Serious Sisu: Jane Shadbolt

There are athletes, and then there are ultra-athletes, and Jane Shadbolt definitely falls into this second category. Originally from Tasmania, and now living near Melbourne, Jane has travelled round the world hiking, running, cycling, ice climbing...

We caught up with her as she prepares to take on a 213km 7 day, high altitude endurance race in the Himalaya in Nepal... She left us squirming in our seats wanting to get outside on the trails and push our own boundaries, and we're honoured that she's decided to fundraise for SisuGirls and Trail Running Nepal. 

Jane Shadbolt 

Jane Shadbolt 

Jane, can you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

I grew up in Tasmania and have always loved being in the mountains. I did my first overnight bushwalk when I was 4 and as soon as I got my driving licence I was off doing multi-day walks with any friend I could drag along or on my own on weekends and school holidays.

I'm so glad my parents were happy for me to go out into the mountains on my own. I think they figured I was safer there than out at a pub somewhere in the city. I have traveled around South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Australia trekking, running, cycling, ice climbing, mountaineering etc. I always pick my travel destinations based on the adventure options. I currently live 50km outside of Melbourne in a house that my partner and I built. We lived in our shed for 2.5 years while we were building and we have 8 alpacas and a dog. I run my own paediatric therapy practice (occupational therapy and speech pathology) and also do personal training in kickboxing/muay thai.

What is a typical "week in the life" of Jane Shadbolt?

I work Monday - Thursday. I tell myself that I don't work Fridays but I usually end up doing admin stuff from home for at least a few hours. My work hours vary and I often don't finish until 6.30pm so I'm so happy daylight savings has finally arrived. For training I usually do 1 or 2 specific weights sessions a week - just 40mins. I run 2 kickboxing fitness classes a week that I also join in on. For running I try to do one hill repeat session, one speed session, one medium length (90min) tempo run and 2 longer runs. 

I never run on the road. I never run on concrete. Not because I'm worried about injuries, just because I hate it! I love being in the bush and mountains and I would rather do speed sessions on a dirt track and risk rolling an ankle than go to the oval and bore myself silly! We live in a place with endless fire trails and single tracks and I love seeing the scenery, the wild flowers, birds, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, possums and the odd snake, deer, fox and camel out there on my runs.

Nepal 

Nepal 

Tell us about the Manaslu Trail and what made you decide to undertake this challenge.

The Manaslu Trail is a 212km 7-day mountain running race passing through some of Nepal’s most beautiful Himalayan landscapes in a part-circumnavigation of Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest mountain. A friend mentioned it on Facebook just after I finished my last 100km race and I was looking for something a bit different. I love Nepal and this will be my 4th time there. It looked like an amazing challenge that I'm actually not sure I can do. It's pretty hard for me to go past an event that gets me out to some amazing mountains in an area I haven't been to, doing something I'm not sure I can do and my partner can join me. He's into running but not mountaineering or climbing so it will be fun to do something like this together.

You're raising funds for Trail Running Nepal and SisuGirls (thank you so much!). What made you want to support these organisations?

I would like every girl to have the opportunities that I have had to be involved in outdoor adventure and sport. It's such a great way to learn about your strengths and weaknesses and what you're capable of. 

If we can teach girls early on that being brave and kind and resilient and strong and healthy are more important characteristics than being pretty and skinny and wearing the right clothes and having the right brands that would be such a powerful tool for them as they make decisions about what they will do with their lives. Sport is such a great equaliser - it doesn't matter what your race, religion or background is.

What are some of the highlights that you've experienced on runs?

Jane Shadbolt running through the night 

Jane Shadbolt running through the night 

There are so many! I try to enjoy and be grateful for where I am when I'm running. Especially when I'm having a tough patch I try to remind myself that this is what I do for fun and I'm lucky to be there. I love seeing the scenery and the animals. Often it's the little things - like being out in the middle of nowhere and having someone say 'do you see that animal or am I so tired I'm hallucinating?' Only to see a couple of camels grazing with the cattle a few meters away. Or on the first North Face 100 I ran, one of my mates being at the 89km checkpoint with me and insisting that we could sprint the last 11km in the dark and make it in less than an hour. I didn't know I could laugh so hard after running 89km until that moment.

I remember on a 48hr adventure race we were into the second night and losing the ability to keep ourselves awake and I fell asleep on my bike and fell off. Because I was asleep when I fell I didn't even try to get a foot out or a hand down and landed straight on my head. I remember sitting there just saying 'huh! I fell on my head!' and laughing. A few hours later we were on foot and came into a checkpoint after a big hill climb. The volunteer at the checkpoint asked me how we had coped with the hill and I looked at him like he was crazy and said 'what hill?' I had no memory of the hill! The volunteer was obviously familiar with crazy adventure racers and just laughed and said 'Well I guess that's a good thing!' I also remember on that second night hallucinating and seeing a zebra and being convinced that I could catch it and ride it to the end!

Ultra trail running has a very relaxed, supportive, non-competitive feel to it here in Australia. I'm a pretty average runner so I don't know what it's like right out the front, but I love that in the middle of the pack where I tend to be everyone is supportive and encouraging of each other. I don't think I saw anyone in the last 6 hours of the north face 100 in the blue mountains this year who didn't have an encouraging word to say and I like those moments of sharing a few words, a joke or the suffering with other people. 

It's quite an unusual - and to many people, incomprehensible! - sport, so what is it that draws you to long distance running? 

The mountains, being out in the bush, challenging myself and experiencing all the highs and lows that go along with that. I think it's a bit addictive in that you complete one goal and you immediately want to either do something harder, or a better time. I don't always enjoy the training sessions but I usually love the events.  I think it also helps that once you finish, you forget how hard and painful it was.

Are there any life lessons you've picked up from your runs?

Ultras, being in the mountains and the people I've met through it that have taught me that you don't know what you're capable of until you give it a go.  

If it scares you, then it will be even more satisfying if you succeed.

That things don't just happen and come naturally to all of us all the time - if you want something you have to work really hard to make it happen. But if you want it enough and are willing to work hard enough you can probably get there. 

I've learned that everyone has a story and you can't judge a book by its cover. 

Finally, ultras have taught me that when things seem really bad, the best thing to do is smile and take a look around and appreciate where you are. I have trouble applying that to every day life but somehow I seem to be able to when I'm out in the mountains.

What piece of advice would you give to your 13 year old self?

I would tell myself - think hard about where you want to be and what you want to be doing in 20, 30 and 50 years time. What will make you happy and what do you love doing? Make decisions about study, career and lifestyle based on that and don't worry about what anyone else thinks.

Who do you think has serious sisu?

Tegla Loroupe. She grew up in poverty in Kenya with 24 siblings. Only her mother supported her to run. Her father demanded she stop - that it wasn't lady-like and she should be at home looking after her siblings and working in the fields. 

She went on to break world records in the marathon, half marathon, 20km, 25km and 30km. She now has a foundation that promotes peace and education and works to reduce tribal conflicts. She started the Peace Race that brought together 2000 runners from 6 different warring tribes. Her foundation now run annual Peace Races in different areas of East Africa. She has recently opened a school for poor and orphaned children affected by conflict, HIV and girls at risk due to tribal practices. That's serious Sisu!

You can support Jane on her Nepalese adventure through her Indiegogo fundraising page - you might even get a SisuGirls T-shirt in the process (and who wouldn't want that?!)

Chloe Chick