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The special role of idols & the importance of an open mind - Jessica Trengove (Olympic Speaker) - 16 February 2018

The special role of idols & the importance of an open mind - Jessica Trengove (Olympic Speaker)

Jessica Trengove is a champion marathon runner who represented Australia at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. Following a period of injury in 2014, she competed in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where through her strength and determination, she passed the third-placed runner in the final of the 5km of the marathon to win a bronze medal. She speaks passionately on the positive impact physical activity holds on mental and physical health.

Here the Olympic Speaker reflects on her first steps to the Olympic Marathon start line.

It was like dragging concrete uphill

The burn was relentless and my thoughts were clouded by a new level of complete fatigue. Sharp twinges in the back of my thigh tried to lure me into believing I would not reach my destination. I had travelled 40 kilometres by foot and was in no way going to flirt with the idea of pulling up short of 42.195km – the official Marathon distance. Having never run so far before, the risk of entrusting my spirit over my body was ever-present but it was a risk worth taking, one step at a time.

Step 1 - Planting the seed

Wind the clock back twelve years to a school girl sitting with her parents and her two younger siblings in Sydney’s Homebush Athletics Stadium. The women’s 5000m race had just finished and the electric buzz that epitomised the 2000 Olympics was sowing seeds in young minds throughout the world. Perhaps what made one teenage girl’s newfound dream grow feet was not so much the event itself but the idol that entered her life…

“12.5 laps of the track - that’s crazy! Who would want to run that far and hurt for that long?” My words to Mum and Dad on that warm September day still make me chuckle. Chuckle quickly turns to goosebumps when I recall the excitement that came with sighting Australian athlete, Benita Willis, navigating her way up through the rows of seats nearby. The 21-year-old and current National Marathon record holder had just finished her 5000m heat and were suddenly within arm’s reach. Instinctively my sister and I held our tickets out, wide-eyed and completely star struck. The genuine smile and radiant energy which accompanied my first autograph from an athlete in the green and gold fertilised a dream to which I only truly opened my mind to many years later. I have followed Benita’s career from that day onwards.

Step 2 – Provide the seed with the conditions to grow

2008 was a challenging year. I was three years into my Physiotherapy degree and enjoying the ‘Uni student’ life but felt that there was a piece missing in the puzzle. I grew up in the sporting town of Naracoorte prior to becoming a boarder in Adelaide and I had always lived and breathed sport. My brother was on track to achieving his goal of becoming an AFL footballer, my sister was excelling in the South Australian Sports Institute’s rowing program and I felt like I had more to give.

I decided to take a leap of faith and hang up my much-loved netball bodysuit to pursue running more seriously. One evening Coach Adam Didyk asked the inevitable question, “So tell me, what is your ultimate running goal?” I dismissed the outrageous idea of becoming an Olympian – thinking he would laugh – and wrote on paper he had handed me: “Represent South Australia”. Adam challenged my hasty response, encouraging me to dream big - “This is your page to write down whatever you want Jess”. So, I did.

Step 3 – Dream about what may become & open your mind to its reality

The Japanese crowds created noise and energy reminiscent of the Olympic Games twelve years earlier. Their paper fans danced frantically in the crisp air beside me as I entered the enchanting Nagoya stadium. Self-assurance that the many months of building and fine-tuning had created an engine that would withstand the demands of a Marathon managed to stave off warnings from my body that suggested otherwise.

The Australian Olympic Marathon Qualifying A-Standard was two hours and thirty-two minutes. Achieving it in my first Marathon was a lofty goal but one that my young coach and I were willing to embrace. An emotional wave of disbelief swept throughout my system as the clock came into view, serving as a boost of energy that would carry it to the line in one piece.

Officially I had come in at 2.31.02. Whilst my calves wouldn’t allow me to physically show my elation, the flow of satisfaction going on in my mind that day is still up there with one of my career-favourite moments.

Step 4 – Set no limitations

As I tap away on my laptop, one hour from my next training session and two months out from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games to chase my current goal, I reminisce about how grateful I am for that exchange in the stands of Homebush stadium eighteen years ago.

Toeing the line with Benita Willis and Lisa Jane Weightman in London on August 5th, 2012 with the coat of arms and Olympic rings on my chest was something that the younger version of myself thought only happened in dreams.

Learn all about Jessica here.



“Plant a seed in healthy soil, provide it with the conditions and nutrients necessary to thrive, dream about what it may look like one day and set no limitations on what may bloom.”

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