Fundraising goal spurs first-time marathoner

SONIA BEAL
Last updated 16:00 08/10/2012

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For someone who loathed running three years ago, Cara Shirley is now 40 kilos lighter as a big result of it - and a fully converted fan.

The 29-year-old psychology and linguistics student enjoys it so much and the positive effect it has on encouraging people to push themselves "those last few kilometres" when it feels like they just can't take anymore, she has signed up for her first marathon in December to raise funds for Life Education Trust Marlborough.

Its work in helping to develop important life skills and attitudes in children such as good self esteem, solid friendships, as well as taking care of their health has encouraged Miss Shirley to try to raise $1000.

"Teachers are so busy teaching reading and writing and maths and science, but they seem to be teaching them life skills," Miss Shirley said.

Her resolve was heightened by nephew Xavier Lippiatt, 4, and niece Natalia Lippiatt, 6, who attend Witherlea Kindergarten and Witherlea School. Both constantly talked about school visits from trust mascot Harold the Giraffe and a fellow Marlborough Harrier Club member was also heavily involved in the organisation, she said.

Running the event would also be part of celebrating Miss Shirley's 30th birthday.

"I turn 30 the day before the marathon, so it's my birthday present to myself. I know, it sounds really weird - I guess it's just one of those runner things. But I wanted to do something significant before I turned 30, and this was a good milestone for me - to be able to say I ran a marathon when I was under 30."

Miss Shirley began running to lose weight in 2009 and, complemented with healthy eating and support from friends and family, she shed 40kg that year - and kept it off.

"I hated it at first but I knew it was a quick way of burning calories," she said.

And then came the game changer - entering the annual Saint Clair Half Marathon. The self-confessed "health nut" was hooked after running what she discovered was a fun, friendly, low-key event, and has never looked back.

In January, Miss Shirley joined the Marlborough Harriers and became more serious about her running.

Aside from the social side of running, encouragement from other runners, and the "endorphin buzz", running had the added bonus of being able to go home and eat fish and chips for dinner without feeling guilty, she said.

"You feel very free when you're out running.

"When you've got a lot on your plate, or something on your mind, going for a run helps clear your head and work out the best way to deal with things."

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Miss Shirley began an intermediate level training regime, available on the Marlborough Marathon website, in mid-August. The programme is a mix of running, cross-training - or doing something other than running such as cycling, swimming or in Miss Shirley's case, karate - and recovery days.

Asked how she fits everything in, she said: "I get up at 5am.

"It'd be good if we didn't have to sleep."

To sponsor Cara in the 42.2km Marlborough Marathon on December 1, visit givealittle.co.nz/cause/carashirley.

- The Marlborough Express

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