Emily’s Story

Em's Running Adventures pic with dogSome of you probably think you’ll never be ‘skinny’, you’ll never be a runner, you’ll never … whatever it might be. Because you’ve always been ‘fat’, it runs in your family…. I used to have the exact same thoughts. But this photo shows anything is possible.

Yes, it’s taken 10 years and I’ve had lots of ups and downs in those years – I kept losing and regaining the same 10-15kg. But last year I finally lost those those last 13kg and I have (for the most part) kept them off. I finally feel like I’m in a place where I can maintain what I’ve achieved.
I didn’t do it through some crazy fad diet, I didn’t starve myself. I achieved all of this through simple, healthy eating and regular exercise.

This is my 3rd Catch Fitness 20 Week Body & Lifestyle Competition but it’s my first where weight loss is not my primary goal. …

The following is from Emily’s blog:-

The 2014 Catch Fitness 20 Week Body and Lifestyle Competition (a.k.a the 20 Week Challenge) starts Monday. This will be my 3rd 20 week challenge, and for me it really has been life changing. It’s really how I became a runner. I dabbled in running before then, but never really stuck with it for long enough to get to the point where I enjoyed it. The longest distance I’d run was around 14km (8.6 miles) at the City 2 Surf and that was so hard (I’d go home and sleep the whole afternoon after doing it) that I couldn’t imagine ever doing a half marathon, let alone a full. But I’ve gained even more than that from the 20 week challenge – friends, confidence and a genuine love for being fit and healthy. Let me start at the beginning.


2012 was my first 20 week challenge and it was not a success. The thing about the 20WC is you get out of it what you put in. You have to put in the effort to get the results. No one else can do it for you. There aren’t any magic pills or potions to take. All the results come from hard work and dedication. Yes, you see a personal trainer (for me weekly, but at a minimum once a month) and they help you, but they can’t do the work for you. In 2012 I entered the strength and cardio categories, but what I really wanted was weight loss. I’d see these amazingly fit women at the gym doing chin-ups and I just wanted to be like them. I wanted people to look at me the way I was looking at these women. But, I really wasn’t in the right head space that year. I wanted it, but I wanted it for the wrong reasons and because of that I didn’t want it badly enough. Prior to the 20 week challenge starting I’d already lost quite a bit of weight and was quite close to my goal weight. By the end of the 20 week challenge I’d actually gained weight and I think I went backwards on most of my fitness tests. In spite of this, for some unknown reason I still went to the awards night. I didn’t really want to. I felt like a failure and knew that sitting there seeing all the amazing results that other people achieved would be depressing. And it was. Until the winner of the male cardio category gave his speech.

I’d seen Riwai, and his friend Dave, around at a few of the local 5k races I’d been doing throughout the year. Two big guys out there pounding the pavement, looking like they were having about as much fun as I was! So I kind of knew who Riwai was. What I didn’t know was the struggle he’d been through. In his speech he talked about how this was the 2nd time he’d entered the 20WC, but how in 2011 he hadn’t really put in the effort – if there’d been an award for sitting on the couch eating pies and drinking beer, he would have won that! But this year something was different. He was sick of feeling horrible and having health issues because of his weight. So he decided to get out there and give it a real go. And he won. He said that just because maybe you didn’t do so well this year, that doesn’t mean you can’t do amazing things next year. At the time I was thinking “Yeah right. I’m not you. I can’t do that. This is proof that I’m a big fat failure and always will be”

But Riwai’s words stuck with me over the next few months. I was heading home to Australia for Christmas that year and was really sick of feeling so blah and fat and bloated all the time. So I decided to get a new personal trainer and do something about it. Just before Christmas I signed up for the Saint Clair Vineyard half marathon in 2013 and decided to really get back into my running. I hoped that signing up for Saint Clair would keep me motivated.


2013 rolled around and things were not going to plan. I’d spent Christmas and New Year at home in Tasmania with the family. I think I did maybe 2 runs the whole time I was there. Pretty sure I gained weight as well. I could blame it on the heat – it was over 30C (86F) every day I was there. I could blame it on ‘holiday food’. But ultimately it was just laziness and lack of willpower. I didn’t enter the 5k series in January that year – even though it was on my to-do list. I did enter the Run to Remember, but almost bailed on it – the only reason I didn’t was because I’d convinced a friend from Auckland to do it so it didn’t seem right to not run it. I ended up walking most of it. I knew I had to do something or I’d be back at 80kg (176 pounds) before I knew it – I was still in the 60s … just. So I entered the 20 week challenge again and swore, just like Riwai, that this year would be different. I was considering dropping out of Saint Clair though as I’d pretty much stopped running altogether. But in march I did the City 2 Surf (14km/8.6miles) and I made a deal with myself that if I could run the whole thing I would stay in Saint Clair. I ran the whole thing, so I had to stick the deal I made with myself (especially seeing as I’d told The Boss about it!).

