Hi fellow runners!

As I believe it’s important to live a balanced life, I’ll begin my giving you a few random facts about me before I blab on about running for the remainder of my first blog post! I am the eldest of six children, study Engineering/ Law at Monash, am known for my love of ice-cream, peanut butter (and the combination of the two…), tutor maths and love to spend my little free-time being adventurous and trying new things with friends and family, particularly burger joints around Melbourne!

Now for the important stuff…2014 has been a truly memorable year. I consider myself extremely blessed to have been able to represent Australia in Canada, USA, Guam and Japan. Although I know I am fortunate that these experiences have come my way, I am definitely not lucky! It has been very challenging juggling university and running. I have had very little spare time this year and only got to spend time with friends a few times a week during the university semesters. But I love what I do and I would not have it any other way!

The past 12 months…

After my last VCE exam, winning the Victorian 5km Champs in a world junior qualifier gave me a mission- to make the world junior team! I’m very grateful that my sister Laura motivated me to get my head out of books and into the fresh air during my final year of school. Even though it was only 3 or 4 times a week, it allowed me to run consistently throughout year 12 instead of ‘letting myself go’, giving me a base to build on once my studies were over.

The day after the Victorian 5km, I spent a short but relaxing week in Fiji. When I returned, I embarked on a training program which involved running 5 times per week and was lucky to continue this program for the entire summer. I also had the pleasure of being able to join Nic Bideau’s squad for some Tuesday sessions. Running alongside (or more commonly behind) athletes such as Susan Kuijken, Zoe Buckman and Gen Lacaze was extremely motivating. I don’t think they realise how much they inspire me- I’m so happy they are now home from overseas!

At the start of Autumn I accomplished my mission by cementing my position on the World Junior team after coming 2nd and 5th in the 5km races at the Australian Junior and Open championships respectively. As Nicky Frey resigned from coaching, I was very lucky that Nic took me under his wing. Nic assured me that I would continue to improve with more consistency and that it would be foolish to drastically increase my workload and risk injurying myself and missing the opportunity altogether.

So I continued to run 5 times a week and increased my workload a little. My sessions included 4-6km worth of repetitions and my long run increased from 70 to 90minutes. Thankfully, I was able to string many weeks of averaging 60km per week together.

World Juniors was the most amazing experience! I was so overwhelmed with excitement when walking out to race on the historic Hayward Field. The packed stadiums and getting to wear the green and gold definitely made me pumped and determined to have no regrets when crossing the line. My 7th place in a PB of 15:56 reflected this and competing at the international level made me hungry to keep training, hopeful to get another chance to compete in in the green and gold again.

The WJ trip was extremely exhausting but as I wanted to run in the Australian XC Championships I couldn’t afford to completely stop running. So I kept my legs ticking over with some easy running. In Albany, I won the open title and was invited to the Oceania XC Championships in Guam, my next opportunity to run for Australia. Afterwards I enjoyed well-deserved family holidays in Margaret River and Bali, which gave my body a very good rest and time to celebrate what I had accomplished over the last few months.

Although when I returned to training, my “training bank” from my World Junior preparation was well and truly depleted, I was lucky that after a couple of weeks I could get fit enough to win the Oceania XC in Guam.

When I returned from Guam, it was time to gradually increase my mileage. I was very excited when Nic told me to do a sixth run on Monday! I’m now running 70-90km per week depending on how my body is feeling. The week I hit 90km…I spent most of Sunday sleeping…not a very productive afternoon leading in to University exams!

My most recent international trip was the Chiba Ekiden Relay, an event I always wanted to compete in like my Mum did when she ran. I cherished the opportunity to run in a relay, as us distance runners don’t get to do so often! Although the very hilly 7.195km leg was challenging, having the cheerful Japanese community line entire course and the knowledge that I was competing on behalf of the other 5 athletes in my team, made the event another fantastic experience in the green and gold.

Where to now…
It’s been a big year and I’m looking forward to finally getting back into some routine with hopefully consistent training over summer. My next goal is to run well at the World XC trials so I can gain selection for the IAAF World XC Champs in China!

I have recently signed up with the VIS and I’m extremely motivated to make the most of the facilities they have to offer. I got my gym program the other day (apparently my glute muscles do NOTHING and I have been doing my core incorrectly…). I am so excited to get my body stronger for the future as I am aware that if I want to be competitive with the best open athletes in Australia I need to do a lot more work than I currently am. Making the Olympics is a long term goal. We shall see how I progress but I hope to be ready and in the mix for Tokyo 2020.

There is a never-ending list of people I need to thank for helping me kick-start my running ‘career’ this year. I am lucky enough to live in what I consider a perfect, big, happy household and I am forever grateful for the support I receive at home. Particularly, my Mum is my hero, looking after 4 children on her own for many years when my not-so-inspirational biological father ran off. She is a huge inspiration to me! Shane is also an absolute legend and I could not ask for a better step-dad. He even surprised me at the airport to come and watch me compete in Guam!

My coach Nic has been amazing developing me as an athlete this year. He has been extremely considerate of my university commitments and cautious not to push me too hard too young. I’m definitely not strong enough to handle a full on training program currently, and it’s something we’re working towards so that I can hopefully run fast in the future!

Some others I must thank are the VIS, New Balance, Robbie O’Donnell, Tim O’Shaughnessy, Nick Bowden, Sonia O’Sullivan, Richard Huggins, Tom Chuang, Nicky Frey, other athletes for inspiring me and my friends who show an interest and understand how much I put towards my time-consuming but rewarding hobby!

I believe I have the responsibility to look after myself and make the most of every opportunity that comes my way in order to thank such people. So I endeavour to live a balanced life and reach my potential as an athlete someday in the future, no matter how long it takes me to get there.

Bye for now and happy running!
Courtney Powell