Far out

EN­DURANCE ATH­LETE LISA TA­MATI

Good Health Choices - - Contents -

Sporty since child­hood, Lisa Ta­mati has tried her hand at every­thing from gym­nas­tics to wa­ter polo, but it was run­ning that cap­tured her sense of ad­ven­ture. She’s since clocked up more than 2000km in ul­tra-marathon races through­out the world, as well as a good 65,000km worth of pound­ing the pave­ments for train­ing and run­ning events at home. Th­ese days, she’s added coach, mo­ti­va­tional speaker and jew­ellery maker to her im­pres­sive CV, and she cred­its run­ning with teach­ing her some life lessons for suc­cess.

“Run­ning can be hard and painful, but then again, we never just stick to things in life that are easy, do we? We do things that are a chal­lenge so we can find out more about who we are,” she says. “Run­ning isn’t about win­ning, it’s about de­vel­op­ing a whole lot of men­tal skills.”

Tak­ing it to ex­tremes

Few run­ners can say they’ve raced in the desert, but Lisa has al­ways en­joyed test­ing her lim­its. After hear­ing about an event that in­volved a 250km tra­verse of the Sa­hara Desert in a week, she cal­cu­lated the dis­tance re­quired per day and de­cided to go for it. After the thrill of fin­ish­ing her first race, she was quickly hooked, and went on to com­plete ul­tra-marathon events in coun­tries in­clud­ing Morocco, Egypt, Libya and Jor­dan, with each race cov­er­ing more than 100km. Every event is tough, but some have felt like a bat­tle for sur­vival.

“Some of the coun­tries I’ve run through aren’t ex­actly safe for women,” says Lisa, 48. “I re­mem­ber run­ning through Niger and in the mid­dle of this mas­sive flat desert, there were th­ese trucks com­ing past with 200 men piled on top. Here I am run­ning along alone, faced with all th­ese men look­ing at me, and I’m think­ing ‘oh god, there could be some trou­ble here.’”

Thank­fully, she fin­ished the event with­out any prob­lems, but it wasn’t the first time she feared for her safety in the desert. In an­other race, she came down with se­vere food poi­son­ing within an hour of leav­ing the start line.

“I just kept pass­ing out and get­ting back up on my feet. Then you have the is­sue of run­ning out of toi­let pa­per! But in that sit­u­a­tion, you have to be driven. You’ve put in thou­sands of miles of train­ing and a lot of ef­fort and money, so you don’t want to just give up.”

While some events have been “spec­tac­u­lar fail­ures”, let­ting go of neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences has be­come one of her mantras. “Some­times you win, some­times you lose, and you have to learn not to beat your­self up too much,” says the down-to-earth ath­lete. “You have to keep go­ing, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and find­ing new ways of do­ing things. Those lessons are valuable in every­thing we do.”

Men­tal strength

With her pref­er­ence for run­ning alone, Lisa, who is also an au­thor, has had plenty of time to think and re­flect while hit­ting the trails. And when times are tough, she’s learned to adopt a pos­i­tive mind­set to get her through.

“While mo­ti­va­tions change, you have to have a passionate idea of why you’re do­ing some­thing, so you can draw on those thoughts when you’re in dire need of a boost. Look­ing back at every­thing I’ve learned, key as­pects are things like de­vel­op­ing strate­gies to over­come ob­sta­cles, and adopt­ing an attitude of never giv­ing up. Those are all things that I trans­late now into my [jew­ellery] busi­ness, and my per­sonal life and re­la­tion­ships.”

It’s a steely de­ter­mi­na­tion that’s not only car­ried her through en­durance races, but helped her over­come per­sonal chal­lenges, too. After her mum suf­fered a dev­as­tat­ing brain in­jury early last year, Lisa be­came her full-time carer, health ad­vo­cate and emo­tional sup­porter.

She’s can­did about the toll it’s taken on her own well­be­ing, but as she jug­gles de­mands at home around run­ning a busi­ness and keep­ing her other ven­tures afloat, she’s long let go of the pres­sure to strive for per­fec­tion.

“I’m of­ten on the com­puter un­til 11pm, which I know wreaks havoc with my body,” she says. “It’s not ideal at all but at the moment it’s some­thing that just has to be done. I do no­tice I don’t func­tion as well with less sleep, but most of us have that com­bi­na­tion of work pres­sures and fam­ily stuff that we have to work around. It’s about try­ing to bal­ance the ‘bad’ with the good stuff.”

Noth­ing comes ‘nat­u­rally’

Out on the run­ning track, she might make it look easy, but sports-mad Lisa in­sists that she’s not nat­u­rally gifted when it comes to tack­ling marathons. Fol­low­ing a test to mea­sure her ath­letic skills, she was told she’s tech­ni­cally be­low av­er­age for en­durance abil­ity.

“I have no run­ning talent what­so­ever!” She laughs. “I’ve had asthma my whole life, and my lung ca­pac­ity is re­ally small.

“I could never go very fast, but I found I could go long dis­tance. I al­ways found that my asthma was bet­ter in hot and dry cli­mates, so I ended up sort of spe­cial­is­ing in run­ning in the desert!”

She knows all about the hard slog of build­ing up run­ning abil­ity, and passes her im­mense knowl­edge on to the range of be­gin­ner and ex­pe­ri­enced ath­letes she coaches.

“I teach peo­ple to avoid all the things I used to do wrong in my early days,” she says. “One thing I al­ways tell peo­ple is that do­ing mas­sive amounts of mileage isn’t nec­es­sary. Train­ing too much is a com­mon mis­take a lot of ath­letes make, and it leads to adrenal fa­tigue and in­juries. I can read my body now so that I know the dif­fer­ence be­tween when I’m just be­ing lazy or when I need a break, but it’s taken a long time to get there.”

With a lot of her own run­ning goals now ticked off, Lisa is look­ing for­ward to try­ing her hand at other types of fit­ness, and work­ing on build­ing flex­i­bil­ity and strength. “As I get older, it’s more im­por­tant for me to re­tain mus­cle, co­or­di­na­tion and bal­ance,” she says. “I want to see how fit I can be as I age

– I want to be ripped and ath­letic at 70!”

‘Some­times you win, some­times you lose, and you have to learn not to beat your­self up too much’

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