With her 40th birthday approaching fast, Diane Hamblett decided she needed to get fit and lose a lot of weight. She did both.

I started running about two years ago. Nearing 40, I was seriously overweight and very unfit. I decided I was going to be fit at 40. For the first few months, progress was slow but I plodded on, doing two or three runs a week. Then my brother-in-law Dave suggested we enter a 10km race. I decided that my goal was to run the whole 10km and give Dave a run for his money. I started to see a personal trainer once every two weeks and began to see real progress: my runs went from just plodding to pushing myself to run faster or longer each time.

THE FIRST OF MANY

In May I stood at the start line of my first 10km race. After two miles I was amazed I was still running alongside Dave; 3km turned to 8 and I was still there. With just over a 1.5km to go Dave picked up speed and so I pushed myself beyond what I thought possible and was elated to cross the finish line at exactly the same time as him – 53 minutes. I’d only managed to run that distance a couple of times before and my quickest time had been about 1:15!

THE BUG BITES HARD

I was hooked. As soon as I got home I went online to look for my next race. I decided I needed a new challenge, so I signed up for a half marathon that was four months away. Then I sustained an injury and was unable to run for a month: I was like a caged animal. I think only other runners can really appreciate how frustrating this is. Despite being out of action for so long, I ran the race, and smashed my sub two-hour goal, finishing in 1:50. By now I had achieved my running and weight goals: I’d lost 32kg and dropped five dress sizes.

THINKING BIGGER

I decided it was time to do something with my ability to run. My cousin’s little girl Amy has a heart defect, hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS): she was born without the left side of her heart. I decided I was going to run a marathon to raise money for her treatment. The initial reaction I got from most people was that I had bitten off more than I could chew, which only spurred me on.

CLOSE TO DISASTER

I set myself a goal of a sub four-hour marathon and the training went well. Then, a week before the race, I developed a chest infection that required antibiotics. I tried a couple of short runs but they left me gasping for breath; I realised that my sub four-hour goal had gone. Then I remembered why I was running the marathon: Amy wouldn’t care whether I completed it in four hours or four days. So I asked my doctor if I could attempt the marathon; she told me my body would give up or it wouldn’t! On 27 May I lined up for my first marathon. I set off at my planned pace of 6 min/km and at the halfway mark was shocked to note that I was maintaining this pace. I kept going and finished my first marathon in 3:50.

ME, MYSELF AND I

Running is now my passion: it’s my ‘me’ time and it has transformed my life in so many ways. If someone had said to me two years ago that by the end of last year I would be a size 10 and running marathons, I’d have laughed in their face; it just goes to show that, with the right mindset, anything is achievable.

Diane Hamblett