The 20 week challenge started a couple of weeks after the City 2 Surf. Pumped had around 30 people doing it so we had a meet and greet the evening before and boy was  that intimidating – all these people that I’d be competing against and some of them had some pretty phenomenal goals. The first Saturday morning bootcamp (we had one every week for the 20 weeks) was even more intimidating. It was a session at St Martins stairs. I felt like I was going to die! But here were all these amazingly fit people running up and down the stairs like it was a run around the park. Over the next few weeks I ran 3 times a week, went to the Saturday morning bootcamp and managed to finish St Clair. Again, I felt like I was going to die, or maybe just throw up, but I finished it. I actually managed to achieve some of my goals for the whole 20 weeks in those first 5 weeks, and continued to smash all the goals I set myself, so every 5 weeks I moved the goal posts. One of our early (I think week 2 or 3) bootcamps was Rapaki. I walked the whole way up that day and it was HARD! A fellow Pumped 20 weeker had set he goal to run Rapaki by the end of 20 weeks and I thought why on earth would you want to do that?! We did it again at the end of the 20 weeks and I actually managed to run up it – faster than I’d ran down it the first time! I also managed to achieve some goals that I’d tried and failed to achieve before: a sub-30 5k and a sub-1hr 10k. I also achieved some goals I never ever thought I would – a 1hr20 sprint distance triathlon, a sub 2:15 half (I took 17 minutes off my St Clair time by the end of 20 weeks) and I lost 13kg (28 pounds) – I now weighed the same as I did in high school.

Over and above all that 20 weeks gave me so much more. I met new friends – including my new best running buddy Simone – I gained confidence in myself, and for the first time in forever I actually didn’t really care too much about what I weighted. Yes it was great to lose weight and to be at my high school weight, but more importantly than how I looked, it was now about how I felt. I’ve put on a few kilos since the end of the 20 week challenge, and it is my goal to lose them again – but not because of how I look (I’m actually reasonably happy with that right now) – more because I feel bloated and sluggish and blah. Plus losing those few kilos makes me a faster runner!

Never in my life had a I contemplated running a full marathon. Even after doing my second half marathon I thought that was my distance. To me the half is a perfect distance. But it’s no longer a challenge (OMG, I can’t believe I just said a half marathon is not a challenge!). And what I discovered from setting goals and consistently achieving them for 20 weeks is that I need to keep challenging myself. I can do (and have done) that by improving my times. But I truly believe that you can only be so fast. I’m never going to be a 1:30 or 1:45 half marathoner … But I can be a marathon runner (holy cow!).


I’m truly amazed at all the things I’ve done this year. Not because they are amazing things, but because never in my life would I thought I could ever do them. I’ve ran 3 half marathons in 4 months. Last week I climbed a mountain – granted it was only a small mountain (1200m/3900feet), bit it was still a mountain. The week before I went to Mt Cook for the 2nd time ever, but this time I did 3 nature walks (on top of a half marathon). I truly believe that what has given me the ability and confidence to do this was the 20 week challenge.

I’m doing it again this year. In the interest of full disclosure I have a free entry as a result of winning the cardio category last year, but I would have done it anyway. This year the amazing Broni, who organises this awesome event, has introduced a new ultra cardio category, so I’m entering that and flexibility. This post is getting quite long now, so I’ll tell you about my specific goals in another post.

I know this long-winded post may sound like one big advertisement for the 20 week challenge, but I promise you it’s not. I truly believe that this is an amazing and potentially life changing thing for anyone to do. The beauty of the 20WC is that it’s not some short-term fix. Trust me, once you’ve done something consistently for 20 weeks it really does become a habit. But I think the real key to it is that it’s up to you and anybody can do it – you just have to have the desire and determination to do it. There are 13 categories to choose from (you enter 2), plus some that you are automatically entered into like overall entrant or new mums. This means that whatever your goal is, you can find something to suit. I emailed Broni to see how many people generally do the 20 week challenge and she said it grows every year and this year there are over 500 people entered (that’s an amazing achievement for Broni and props to her for growing this from nothing to over 500 people in 4 years). The unfortunate reality is not all of those 500+ people will finish. Some will drop out, some will simply not achieve their goals. Most of those who don’t are probably just not ready yet. Maybe you’re one of the people entered in this event. If you are then this is potentially the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life, but regardless of how hard this gets, please don’t give up – the blood, sweat and tears will be worth it. Trust me when I tell you there will be sweat, there will be tears – of frustration and of joy –  and there may very well be blood (although let’s hope not). While this may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, it also has the potential to be the best thing you’ve ever done.

Broni posed a question on Facebook earlier this week: What do you think are people’s biggest fears about doing a challenge like this? The most common response was “Fear of failure”. I don’t think you can fail at this. Maybe you don’t achieve your goals. Maybe you don’t finish the challenge. But as long as you learn something from it, you haven’t failed. If you end up being one of those people that don’t achieve what you set out to achieve, use it as a learning experience and come back even stronger next year. Riwai did it. I did it. I’m sure countless other people have done it too. If you do what I initially did and use the experience as further evidence that you’ll never be able to lose weight, or get fit or whatever your goal is – that is failure. And if you’re one of the 400+ who does achieve everything you set out to (and probably more), but doesn’t “win” – remember that you are still a winner. You’ve done something that many people never do, which is to set goals and work your ass off to achieve them. Finally, if you are one of the “winners” on the night, savour the feeling. Never ever forget everything you’ve achieved and use it as motivation to keep going. After the 20 weeks it will be tempting to ‘take a break’. That’s ok, you’ve earned it. But don’t let that break turn into a backslide. Remember that feeling you had reading your report and seeing everything you’ve achieved, remember what it felt like to stand up on stage (if you did) and use that as fuel to go on to bigger and better things. The 20 week challenge is a beginning … what it leads to is up to you.

Emily is trained by Kate Lugtigheid.  You can read more of her blogs here http://emilysrunningadventures.wordpress.com/page/3/

Comments are closed.