The Story of Travelling Fit
Running marathons takes guts and tenacity and a strong belief in yourself – or the encouragement of someone who has done it, and knows that you can too. Mari-Mar Walton, founder and managing director of Travelling Fit, is one of those people but at 19 she wasn’t ‘travelling fit’ and she had no idea what was involved in running distances when a friend suggested they enter the Sydney City to Surf run.
“I finished but I had no training and it took three months before I could walk properly,” she laughed.
Something attracted her though because when she saw ads for the next City to Surf encouraging people to train and get ready, she pulled on her Asics shoes and got into it. She’s been running ever since, with more than 30 marathons and ultra races, plus a sprinkling of triathlons and ironman competitions just for good measure. Running became a passion alongside her other love, travelling.
“I find running a natural endorphin stimulator. I think clearer and feel better.”
Travelling Fit was still an ungerminated seed though. She worked in a travel agency for a long time before deciding that personal training was going to be her career. She graduated and ran her own business training others but still loved the travel side so: “kind of put the two together.”
“I had a gut feeling it was going to work. It started with me being stubborn and knowing it was going to work.”
But it wasn’t until a couple of years down the track of Travelling Fit being a ‘hobby’ side-line run from a bedroom at home, to her personal training, that she got serious. Personal training wasn’t where she wanted to be, so she jumped in, Asics and all.
She laughs when she looks back at the early days from 2001 when her running/travel package client list for the year was handwritten on one page. One of her early year objectives was to take 100 clients on overseas Travelling Fit marathon packages. They now take thousands. “We have grown way beyond our expectations,” Mari-Mar said. She now runs the business with husband, Michael who is also race director of the Australian Outback Marathon, and 10 staff.
“It was never about money though.”
In the very early days they lost money but Mari-Mar’s ‘gut feeling’ that it would work, carried her through.
“It was all about passion; it came from the heart and understanding the needs of our clients.”
And the business has not only grown, but grown up to be a market force in the world of marathon running and travel.
Travelling Fit is now focusing on the finer details of creating even better service for clients; communicating with them every step of the process and at many of the events, meeting them in person and giving them personal encouragement. They are also planning to offer more flights and tours.
Mari-Mar likes to stay grounded and there for the people who are sometimes facing the biggest challenge and goals of their lives. She has run the 250km Marathon Des Sables across the Sahara in southern Morocco three times but will be running it again this year to be in tune with her clients.
“The best thing is to see everyone cross the finish line each day.”
She has been able to personally encourage people to keep going when they don’t feel they have what it takes, and to see the result when they finally achieve what they thought wasn’t possible, is something that keeps fueling her work at Travelling Fit.
“You push the running barriers and I relate that to life in general. Don’t give up. It is life changing.”
One of the most satisfying aspects of having started Travelling Fit for Mari-Mar is seeing the inspiration to live more healthily generated in the staff. They need to be motivated and energetic to be employed by the company but as they catch the passion, they get inspired and even more involved in exercise and sport.
She deliberately chose offices for the New South Wales-based business opposite the beach even though they were more expensive, because having access to the outdoors and an active lifestyle was part of the business.
Travelling Fit sells marathon packages to about 30 events worldwide on all the continents including Antarctica.
“Creating dreams for people really touches me. We are creating that ‘wow’ factor and we aim to give service above and beyond.”