Inspirational Runners 005. Rachel Grunwell.

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Rachel in the zone at Takapuna Beach. Photo by Paul Petch.

Rachel in the zone at Takapuna Beach. Photo by Paul Petch.

Rachel is the director of a personal innovative inspire Kiwis to move more, eat better and to live a life they love. Rachel is also a mum, marathoner, yoga teacher and an award-winning writer, top shelf lifestyle interviewer, and columnist for two Kiwi magazines.

It goes without saying that Rachel is one heck of an inspiration and we are stoked to have spent some time with this ‘running Yogi’ to talk about why giving back and running is so important to her and life direction.

Where do you call home and how long have you been a runner?

Mt Eden, Auckland and I’ve been a runner for three years.

What is your current occupation?

I’m a mum, a wellbeing columnist for two magazines (Good & Juno), a newspaper wellbeing columnist & director of www.inspiredhealth.co.nz  I’m a bit unique because I’m a qualified yoga teacher who runs marathons… I don’t know of another marathoning yoga teacher in NZ!

What’s your main motivation for running? What are you seeking? Fitness, adrenaline, freedom, mindfulness?

Running helps me keep fit, healthy and happy. It’s my moving meditation. I’ve interviewed the top minds in the fitness & health industry through my work as a wellness journalist and so I’ve put what I’ve learnt into action and become something I never believed I was capable of being: a marathoner.

Three years ago I couldn’t run over 20-mins. I’d puff pushing my then toddler in his pram. But I’ve since run 10 marathons and I’m about to smash my 11th in Queenstown this weekend coming.

…these disabled athletes inspire me. I also no longer see their disabilities; I only see their remarkable abilities.

Could you give us a small insight into your usual running or training routine? Are you a structured programme type of person, or do you run more by feel, as and when the desire takes you?

I run about three times weekly and do strength and yoga too. I’m a qualified yoga teacher (this keeps me running i.e. avoiding injuries/having a good range of mobility/flexibility and strength/plus it’s fun ie I love being upside down! I aim to be as strong upright upright as I am upside down… and as strong on the inside as I am on out outside.

Rachel and the amazing Mount Taranki. Image supplied.

Rachel and the amazing Mount Taranki. Image supplied.

You have been involved and are currently associated with many great causes, being a positive advocate for a better world. Can you share some of these projects/ associations, and how they relate to running ?

I’m an ambassador for the Achilles NZ charity which helps disabled athletes. What’s better than a marathon? Helping someone else achieve their goals! I’ve helped train and guide a couple of blind runners through half-marathons/marathons. Two of my marathons have been about helping a disabled athlete through the event. These people are inspirational. Some have one leg, no eyesight, MS, a wide range of disabilities. It’s tough conquering a marathon when you are able-bodied. So these people are true inspirational runners.

Imagine doing a marathon without sight? It’s an immense responsibility guiding them. Any wrong guiding/voice command could mean they injure.. But it gives me the greatest joy. Like I said, these disabled athletes inspire me. I also no longer see their disabilities; I only see their remarkable abilities. They’ve also become treasured friends. I love this charity and it’s an honour to be an ambassador.

Upside down Taranaki photo from Inspired Health’s active Instagram stream.

Running to help others is a real focus for you it seems, and recently you ran your tenth marathon. Can you tell us about why you give back so much and share some of the causes you have raised funds for?

I love helping others and deserving causes where I can. It’s important in society to give back something, give others a helping hand and to be kind – it’s the yogi way of life by the way. My kids have helped at some charity events too alongside me and it’s good for them to be kind and caring too. Being kind spreads kindness. One incredible example was my kids school, Mt Eden Normal Primary School. They helped me with a fundraiser to get some disabled athletes to the New York Marathon last year… and the kids artwork and kindness towards this was incredibly heart-warming. That’s community spirit.

She’s going through the toughest time right now and it’s a way we can support her right now.

Your last marathon of the year is going to be the one in Queenstown and for a great cause. Can you please tell us your motivation to run this and the cause behind it and how we can help?

For the Queenstown Marathon I’m fundraising for my dear friend Amie and her two young boys. They lost their husband/dad Wayne Biggs to lymphoma in August. She’s going through the toughest time right now and it’s a way we can support her. I’m running alongside renown artist Simon Richardson (Amie’s brother) and Romain Mirosa (who won the Dunedin Marathon) recently. We are joining forces to support a deserving family. Wayne made big headlines this year fundraising on his orange vespa for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer NZ http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/66030453/Last-ride-for-a-good-cause

Wayne’s charity mission raised thousands for this cause. He was loved by his community and helped them. Now we want to help his family a little. Please share this givealittle link and I would so appreciate any bit of support to help this family… https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/runningqueenstown4biggotrust

Amie has been the kindest, most loyal friend. To know her and her family is to love them. I’m blessed to have them in my life. This is a small way of helping her right now.

Runners fundraising for Amie. That's Romain in the middle, the winner of the Dunedin Marathon recently and on the end is Simon Richardson, the artist.

Runners fundraising for Amie. That’s Romain in the middle, the winner of the Dunedin Marathon recently and on the end is Simon Richardson, the artist.

Where are your favourite places to run and why?

