Rotorua Chef Liesel Hedderwick is taking on her biggest challenge at the Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay Marathon on May 13, and after being the subject of taunts about her size and then left broken hearted and angry on the back of a relationship break up, this time she is doing it for herself.
The 40-year-old mum of twin teenage boys, Liesel is fed up with being on the wrong end of some bad situations in both her work and personal life, and has turned to running to turn her life around and recapture some 'me time'.
"I had come out of a long-term relationship where both of us were into outdoor sport and pursuits and we had made plans together to do all of these events and runs but then I found out that he was making those same plans with someone else instead. That was where some anger came in and a friend from Hawke's Bay called me and said 'come and do this event with me', and once my rant had 'timed out', I made the call back and here I am preparing to run a half marathon in May."
Hedderwick's story inspires on many levels, as this brave woman has overcome her fair share of work place bullying and name calling to get to the start line in Hawke's Bay.
"When I was at school I was sporty and athletic and fairly slim. I stayed that way until I moved to Rotorua and moved from farm life into town and suddenly I had access to shops and takeaways and before I knew it I had gone from 60kg to 112kg. The breaking point for me was when some workmates were going for a walk into the Redwoods and one said to me 'you can't do this, you are too fat and won't be any good to us up there'.
"I couldn't believe it, I went to a personal trainer and two months later I had lost that much weight and got myself that fit that the same person was asking me for advice! Unfortunately I injured an ankle and had trouble with putting on weight again but this is another turning point for me. As part of my preparation I have just done the run in a team at the Taupo IronMaori. My ankle was hurting but I finished and we got our medals!"
Hedderwick says she decided to take control of her life and make some changes, partly to prove some of her detractors wrong, but she stressed this is now a personal journey and one that she is winning.
"Since I started putting on weight when I first moved to Rotorua all I have heard is 'you are too big, you can't do it'. Every work team I tried out for it seemed I was missing out because of my size.
"So I am doing this for me, the feeling of euphoria when I finished the IronMaori was amazing, despite struggling with shin splints and feeling like I was duck waddling a lot of it, I finished and my team were amazed, they thought what I had achieved was awesome."
She is not doing this alone though, calling on the support of good friend Terina Norris as they offer each other encouragement at every step.
"I am doing this with my friend Terina, she walked the run at IronMaori and we are doing this one together and training together. We have a 21km route up through the Redwoods to train on and have a route that we are taking on around town on the flat that is different to the forest so we are getting used to that as well."
Hedderwick says the benefits from her increased fitness are one thing, but the spin offs from the exercise flow into her mental wellbeing as well.
"I want to do more of this, I have discovered a liking for triathlon and running. My mum was into middle distance running many years ago, I was always good at sprints. But I enjoy the time out there, I don't even take my music with me, I enjoy looking at everything and just talking to myself, it is quite relaxing.
"I know I will never win anything or come anywhere, but for me if it can get to the finish line and go that one minute faster than last time, I will be happy."
Like many who are attracted to the event, Hedderwick is planning on enjoying the wonderful Hawke's Bay region once the hard work of the run is over.
"We have booked a motel for the two nights and we are looking forward to enjoying the weekend and I have no doubt we will find something great to do after the run. It is somewhere different and where Terina grew up, so she will know all the places to go to."
The final word from this inspirational woman is one that others might take heed of when wondering what it is they want to get out of life.
"If you are wanting to do something, just say yes and do it, otherwise you will go through life missing out."