weeks shy of my 19th birthday. 

Oddly enough I wasn't in to any sport growing up in NZ which is a shame as I now realise what a smorgasbord of outdoor fun I had on my doorstep! Sadly within my family and social circles sport, or outdoor pursuits of any kind, wasn't encouraged. I clearly remember having the burning desire to climb the local hills and to run at a young age. I used to look at the hills and genuinely want to scale them! However on the few times I mentioned it I was discouraged. 

In all honesty our families socioeconomic position had an adverse impact on my ability to get in to sport of any kind. There just wasn't the money to spend on such "luxuries". 

I remember the first time I ran - I mean really ran! It was a Broadgreen Intermediate school sports run, around the local neighbourhood, and I was dreading it. I had no running shoes or sports gear (the rent, groceries & electricity bill etc...took priority) so I had to do the run in my school uniform & bare feet. I took off like a rocket at the start line and I remember hearing the kids say "wow look at Dianne run", or words to that extent. I remember feeling a sense of joy that I'd never felt before at finding something I was good at. My teacher, Mrs Fletcher, pulled me aside afterwards and complimented me. She then organised to buy me running shoes out of the school funds and took me shopping at lunchtime to have me fitted. I was so pleased to have new shoes! 

Unfortunately the excitement and enthusiasm of my school run, and the thrill of having new running shoes, was not supported or encouraged outside of that day. At the age of 10 I didn't have the "know how" to step outside of my social, and socioeconomic, circles to push myself to continue to run. It was to my detriment as in my early teens I spiralled downwards in to a slippery slope of trouble and hanging out with some seriously
bad people. 

When reflecting on my experience I genuinely believe that if I'd had a network of people around me that had a different mindset I would have continued running and my teen years would have been very, very different.

I remember visiting NZ a few years ago and they had billboards up that said "Children in sport stay out of court". Whilst I didn't become a hardened criminal I certainly didn't shy away from trouble in my youth! That billboard spoke volumes to me. 

My life experience has taught me the value in having a good supportive network of people with good attitudes and a positive "can do" mindset around you. You can be limited by your socioeconomic position but it doesn't need to limit your drive, motivation and attitude.

What's your favourite distance / terrain / type of event? What about your least favourite?

I love running the beach trails and the bush - give me some dirt over bitumen any day!

What are you most proud of?

Having 3 kids (6, 4 1/2 & 7 months) and seeing how I've influenced their attitudes to being active.

Who inspires you? Why?

My girlfriend Shellie & her husband Antony. Shellie has just come out of her last round of chemo for breast cancer. She was so stoic throughout the entire process and had a "roll your sleeves up and get on with the job" attitude.  Antony went in to Gatekeeper mode and kept the wheels of family life ticking over whilst still managing to record his runs and mountain bike rides on Strava (some of them at ridiculous times of the morning or night as that was the only time he could get his sanity time!). They just left for a much needed holiday in Queensland where Shellie probably won't need to wear a winter beanie every day to keep her bald head warm!

Shellie and I took our tribe of six kids down the beach a few days ago and she told me she might try a short run during their holiday. In my opinion whether she does this or not isn't important - it speaks volumes of her character that she has the desire to.

Who would you like to inspire? Why?

Young kids - especially those that may have challenges in their lives that may be hindering them from becoming active.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Enjoy it! Enjoy the challenge of ruining further next week than you did last week. Enjoy the feeling of knowing your body is capable of this. Enjoy the new people you'll meet along your running journey.

What has been your biggest obstacle / challenge?
How did you / are going to overcome it?

I currently have some back issues related to childbirth and my pesky relaxant hormones aren't helping! I'm seeing a physio and doing Pilates.  I've been given a six month time frame before I can run again. On a positive note I can still ride and swim so it's not
all bad!