Joan Darlington.
Joan Darlington.

Joan has run around the world

THE LONELINESS of the long distance runner has never been even the smallest part of Joan Darlington’s amazing marathons.

“I love the social interaction and then over the final kilometres I go into my own world as it becomes more a matter of survival.”

At 64, this mum of three and grandma of five is a one off.

She trains religiously, either in her downstairs gym at her and husband of 47 years Greg’s Tinana home, or pounding the pavement in Maryborough and beyond.

She prepares for her marathons by biking hundreds of kilometres and doing treadmill and weight training.

She takes care of what she eats – in spite of her passion for chocolate macadamia biscuits.

And she volunteers both in the local community and every year at the Gold Coast Marathon, in which she has excelled for 25 consecutive years.

This tiny butterfly of a bright-eyed woman doesn’t look strong enough to have run the London, Dublin, Sydney Olympic and World Master Games marathons, competed in the Bristol half marathon and traversed the Great Wall of China.

But she has competed in all of them.

“I had always liked sport even though we didn’t do much at school in Thangool where I grew up and then in Maryborough. Girls didn’t get the chance to run long distance.

“Greg and his friend Rod Sheppard were running regularly around Tinana and Rod would bring his dogs for me to mind. I had to chase them every time so finally I said I’m coming too. I was 37 and struggled over the 3km, barely getting up the hill to home. But I kept persisting and a couple of years later ran my first half marathon. I had to have oxygen at the end. I wasn’t very well.

“But then I ran the Gold Coast marathon and had really caught the bug. I love running.”

Joan is one of two daughters of an Aussie stockman, Frank Hawkins, who served in World War II. Frank too had his daughter’s compassion. As an excellent horseman he loved his animals and at the end of the war he stayed on in France to save the infantry soldiers’ horses from being destroyed because they couldn’t be transported back to Australia. Frank found good homes for all of them.

After the war Frank and his school teacher wife Marian moved to Tinana. Frank ran the post office and Marian taught at Central School.

“I helped Dad by delivering mail and it must have helped me because in 1962 I won the inaugural Maryborough Cycle Club’s women’s Marykhana,” Joan said.

A couple of years later she married Greg, a soldier, and her life became that of an army wife moving regularly from place to place, including Malaya.

“That taught me to cope with the heat and because we had a servant I had lots of time to do all sorts of sport.”

Over the years she has met and worked with the likes of Shane Warne, Steve Moneghetti and Robert de Castella.

Joan says anyone who can walk can run. “Just start lamppost to lamppost and then it will become easier and you will begin to really enjoy the freedom of running.

“For me running is like a little gift. I hope I will always be able to run.”

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