The Townsville Marathon next month will be radiation therapist Elderene Brostrom’s 23rd. It will form part of her preparation for the London Marathon next year; something she will give her all to in the name of a cause that’s particularly close to her heart.
This year Elderene met and became close friends with a patient from her work — 46-year-old Stephanie Barker — a fellow runner who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer and was having treatment at the Townsville Cancer Centre. With every step, Elderene is striving to raise $10,000 before she gets to London to dedicate the funds to research and brain cancer awareness.
“Stef was training for the Mackay Half Marathon when she was diagnosed with Grade 4 GBM — the most common and aggressive form of brain tumour”
How many marathons have you done now? The Townsville marathon will be my 23rd.
Have they all been for charity? No, not all of them: I decided that marathon number 21 (Stockholm 2013) would be the last one, but then last year I decided to run the New York Marathon for the Jodi Lee Foundation (bowel cancer awareness). Jodi Lee’s story struck me because she was so young when she died and had young kids and I wanted to bring some awareness to bowel cancer amongst the younger population.
Why you are doing the London Marathon next year? This one is for Stephanie Barker: A 46-year-old inspirational woman from Mackay. Stef was training for the Mackay Half Marathon when she was diagnosed with Grade 4 GBM — the most common and aggressive form of brain tumour — in June last year. She went running one day and thought she’d lost her mojo when she was having a bad run. I could relate, because running is so much more than just exercise: it’s a mental stimulus. I found one charity in Australia that guaranteed entries for the London Marathon — the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF). They had nine spots and offered me one. I have to raise $10,000 for ACRF. All funds go towards cancer research and brain cancer awareness.
How did you discover running? I grew up in a different environment to where I am today. I have a strong family history of diabetes and it’s important that I look after myself. There wasn’t a lot of emphasis on physical fitness during my childhood in Cape Town. We didn’t have the luxury of transportation, so you had to walk a lot more to get from Point A to B.
Aside from giving you the opportunity to help others, what else do you love about running? Where do I start? It’s a mental stimulus. It’s something that I can do anywhere, anytime. I was running in the desert when I was working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and running in the snow and cold in Canada and the UK. It keeps me fit and makes me feel good. I also have a strong family history of diabetes and had gestational diabetes when I was expecting my daughter, so it’s important for me to stay active and healthy. That’s why it was easier to say ‘I’m stopping now at 21’, but the reality was different. I wasn’t slowing down and it just made sense to keep on going. I exercise daily and I also enjoy kettlebells and boxing.
I love my profession as a radiation therapist. It allows me to meet people from all walks of life and some are just unbelievably inspirational. I feel very strongly about health professionals being fit and healthy in order to be the best at what they do, and be in a prime position to help their clients and maximise health outcomes for the community.
“It’s something that I can do anywhere, anytime. I was running in the desert when I was working in the United Arab Emirates and running in the snow and cold in Canada and the UK”
Have you always been active? Yes and no. I always tried. I loved sports, but was one of those people who had the heart, but lacked the talent. It wasn’t till I moved to the UAE for work at the age of 25 that one of my colleagues introduced me to long distance running.
Are you a morning or afternoon mover? Definitely a morning mover. It sets me up for the rest of the day. If I’ve done an exercise session in the morning or had a good run, I can face the day.
What’s your favourite thing to do on a weekend in Townsville? I run a Saturday morning outdoor fitness group, and then have a hearty breakfast with my husband and daughter (7) before getting her to all her activities. We’re not big on social events, so we tend to spend our weekends pottering around at home. In summer we’re definitely in the pool. There’s always something to do and housework to catch up on. Sunday mornings are usually a long run — anything between 21km and 32km, or, if my daughter’s keen — triathlon practice for her, or just a long bike ride with me jogging along.
Your most motivating tune? Happy by Pharrell Williams — it always brings a smile to my face.
Motivational quote? “The world steps aside for each man to pass — as long as he knows where he’s going to” — unknown.
How do you pep yourself up when you’re craving the couch? As a mum and full time professional, the couch is a luxury. There’s always something to do. I do enjoy a lovely Saturday afternoon nap every now and then in the recliner.
Do you prefer to get active solo, or with a buddy? Solo, although I do like to help others with their fitness journey. Last year I helped four of my colleagues to run their first half marathon.
Most annoying fitness fad? DIETS. I believe in everything in moderation and healthy habits. Exercise regularly.
What’s your greatest fitness achievement? Running 23 marathons since 2002 (including one Ultra) and completing a Cert III and IV in Fitness part time.
Most memorable active moment? Setting up a Guinness World Record with Guy Leech in March for the Biggest Core Fitness Class in Melbourne.
What activity have you always wanted to try (and what’s holding you back)? Triathlon. My swimming abilities are very limited.
What’s something we don’t know about you? When I worked in Canada I trained with a retired boxing coach who taught me proper boxing. I went back to South Africa and was part of the first Women’s Amateur Boxing Championship in South Africa in 2002.
What’s your next goal? To raise $10,000 for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation by April 2016 and to get Stephanie’s story out there. I want to make people aware of brain cancers and the symptoms to look out for. We want to Stop Tumours Ending Friendships (STEF). I also would like to help others reaching their fitness goals. I’m a qualified fitness professional and would love to come into people’s homes and show them ways of getting fit without expensive equipment or gym memberships.
Who would you most like to train with (e.g. famous person, or someone you look up to)? Jillian Michaels [American trainer, wellness expert and life coach].
The training advice I wish I’d listened to was… If I’d stayed in Canada, I would’ve made a name in boxing.
Most treasured piece of fitness gear? My Garmin 620 — love my gadgets.
My best local fitness tip is… We are so lucky. We live in a beautiful part of the world. I wish I saw more people out there getting fit and being healthy.
Last words? In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible, until it’s done”. Whether it’s running a marathon or raising awareness (and funds) for a cause you believe in, it is all possible.
If you want to run for your own cause and help your school, kindy or community group, you can join the 2.5km Hero Run at the McDonald’s Townsville Running Festival. For more information download the Hero Run flyer: http://www.townsvillerunningfestival.com/images/stories/2015/hero-run/Hero-Run-Flyer.pdf. To find out about the other events and distances at this year’s running festival, see here.