Hi Teenrunner Readers!
I’m Tessa Webb, a sixteen year old distance runner from New Zealand, who lives in a small rural town in the North Island. I attend FAHS Feilding High School, and run cross country, road and track and field. I have been a longtime reader of TeenRunner, and am really excited to be contributing to Ellen’s blog.
I will be writing a two part series, so I thought it would be best to spend the first article talking a little bit about my life as a runner in NZ.
With a love for the outdoors and being active, I played several sports including gymnastics, basketball, ballet, and cricket but always felt like my lack of coordination let me down! Each year I would look forward to running cross country, the one event where I felt like I was comfortable in my lanky (aka clumsy!) body. It wasn’t until I reached intermediate school that I joined the Feilding Moa Harriers, and began to realise that running could become my full time sport.
I began to have some successes locally, and after starting High School I decided I wanted to step up my training so that I could compete at a higher level. My parents and I asked my coach, the captain of the Feilding Moas, if he could put together a program for me. I saw instant results and loved the routine and purpose the sense of structure gave me, and I have been training with Rob and the Moas ever since.
My training is based on the classic pyramid structure of base mileage at an easy pace, hills to add strength, and then speed work to finish off. I run six days a week, for most of the year, although my training varies alot depending on upcoming races. I supplement my running with the occasional swim, and strength train most days using a program created for me by my trainer at Studio Rubix.
Most days of the week I run alone, around the streets or parks in town. I try to run on grass as much as possible but get tired of doing loops at the park and so end up clocking up most of my miles on the pavement. When I do long runs around Feilding I generally end up out on a country road, wishing all the paddocks don’t look so similar, or up a hill on the outskirts of town. As often as possible I prefer to hit the trails, and love running the Manawatu Gorge, a hilly bushwalk which is shelter from wind,rain and sun by native trees.
Every Thursday I train at the athletics track in Palmerston North, a half hour drive away. We usually do speed work or longer reps, as well as water pit and hurdle training for me! Like all Feilding Moa training groups, anyone who turns up is welcome to participate and athletes range in ability and age. There are currently no other junior women who regularly attend, but it is very exciting to see a whole lot of younger girls come along and enjoy training, who will hopefully continue to do so in the future.
This year a teacher and I have started up a running group at school, where anyone can turn up at lunchtimes on a Monday for strength training. I really want to develop this group and help more people get into athletics, which is not a major sport at my school. The benefits of doing regular physical activity are huge, both physically and mentally, and it would be great to give more local teens the chance to see the benefits of a healthier, happier lifestyle.
I have been a member of the Feilding Moa Harriers for four years, and training with them for two. (For those interested, Moas are an extinct species of bird native to NZ, which grew to over 3m tall!) The club is currently in its 78th season, and has reached its highest roll ever with over 160 runners. We race every Saturday during Cross Country and Road season at 1:30, for races ranging from 1km for the “Mini Moas” under sevens, to 10km for the men. (Junior women run 5km)
Typical Moa Cross Country
Unfortunately whilst our club’s membership is at an all time high, I am often the only Junior Woman racing (something I am trying to change!), but there is never a lack of competition because most of our races are run on a handicap, where the slowest runners start first and the faster runners have to try and catch them up. This means even though men, women and children are running different distances at different speeds, there is always someone to chase. Our club is famous for hilly, muddy Cross Countries, which are held on farms throughout the Manawatu.
Competitive running as a teenager in New Zealand can be very busy, as I am able to compete in both open interclub events and secondary school competitions. Throughout the year I participate in cross country during the winter, from April to July, road in the spring and track and field over summer from late November to March.
The most hectic season is definitely track, with NZSSAA Championships in December and NZ Track and Field Champs in March, with a competition basically every weekend between them. One of my highlights of track is the Classics Series, which is a week of 3 evening meets in various locations in the north island. This year I traveled with a group of around 30 other young throwers, runners and jumpers, which was a great experience and helped me get to know athletes from different disciplines and around the country. My main events on track are the 3000m and 2000m steeplechase, but I also enjoy the odd 1500m or 5000m.
Coming from a cross country background I’m not shy of mud or hills, and I have plenty of opportunities to race as this is the season when the Feilding Moas are most active. The biggest event on the calendar would have to be the New Zealand Secondary School Cross Country Championship, which has 200 plus competitors in each race. This event is used to select the team to represent New Zealand at the Australian or World Championships.
Road season would have to be the most low key, as often national championship races have less than ten runners. Feilding Moa Harriers still host weekly races during Road, but these are a lot less muddy than the cross countries! Most runners I know take a break at some stage during this season to rest from XC and get ready for track.
My running “career” so far has seen me travel around New Zealand, meeting new people and going places I would never have been without running. A highlight for me so far would have to be my win at the New Zealand Secondary School Cross Country Championships in Rotorua last year. It was my first race running in the senior girls age grade and I went in with no expectations. This win gave me the opportunity to represent my country, something I could never have imagined, let alone at fifteen!
Wearing the silver fern at the Australian Cross Country Championships was incredible, and the trip was made even better by the experiences I had with the team. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to race for New Zealand again later this month, at the Oceania Track and Field Championships in Suva,Fiji! It’s going to be interesting to see how I race on track in the middle of cross country season, especially in the heat. But no matter what I am determined to enjoy the experience and make the most of the whole trip.
The next time I write for TeenRunner, I will have some big(ish) news, a more personal story, and results from Suva, Fiji.
Until then, happy running!
Just want to say a huge thank you to Tessa for taking the time to write this. If you want to read more from her (which you obviously do), check out another one of here articles of Bellelap. I think we can all take something from it. I have definitely been inspired.
Tessa is going to be writing for me in a two-part series, so I’m already very excited to read her next post in about a month’s time.
I also kinda really want to move to New Zealand now…I mean, for a start their cross countries actually look like proper cross countries.