health

She's 44, a mother, living with HIV, and the Australian champion in her chosen sport.

Deanna

Her name is Deanna Blegg. And she is the leading female in Australian Obstacle Racing. (Not sure what obstacle racing is? Think Tough Mudder, the Mud Run, the Spartan Race, True Grit, Raw Challenge, The Stampede…)

Blegg has won plenty of races, including first place in the 2013 World’s Toughest Mudder Race (which is a 24-hour event).

Pretty awesome achievement, huh?

Well, what’s even more amazing is that Deanna is 44 years of age, a mother of two and has been living with HIV since the age of 24.

I asked Deanna a few questions to find out more about her incredible story…

N: How did you get started in adventure racing?

D: Working as a personal trainer, I got to travel alongside many people and watch them achieve their goals. One of my clients, who had been 116kg, wanted to run a marathon. I was inspired by her dedication and commitment. She dropped her weight down to 60kg and ran the marathon. I was by her side the whole way. To see her and her families elation at the finish line was overwhelming. She had set an amazing goal and achieved it. I wanted a little piece of that, so was soon looking for a goal of my own.

I saw a flyer for the Anaconda Adventure Race and said to myself, “I am going to win this!” I didn’t win it the first year. I got the adventure bug, though. The second year I won it and felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.

Why did you cross over to Australian Obstacle Racing?

I first heard of Tough Mudder, and through that, World’s Toughest Mudder. I really wanted to do the 24-hour event. That was a goal. I finished 3rd outright and 2nd female the first year I did it, and won the female division last year. I was immediately hooked. Since then I do an obstacle race at every available opportunity.

What do you love about obstacle racing?

I love the challenge, the mud, and the fun aspect to them. Mostly what I love about the events is how fun they are. I think it is great that these type of events attract so many women and teams. The goal is not about how fast you go, but how to get through it as a team and to have fun with it.

My mum (70 years young) just recently did the Mad Cow Run in Shepparton. It was 12km long. She had never done that distance before in her life. Because the emphasis in these events is about completion, it doesn’t matter if you can run or not. It’s about getting through it while being a kid again.

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I also love how many people and teams all dress up.

How do you train for obstacle racing?

Predominantly, I am a runner. That is my love and passion. I find peace when running. Admittedly, I live out in the scrub a bit so it is very calming to run.

For obstacle training, I started with bootcamp. Now I have moved on to doing Cross Fit at Crossfit Diamond Valley. Initially I did that to get some upper body strength. It certainly has helped.

I feel anyone wanting to do an event, especially for a first time, would be great to join a team or a bootcamp.

Has living with HIV affected you in any particular way?

Yes. Of course. So many ways.

What kind of food do you eat when you race?

When I race I keep it simple. For the shorter events, I fuel with honey (watered down a bit with water or expresso if I need a caffeine hit). Bananas are also a great fuel source.

Any tips for those who would like to get involved in obstacle racing but have no idea where to begin?

Get a group of friends together and make a team. If not, find an existing team. A lot of gyms, crossfit boxes or bootcamps are often training with these events as a goal.

It doesn’t matter if you run or walk the events, so just get moving. If you’re a runner, keep running and throw some obstacles into your programme. Kids parks are perfect.  If you walk, do the same. Hang out at a park and climb over, under and through the equipment. Be a kid again.

What do you tell your kids about obstacle racing? Do they ever want to take part?

My kids see the events and can’t wait to do it too. A lot of the events also have kids races on the same day. My kids do them. This year, my daughter is doing the Spartan Sprint in Melbourne with me. She is 16 and really excited about it.

Once again, Deanna will be again tying up her trainers for the Sydney Spartan Race, taking place on the 5th April. If you’re keen on participating in a Spartan Race, check out their schedule here (they have events all over Australia – make sure you sign up, it’s an awesome incentive to start a training program).

Spartan Race courses vary in distance (everything from 7km to 42km) and are designed to test you, with obstacles such as crawling under barbed wire, jumping through flames and confronting burly gladiators. Competitors are timed and ranked as they battle their way through the course of rope climbs, mud pits and sand bags.

Deanna is also an ambassador for the ENUF. The ENUF campaign aims to seek the experiences of both stigma and resilience in all of its many and various forms from people living with HIV. Check out their website here

And in other sporting news from the week…

Our Aussie women’s cricket team, the Southern Stars, managed to defeat South Africa in their second group match of the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 in Sylhet. Superstar Ellyse Perry managed 41 runs, which earned her the player-of-the-match award.

In some rugby news, some changes have been made to the Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens Squad that will head over to China next week for the fourth leg of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series. Two girls are set for their World Series debuts – Forward Kirby Sefo and Nicole Beck – while Gemma Etheridge will play in her first IRB World Series event since last year, having recovered from an injury to her ACL.

Our Hockeyroos managed to win the third test of their five match series against Japan this week, playing in Perth, Western Australia. The final score was 5-2.

Have you seen anything in sport that you want to talk about? Are there any outstanding Australian female athletes you’d like to read about in the future?

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