Desert runner tells story

KATE SAUNDERS
Last updated 08:15 08/11/2011
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ROBERT CHARLES
When Megan Stewart turned 40 she decided to make some life changes.

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Megan Stewart didn't want to be old, fat and miserable - so she ran a desert marathon.

When the Taranaki woman turned 40 she decided to make some life changes.

She weighed 94 kilograms and in six months she lost 22 kilograms and began running.

"I wasn't happy within myself. I was a busy mum doing two jobs. The days were long and there was no real time for me," Mrs Stewart says.

She had time for herself running an ultra-marathon through the Sahara Desert last year, with no human in sight and only the hum of music from her iPod.

It's weird where your mind goes during 250 kilometres at 48 degrees Celsius, she says. Once she dived under a bush for shade.

"There's still not a day when I don't think about that [in the Sahara] just because it was so amazing and totally crazy," she says.

"You get to one checkpoint and all you can do is focus on the next one. You get to that place where your feet take on the music."

Which is a long way from the situation Mrs Stewart was in eight years ago, with an average diet and little exercise - despite being a St John Ambulance paramedic.

"I just thought stuff this.

"I was overweight and unfit . . . and I didn't want to be old, fat and miserable.

"Life is too short."

That's where the journey began.

It started with walking, led to tramping and then the gym.

A turning point came when she went on a tramp carrying a 22kg pack.

"I thought, 'Jeez, that's so heavy', and that's what I was packing without a pack beforehand."

She walked the 100km Taupo challenge to raise funds for Oxfam.

Then came the ultra-marathon.

She had seen ultra-distance runner Lisa Tamati at the gym.

"Lisa rang me up and asked if I would crew for her next event and you couldn't print what I said."

It meant learning to run. "I'd never run, I'd always said I couldn't and I had bad knees but it was because I was fat," she says.

"It was hard work but it opened my eyes that anything is possible if you put your mind to it."

She says desert runs don't come cheaply, but she'd like to do more, including the Atacama Desert in Chile next year.

"You don't want to be the richest in the cemetery," she says of the cost.

She's been a member of the Search and Rescue (Sars) team for five years and worked with the rescue helicopter as a winch medic.

A typical day includes more than an hour at the gym, a two- hour run, and two hours of the martial art ju jitzu.

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This week Mrs Stewart will share her story on The Fit Club, a health and fitness show on Maori Television.

She hopes her story will inspire others.

"If it means that I could change one person's life and spark them into action then it's worth it.

"It's bloody hard work but it's the journey along the way that makes you a better person."

- Taranaki Daily News

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