Running With Sisters – Rula Hockley

Rula Hockley is 54 years young and lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She is married with children, and works full-time as a registered nurse and midwife. Rula is living proof that you can take up running at any age and with careful management  of health issues.

rula hockley running with sisters
Rula running in Arnhem Land, following the Litchfield Park inaugural (unofficial) marathon.

1. At what age did you start running?

I was 50.

2. Why did you start running?

I lived with worsening bladder incontinence following birth of my last child over 20 years ago. I had corrective surgery, then boom! Off I headed. I was also three quarters of the way through completing a Personal Trainer course at TAFE. The familiarity I felt with running was paramount to working later as a PT.

3. How did you approach running when you first started?

I was a hiker and bush walker and gym enthusiast for many many years. Aware of inherent risks for my age, I went straight to SARRC Start Running.

4. What was hard about running when you first started?

Bloody naysayers and negative people in my life! My husband got shitty when I bounced out of bed for Sunday morning runs. My two sisters said: You’re not a runner… you don’t look like one (i.e. short and fat). My parents said: What about time with your family? And my work colleagues, who were all waiting for my heart attack! The running itself I found a welcoming challenge. The initial hardest thing was overcoming self doubt.

5. Why did you continue running in the beginning?

I felt the changes in my abilities and my cardio health. I’ve shifted from constant event registration (which restricted my sense of freedom) to running for the enjoyment of it, especially away from traffic and the scrutiny of the suburbs. Hence, I’ve continued for the pleasure I feel during the buildup, the run and afterward. I’m not self-conscious of my body shape, or scared of the dark or running alone—or challenge of a bloody long run like the Heyson 105 last year!

rula hocklet running with sisters
Rula (front) at the start of the Heysen 105 in 2015.

6. When do you usually run? Why at this time/times?

I am impulsive. I work shifts and am on call, therefore, I do a mix of road and trails, morning, afternoon or night, wind, sun or rain.

7. What’s your weekly running schedule?

I currently 40km a week. I factor in intensity and hillwork with flat runs. If an event is on the horizon e.g. Heysen 105, my weekly long runs gradually extend to a total km to 80km per week from 8 weeks before the event.

8. Do you run with a friend, in a group or solo? Why?

I prefer solo because I can easily change my plans—I don’t want to inconvenience others. Plus I have health/sleep issues that impacting my moods i.e. I don’t want someone else’s company to hear about their problems when I’m trying to sort out mine in my own head! I have one friend who has a personality, humour, patience and bloody mindedness that suits my style who I run about once a fortnight with.

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9. Are you a member of any online running groups or forums? If so, what are the benefits of being involved?

I’m with Chicks Who Run. I joined when there were about 60 of us. There is no benefit except friendship nowadays. YUMmy chicks (Ed: since 2016, YUMmy chicks has become YUM Social Runs so the blokes can join in the fun): no benefit now except for information purposes. I’m not a member of online forums or groups. I tend to read a lot e.g. Functional Running, Exercise is Medicine or seek out articles of merit, not just “fitness magazine” stuff. I particular like checking out links people post on Facebook.

10. Where do you run? What’s your preference and why?

Roads and trails. My treadmill is only used occasionally. But trails beat bitumen any day in my view. I’ve run a few road half/full marathons, but they lack adventure and comradeship. There is too much focus on speed and PBs—which I do realise is very motivational for some sisters!

rula hockley running with sisters
Rula: fit and fabulous and over fifty!

11. What obstacles or challenges have you had to overcome with your running?

Health issues only and these are ongoing. I had surgery last September for sleep apnoea. I had half of my throat and palate chopped out and I couldn’t do YUM. Prior to that, I had to use a CPAP machine to get oxygen at night. No sleep apnoea now, though and I have much more energy. Also, menopause has been a godsend! No sways in mood or energy. I can’t tell if I’m having a hot flush when I’m running—I just think of it as heat from the run! I don’t follow training plans closely. I just get more kilometres in prior to an event… I’m fast enough to make cut off times. Food? I love food, but my eating habits during runs have been honed down to gels nowadays.

12. What are your running goals over the next year or so?

Long distance/endurance… and lots of fun.  I might try more cluster runs away with a few compatible friends.

13. Is there anyone in particular who inspires you to keep running, or inspires you as a runner?

Absolutely! Those around my age group who laugh a lot, train hard and are bloody minded. I like people who follow through, and aren’t all talk, or they don’t post constantly on my (Facebook) newsfeed of their ‘issues’ and why they can’t run.

14. What are your favourite two running items, or running items that you can’t do without? Why?

Decent shoes. And my shorts: with two generous zip pockets and built in knickers.

15. What do you love about running?

I’m cardio fit. I can zip around quickly and quietly without tiring. I feel happier. I’ve made great friends.

16. What advice would you give to anyone new to running, or thinking about taking it up?

Age and size shouldn’t be a barrier. Get your medical or health issues sorted and have a plan worked out with your health care provider. Then, just do it! Stop thinking and act. Definitely research and undertake a learn to run course because of inherent risks with running. This is highlighted—in my view—by the enormity of injuries sustained by members of Chicks Who Run and going by their FB Posts.

Running with Sisters is a guest post series that provides running advice, inspiration and motivation to women of all running abilities, ages and weight. If you’d like to tell your story, just fill out the interview questions on this form and I’ll schedule you in.

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