Mt. Eden – the view up there takes my breathe away every time, guaranteed (physically and emotionally lol). But seriously, I feel on top of the world up there. It’s home too and when I’m running “I’m home”. I feel so grateful to run. Every event I run is special is some way. My dad and I ran one marathon, the Rotorua Marathon, and at the end I finished and went back for him and we held hands as he crossed the finish-line. There’s a picture at mum and dad’s place of us grinning with our medals together. I adore that picture. It’s a treasured moment.. Gosh, so many events with loved ones and true friends…

My last name is Grunwell – so that’s “G” in front of “Run well” by the way … I’m not sure yet really if I live up to the name! I’m no athlete; I just love running.

Do you experience the often talked about Runner’s High? If so, can you describe it? What circumstances are you most likely to achieve this?

Yes, always. During training, during a race, helping another runner, being amongst runners. It makes me incredibly happy. That’s not to say running is easy. But there’s always a joy with it. I’m lucky.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO/celebrity or writer – and I know many of the above. We’re all equal out there, all friends, all part of this awesome community.

What is inspiring about your story is that you have turned something that you love into a lifestyle and it seems, a way to follow your dreams. Can you tell us more about this?

I’ve been a professional writer my whole life and written for a string of the biggest newspapers and magazine titles. I once upon a time was an award-winning investigative journalist…. In recent years I’ve been a wellness columnist and I love it. Writing and telling people’s stories is a passion, not just a job. I know most big names/celebs/experts/peeps involved in this industry through my work and I have the biggest respect for them. I kicked off inspiredhealth.co.nz last year to inspire people to with fitness and health ideas. I wanted a hub for Kiwis to connect. Inspired Health has fitness and events directories (so Kiwis can find health inspiration), recipes, food ideas and everything in the lifestyle arena.

It’s a fitness and health hub really and if I can inspire anyone to be a bit more healthier/fitter/happier then this is my motivation. I know the joy of being fit, healthy and happy and I want to inspire others to follow their own health and fitness journey that can benefit them. I aim to inspire good health. It’s the greatest gift, isn’t it?

Rachel and blind runner Hannah Pascoe, with TVNZ presenter Greg Boyed at the Rotorua Marathon this year. We were among an awesome team of Achilles NZ athletes out there on the course that day.

Rachel and blind runner Hannah Pascoe, with TVNZ presenter Greg Boyed at the Rotorua Marathon this year. We were among an awesome team of Achilles NZ athletes out there on the course that day.

What facet of running do you enjoy most? Be that races of any distance, training, engagement with community, solo runs. What stands out as the best experiences for you and why?

Marathons. It’s a distance you just can’t bluff your way through on a whim. It’s a tough distance and I have the ultimate respect for fellow running buddies for taking on this distance on too. I train hard to be fit enough to run this distance and feel joy, always, at the finish line. I curse this distance while around the 34km mark though obviously! I guess it takes a certain kind of discipline, bloodymindedness, a form of surrender too to take on this distance. I also love runners as they tend to be a positive, uplifting and a kind bunch. Many of my friends who are runners are very successful people. I think marathon goal-crushing requires skills you can take through into other parts of your life.

How is running important to you and your life and it’s direction?

Running is my moving meditation. It’s me time. It’s my health time. I hope to inspire my kids to be fit, healthy and happy too… and to chase their own goals and dreams.

Yoga happy. Photo by Paul Petch.

Yoga happy. Photo by Paul Petch.

Music or no music when running? If so what do you enjoy listening to?

I run with friends and through the club GetRunning (where I teach a ‘yoga for runners’ class for the general public too by the way and so runners should come along!) So mostly I’m chatting while running. But I love music during events if I run solo. Or I think of music I love to play (I play the alto saxophone).

What advice can you give to people who want to follow their dreams and to do what they love?

Live you life well and shine bright, beautiful and bold. Aim to inspire and be inspired.

Do you have a certain philosophy regarding running and the concept of community engagement and advocacy? Can running benefit the wider community in more ways than increased fitness? What if everyone ran? Running breaks down barriers.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO/celebrity or writer – and I know many of the above. We’re all equal out there, all friends, all part of this awesome community. Runners are the best kind of people I reckon! Oh, and also yogis!!!! I teach a few yoga classes weekly and love this community too. I teach yoga to some elite runners also by the way. More runners should tap into this – it helps with range of mobility (ie speed), it’s a tool to avoid injuries, it’s restorative for the body and mind! Actually, yoga can have wonderful benefits for everyone.

Where to from here? where do you see yourself in 5 years from now ?

I’m next guiding a disabled athlete through the Cigna Wellington Round the Bays on Feb 21. I hope to guide for many years to come and give back this way. I’d love to run another international marathon. In five years I hope to still be living a life I love, learning, evolving, inspiring and being inspired.

Your top three tips to achieving happiness or balance in life?

Be kind, eat well, move your body through a fitness activity you love.

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We love running! With incredible articles, people, events, photography, creativity & running centric news at your fingertips, think of Good People Run™ as your personal & positive concierge for modern running life and culture. Founded by Paul Petch.
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We love running! With incredible articles, people, events, photography, creativity & running centric news at your fingertips, think of Good People Run™ as your personal & positive concierge for modern running life and culture. Founded by Paul Petch.