Horrifying injury sparks marathon dream
RUNNING: A serious leg injury gave rise to Lisa Hurring’s long-distance running career.
She was in hospital, nursing a badly broken tibia and fibula, when she set the goal to run a marathon.
“I was going insane just lying on a bed not being able to do anything,” she said.
“At that point I had been training for a 10km race. I hadn’t been running long and I was very excited about it so I was really bummed about not being able to run.
“I needed something huge to aim at to get me back into running and I decided on a marathon.”
Lisa would need four operations on her leg but would realise her goal two years later, completing the Gold Coast Marathon in 2009.
“It was bloody brilliant. I ran 3hrs 35mins, which wasn’t too bad,” she recalls.
“There’s a photo of me running over the line and I’ve got my arms in the air like I’d just won the Olympics.
“I was very, very happy and everything hurt so I was just plain happy to stop.”
Lisa, 42, is a lecturer in paramedic science at CQUniversity and has lived in Yeppoon for the past six years.
She was working as a paramedic in Charleville when the running bug first bit.
She grew up a talented swimmer, competing at national level in that sport and in surf life saving.
She remembers that running was never her friend in those formative years.
“I only ran when they made me do it at school because I was fit from swimming, but I always came home and couldn’t walk for a week,” she said.
“The thing is I only got into running because I was bored with swimming.
“The year I started running I broke my leg.
“I was riding a dirt bike. I’d only just started; I had very little skill but what I lacked in competence I made up for with enthusiasm, which was a really bad mix.
“I wasn’t going fast but I came off very badly and ended up draped over my motorbike.
“I think I fainted right away; I remember crashing but I don’t remember the actual snap.
“I remember picking myself up afterwards and realised my leg felt funny.
“Being a paramedic I thought I would assess everything else first because I didn’t want to look at it and have it become a distracting injury.
“I checked my neck and my chest and all of that was fine, then I looked behind me and my right lower leg was bent in half.”
Lisa said on her return to running, she realised she absolutely loved the long distances.
“I didn’t start ultras until 2014. I ran my first 50km and the following year I ran a 100km race and I’ve just kept going,” she said.
Lisa came third in that first ultra, the Lightning Strike 50 in Canberra, and mother nature was to provide a dramatic introduction to the gruelling sport.
“There we are, running over these hills, this huge thunderstorm cracking right above us,” she said.
“I was thinking I’m going to get hit by lightning in the Lightning Strike 50.”
Lisa received an encouragement award from legendary marathon runner Robert de Castella after the race, which still takes pride of place in her running room.
She then set her sights on her first 100km – the North Face 100, now known as the Ultra-Trail Australia 100.
That event proved a serious test, Lisa admitting she thought seriously about calling it quits at the 60km mark.
“I did it but it was absolutely excruciating,” she said.
“My ITBs (the iliotibial band is a long, thin band of fascia that runs down the outside of the thigh) blew up around the 28km and 30km mark so the last 70km I just had to lurch along.
“The uphills were fantastic but the downhills were murder.”
That painful experience failed to deter her and she has been rewarded with plenty of success this year.
She won a 52km race called Hares and Hounds, the HerberTONNE 100km and the Brisbane Trail Ultra 100-miler.
Today, 13 years to the day since her motorbike accident, she takes on the Great Southern Endurance Run, a 182km run through the Victorian Alps.
Lisa cannot wait for the run, in which she will tackle more than 11,000m of ascent and 10,000m of descent from Bright to Mt Buller.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” she said.
“It would be easy to feel like I had a chance of doing well because I’ve done well this year, but this event is another level.
“In a race like this only half of it is running, the other half is staying happy mentally and staying focused and trouble shooting because you don’t do something like this without trouble shooting.
“My goal is to finish and to manage all of the problems that come up and manage them well.
“I’m expecting it could take me up to 50 hours to finish this run because the conditions can be pretty extreme. The last time they ran this two years ago they had hail, sleet and cold thunderstorms on top of the mountains.
“I’m not thinking about time and I’m not thinking about placing whatsoever. I just want to manage myself well, enjoy it and have fun meeting new people.”
Lisa enlarged maps of the area and hung them on a wall in her house to reference during her preparation.
“I can’t wait to get there. It’s going to be beautiful. The only downside is that I will miss whole chunks because they’ll be in darkness.
“I really love being out in the dark because you don’t get to experience that at any other point in your life.
“There’s a whole different feel to it and I love it.”
The runners wear a headlamp and must carry a host of mandatory gear, including waterproof jacket and pants, thermals, a GPS, mobile phone, compass, maps, fluid and food.
Lisa said the aid stations, where runners could refuel and refill their drop bags, were amazing.
“You come out of the bush and you’re all bedraggled, you’ve got twigs in your hair and grazes on your knees.
“You emerge into all of this light and people are cheering you, they’ve got cow bells rattling and there’s a big spread of food out. It’s like an oasis in the desert.”
Lisa falls over countless times when running because of the nerve damage which resulted from the accident.
“I have to think about picking up my feet because I trip over on my bad leg. I fall over a lot; I trip on that foot and I land on that knee, I’ve got layers of scars,” she said.
“I think about the country I’m running through. I love nature so I think about the land and where I am and how lovely it is to be exploring these beautiful wilderness areas.
“The main thing is to not get trapped into feeling the pain because it does hurt.
“It’s a lot of ‘just keep going’ and distracting myself by thinking about where I am and enjoying the environment.
“We have to remind ourselves during the dark patches that we signed up for this, and we didn’t do so because it would be easy.
“It might sound a bit naff but I also think about what a privilege it is because there are a lot of people out there who can’t do this sort of thing.”
Lisa’s partner Dan Covey is crewing for her this weekend, just as he has in every race since that first 100km in 2015.
“He’s fantastic. I wouldn’t have finished that first 100 if it wasn’t for him.
“He’s a runner and he’s been training. He’s doing UTA50 in Katoomba next May.
“That will be his first ultra – and that’s my fault. I got him into it, I’ve infected him.”