Yvonne Cohen, a Positive Behaviour Support Practitioner at Focus, closely collaborates with individuals to ensure they receive the necessary support to lead fulfilling lives. Recently achieving a remarkable feat, Yvonne’s accomplishment aligns perfectly with our focus on Women Week, celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th. We’re thrilled to have Yvonne share her journey with us, inspiring others to pursue their aspirations. Congratulations on this incredible achievement and for being an inspiration to many!

On February 24th, I participated in an ultramarathon trial running event called the Old Ghost Ultra – 85km of single (narrow) trails, starting from sea level and winding along rivers and up into the mountains. Some of this was in remote territory that was primarily accessed by helicopter.

The “Old Ghost” trail is a gold mining track that was not actually fully completed in the 1860s, on the South Island of New Zealand. A few people revived it in the early 2000s.

How did I get through it? I trained – physically and mentally. So much about ultramarathon trail running is “in your head” …. Although, of course, if you don’t train physically, you won’t be able to complete it either!

You have to be mentally prepared for the distance, the terrain, for adversities and contingencies. Running on trails also requires a lot of concentration if you don’t want to fall or get injured. That takes practice – especially if you’re like me and want to have conversations with people as you run.

I run on trails mostly – mostly in the hills and mountains – 4 times a week for both training and enjoyment. The word “run” in this case can mean run, jog and hike (up the steep hills) – generally a combo of all three for me!

It’s extremely important to combine running with strength training. So, I also go to the gym around 3-4 times a week. On the days I don’t run, I walk. This is also both for training and general enjoyment.

An important part of training for long runs, too, is figuring out how to stay hydrated and sufficiently fed. Everyone is different.

So, I’d trained for this run that was going to be a bit hilly, but “technical” for the first 42.5km, then hilly for the next 20, followed by a 22km downhill. (Running a constant downhill section for 22 km is really hard on the quads!!)

However, two days beforehand, really bad weather was forecast, so the route was changed to an out-and-back. So, the return trip was going to be very technical and mostly a gradual uphill.

I managed to talk myself into the fact that even though I’d trained for the original route, I’d be OK …. Except that we had to be fast enough to meet certain timing criteria at the aid stations. I’m a slow runner where there are no hills, so I was a bit worried.

Race day: started by catching a 4am bus to the start line. The run began at 6am in the dark, but the weather was perfect.

At about the 40km mark, drizzle began. That was OK. But, by 50-ish km, the rain became incessant, and by about 60km the trails became streams. (I knew that we were heading uphill, because the water in the trail-streams was coming down!). So, any soil that was holding the rocks on the trails together was washed away. I’ve decided that I don’t like running on rocks!

What made me continue when it became difficult? Physical and mental endurance. … and that there were lolly snakes at the aid stations 😊.

What makes me continue to run the trails despite some of the physical inconveniences?

  • My love of nature – trees, animals, scenery
  • The amazing people who do the same thing and the conversations we have while running.
  • It’s my “mental health insurance”.

What’s next? Hopefully the Larapinta Trails in central Australia later this year.