FROM RUNNING AFTER A THUNDERSTORM IN BROOME, DENISE WAS INSPIRED BY HER MUM, LORETTA, TO RUN HER FIRST MARATHON.
Original article written by Lola Jones and published by RRR Magazine. Edited and re-produced with permission by author and RRR Magazine.
How does a young mother who likes to run on the beach in Broome end up running in the New York City Marathon with her mother? Maybe it just runs in the family! Last year, Denise Shillinglaw ran in the New York Marathon with her mum Loretta Shillinglaw. But the story does not start there. In November 2012 Denise planned to be the support team for her mother who was supposed to run in the 2012 New York City Marathon. However, the marathon was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy. In 2013, they decided to run together. The New York City Marathon covers a distance of 42.195 km or 26.219 miles, and is one of the most prestigious marathons in the world.
Denise said, “The idea of running a marathon myself had been lurking around since my mother, Loretta, ran her first marathon in Perth in 2004, aged 62. But for someone like me who had just had my first child at the time, it did not seem realistic, ever. Supporting Mum was always the priority.” Loretta started running at the young age of 56 and six years later completed her first marathon, the Perth Marathon in 2004. Next was the 2010 Athens Marathon and after Athens, it didn’t seem that insurmountable for Loretta to do the New York Marathon.
Denise was disappointed she was not able to see her Mum over the line in Perth in 2004, nor in Athens in 2008, so she was pretty determined to see her finish in New York and help her celebrate. Not many people could say they were 70 (in 2012) and had run their third marathon! “It was going to be a great trip. It was a great a trip-but not how we had planned it.” The 2013 ‘run’ was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy and Loretta, along with thousands of other runners who had trained and travelled for the event, was devastated. But then, New York City was devastated too, so they were in good company. On the day of the marathon, Loretta and about two hundred other Australian competitors decided to run around Central Park to relieve some of their pent-up energy. It turned out that many local and international runners had the same idea. Denise ran with them. She said, “It was amazing! There were about twenty thousand people in Central Park running that morning. I was running with Chileans, South Africans, Spaniards, Americans, French; some of the fittest people on the planet. After that run (only about 10k), I thought to myself if I am ever in a position to participate in this marathon, then I will do it.”
About six months later the Boston Bombings occurred. Denise feared for her mum, who had been accepted in the 2013 New York City Marathon. What was the risk for her? Denise spent several days in April 2013 trying to talk her mum out of going. Then Denise got the email: “Congratulations. We would like to offer you a place in the 2013 New York City Marathon.” Denise said, “ I didn’t know what to do. Again, what was the risk? Then I remembered my promise to myself back in New York and decided that yes, I would commit to my first marathon and accompany my Mum in her third. She has always inspired me and if she could do it, then I could too.”
Between April and October, Denise did her training in Broome whilst Loretta did her training in Perth. Despite some experiences with heat stress, Denise managed to complete her training with minimal difficulty. She said, “I run because I enjoy the meditation of it. I run pretty much the same course every time. I enjoy the shift where my body is in focus and my brain gets to rest. Amazingly, some of my best thinking happens when I am running. In Broome particularly, I love to run because it is so clean and (most of the time) so quiet. Sometimes, of course, running in Broome can be hot. But I still love going for a run on an afternoon after a great big thunderstorm. But most of all I love the feeling at the end of every run, the feeling that every runner knows – an elation. When you know that you are alive.”
Loretta’s training was also by-the-book with plenty of support from friends, family and members of the WA Marathon Club. She also wanted to acknowledge the work of the Travelling Fit ladies as they were wonderful support in 2012 and in 2013 as she reflected that the New York marathon finally happened after two hard years of training.
In New York, November 3rd 2013 – the day of the race was a cold one. Very cold indeed. “When we arrived at Staten Island at 6.45am, it was probably zero degrees and didn’t change much for the four hours we waited until our wave started.” Loretta and Denise started the race together, but ran their own race once over the Verrazano Bridge. “It was a long, slow and difficult run, but we made it, and it was worth all the hard training.” Denise said.
After the race, the pair met up with a good friend and spent the evening celebrating with champagne and tapas at the Tolani Wine Bar on W79th and Amsterdam Streets, speculating on the next marathon!