I'm Jen, a speech and language therapist living in Hampshire. I started running when I met my husband in 2008 after never being sporty or into fitness! I went on to complete a couple of half marathons and the London Marathon twice.
Following the birth of my little girl in 2019, I struggled with postnatal depression. I didn't realise that it was postnatal depression, as I'd always thought that this was when you didn't have a bond with your baby. For me, mine was the opposite. I loved my little girl so much but had an overwhelming feeling that I wasn't good enough to be her mum and that she deserved better. It led to me struggling to leave the house, feeling completely isolated and in a really dark place. After having this identified by my GP, I found that there was sadly very little support available, and with running having helped me a lot in the past, my husband supported me to get back out running. I found this to have a hugely positive impact, physically and mentally. From here, I decided to set myself a challenge to help give me a focus and to try and inspire my little girl, who was identified as having low muscle tone and hypermobility. My challenge was the Ironman Weymouth 70.3, which I completed in 2022. It was a fantastic event and incredible having my little girl cheer me on! From here, I decided not to stop and completed the Hamburg full Ironman in June 2023.
IRONMAN asked me to film my story and help raise awareness of postnatal depression and how sport can help. I never thought I'd be able to achieve something like this, and the feeling of crossing the finish line was one I'll never forget! From here, I was one of 30 women chosen to participate in the 2023 Ironman World Championship to help raise awareness of what women can achieve and how sport can support mental health.
Training went well, but I had quite a few dips where the self-doubt kicked in! It's a juggle around work and my 4-year-old little girl, but I could keep to my training plan by getting up early before work or doing a later workout. It's exhausting but incredible knowing that we can inspire other women who are experiencing similar mental health difficulties to what I went through.
The sea is warm, clear and thankfully reasonably calm, and before I know it, I'm on my way to the start, about 100m out from the beach. The cannon sounds, and it's time to go! I managed to keep up with many of my group, and the beauty of the sun peeping out over the top of the volcano is an image I will never forget. I can't help but smile. But then, as I get to the turning point, the leaders of the age group behind mine catch up, and the swell increases hugely. I struggle to keep my rhythm and can feel the panic rising. I managed to move out to the edge and concentrate on getting to the next turning point.Thankfully, the swell reduced as I headed back to the beach, and I gradually began to hear the crowd cheer and Hawaiian drumming. I remind myself of where I am and fly through the final 500m. As a volunteer helps me up the steps, they say, "Stage 1 complete!" – I laugh nervously, knowing there's still a long way to go. I spot my husband in the crowd, and he shouts, "1 hour 27 – you got your PB!". The energy bubbles are back!
The Queen K Road is one I will always have mixed emotions about. It is the never-ending road that pools the heat. It had a headwind for about 45 miles, and the climb to Hawi was not fun! I was often on my own as the age group athletes flew past me, and the tricks this all played on my mind were interesting! But this will 100% be the best bike ride I've done - even though I may not have thought it then!
Seeing people out on the run while I was finishing my bike leg filled me with fear. The immense heat and thought of being back out on the never-ending Queen K wasn't the best feeling. In that heat, I only got through by running to each aid station and walking through it, taking on water, and putting ice down my top! Running through the lava fields allowed me to see lava closer than ever, even being able to smell it. I will never forget the stunning views up to the volcano and over to Maui with the sparkly blue seas!
Jen is fundraising for the IRONMAN Foundation, which aims to promote diversity, inclusion, and equality in sports and provides swim lessons and bikes for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. You can donate here.