It’s been a while between stories but life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes.
So I was super excited this morning when I got inspired to fire up the blog again, thanks to my good friend Balmer.
We met nearly 5 years ago at a Sole Mates group run and Naomi Balmer is one of those incredible humans that you just find yourself fist-bumping the air that you have in your life. She’s funny, kind, courageous, and just an all-round legend and even though I already knew she was a tough cookie, the last 12 months have brought out something extra in Balmer, resilience, and strength that’s utterly inspiring.
Now I’m praying she’s not going to mind me telling this story but it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission, right?
This time last year Balmer had done everything right in preparation for her first Ultra Marathon.
She’d trained hard and to the letter of her well-written plan (thanks Teddy), without sickness or time off. She had a brilliant support crew assembled and well briefed and with the weather gods shining down on the day you couldn’t really have asked for more. So in what was ideal conditions she set off on the ultimate adventure – well for us crazy runners anyhow!
I ran with Balmer a little on the day, in between crewing duties for Mainy. And while it’s hard to tell with someone so driven and ambitious, I don’t think it was until after we left her for the last time and she neared the halfway mark that things started to feel a bit sore. Balmer finished the 64km Ultra Marathon in the incredible time of 6hrs and 20mins – pushing through some serious discomfort in one of her legs that toward the end she was reporting pain of about 9/10. She left nothing out there on the course, no regret or wish that she’d done something differently because she did everything to the book. But it’s the time following this that Balmer’s strength has shone through.
So what happened next was…
No running and a bit of physio, then a little bit of walking and lots of physio, then a tiny bit of running but mostly walking, then a long wait to see any doctors (thanks COVID) and lots of walking, then (without sharing too much of Balmer’s personal life) a hip surgery and the purchase of a bicycle.
During this time, while her weekly mileage was flatlining, something was growing and I watched in awe as Balmer refused to be defeated. What’s really special about this is Balmer never once made out that it was ok, or that she was fine. Sure she is an incredible human (see opening paragraph 😊) who loves life and is grateful every day for her wonderful partner, legend of a son, and health and happiness, but she was the first to say how sucky this shit was and that she had to dig deep to find the silver lining. And of course, she did (overachiever….. 😊)
Appreciating the extra time she had with family and friends, making use of this and making time for herself in other ways was inspiring. I can’t say I’d have been the same. No, really…
Her commitment to the recovery process was incredible and to me, a sign of her true passion for the sport. She wanted to do everything she could to rule out extra “off” time. The chats we had during her journey taught me a lot. I learned so much, not just about Balmer but about the valuable lessons of patience, gratitude and not taking things for granted.
So here we are, a year on and Balmer finished the couch to 5km program rounding out with Parkrun this morning. We ran in a bunch and it was like having the band back together again. I have zero doubt about the ability of this incredible woman. And I’m blessed to call her my friend.