Personal triumph, one step at a time
Six years ago Jan Taylor could barely walk for five minutes without being out of breath.
Now, the mother of two has lost 63kg, completed 13 marathons - five in different continents - and is preparing to take on what will be her third Kepler Challenge.
Hers is an inspirational story; stemming from a realisation that she simply had to do something about her weight, and resulting in an absolute lifestyle overhaul.
"We took our family to the Hooker Valley, at Mount Cook, for a walk and, about five minutes in I couldn't keep up. I had to sit on the side and wait for my family to come back and I just thought I have to do something if I am going to be part of their lives - that was the crunch point," she said.
Following that, Taylor joined Weight Watchers and began what would become a life changing journey.
"Exercise was my biggest challenge and I had all of the excuses. I lived in the country, I couldn't exercise ... my Weight Watchers leader said 'have you not got a road outside?' and that was it. I started just walking to the gate, then to the next post, and then, all of a sudden I was getting up to 5km."
For Taylor, it was about taking things one step at a time and, in many respects, that hasn't changed - it's just she's taking a lot of steps as she conquers some of the world's most intriguing distance runs.
She has completed marathons in South Africa, China and Paris, completed the Southland Marathon in its 100th year, and has just recently returned from completing a marathon over the Inca Trail in Peru.
Now she is eyeing her third Kepler Challenge - a 61km mountain run over the Kepler Track in Te Anau early next month - and she can't wait.
"It's the challenge of it [that keeps me going back and doing it] ... I seem to love that challenge and putting myself under pressure," she said.
"For me, it's about enjoying it and finishing it more than it is about the time I take. Finishing is my goal."
She admits she has undertaken a major lifestyle change and training and running is simply part of her life now. She still can't shake the nerves before a race, but, come December 7 and her third Kepler Challenge, she knows she has the confidence and the ability to cross that finish line.
"Getting out the door and training isn't so hard any more. To start with it was a gradual process, each step was a gradual thing, but it's become part of my lifestyle now. I do get nervous before a race, but once it's started I'm fine," she said.
"I've been focusing on the hills, which is one of my weak areas, so I'm trying to build up my strength. Once you've been over the top of the Kepler, there's still a lot to go and there are quite a few ups and downs, so that strength is really important.
"A lot of it is in the mind - it's one step at a time but really, it doesn't matter what event you are doing as long as you prepare for that event. Each race is different and special in its own right, and you meet such fantastic people each time, it's that camaraderie that's really great.
"But more than anything it's the satisfaction of finishing it, to be able to push yourself and to finish it."
The Southland Times