Lisa Weightman is a high achiever and an incredibly inspiring person. Setting her sights high has led her to reach goals she never imagined reaching. She has taught us that by dreaming big, you can surprise yourself with what you're capable of.
Lisa has completed 14 marathons, competed in 4 Olympic Games, won silver in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Marathon, works as a project manager and business architect for IBM and is a mother to her three year old son Pete.
What an incredible amount of achievements for one person! We got to chat to Lisa about her life as a Mother and elite athlete with a corporate career and just how she does it all.
Photo credit: Dean Deegan
When did you start running competitively?
I started running in Primary School. I was born with a weak chest and my Dad encouraged me to run and play sports to increase my cardiovascular capacity and to enjoy teamwork and a healthy lifestyle. I played everything at school but found out in High School that I could run. I'd go for regular runs with my Dad and sister and Dad would increase the pace at various parts of the run. I'd keep up and it was then that he also thought I had the chance to become a great athlete.
What made you want to stick to it?
I didn't enjoy it at first as we'd run cross country in the mud on freezing cold days. But then I started to win races and realised if I put some training into it I could find out just how fast I could go. In my 20s I suffered from recurring stress fractures across a 9 year period. I was studying hard and started working in a graduate position at PricewaterhouseCoopers. I enjoyed the challenge and the new experiences work brought but I was exhausted most of the time. Recovering was difficult and the injuries kept coming. Eventually I found new ways to recover and introduced intensity at a more relaxed pace which in turn helped me transition from the life of an injured athlete to the life of a competitive athlete.
When I made the transition to the marathon at 28 I really loved the roads and was hooked after I qualified for my first Olympics off my debut marathon in London. To be racing against the fastest, fiercest and dedicated women in the world was huge! I wanted to get better and better at it so I too could be one of those fast, fierce and dedicated women!
How many marathons have you run?
I've ran started 14 marathons and finished all 14! I won bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, I made my own little medal being our son Peter in 2014 missing the Glasgow Games so I was proud to win Silver this year on the Gold Coast.
I've competed in 3 Olympic Games (Beijing, London and Rio) with my best position 17th place in London. At the Rio Games I was in the shape of my life, but came down with a sinus infection which made completing the marathon an amazing achievement in itself, but heart breaking. I then went on to run a PB of 2:25.15 at the London marathon last year which elevated me to third all time on the Australia Ranking list.
I placed 5th in London and later that year 6th at Chicago.
What goes into preparing for a marathon? How long do you need to train for before hand?
Training for the marathon takes a great deal of planning, a support team to help you on the journey and the ability to deal with setbacks and bounce back along the way. We usually work in 6 month blocks for the marathon, but plan years in advance. I run 170km per week. This is a smaller base than I'd like, but this is the right balance to be able to do well at my job and to be mum!
What is the hardest part of running a marathon? How do you stay focused for 42km?
The hardest part of running a marathon is not the race itself, but the preparation and training that goes into it. Training in Melbourne across the Winter months takes extreme dedication when you're heading out after a day of work in the dark and in many cases in the cold wind and rain. But Winter comes and goes and the feeling you get when you plan, prepare and execute a race well is worth those difficult days.
The marathon is a long way and most of the time I'm thinking about the race and my plan and the strategy I'm deploying. Occasionally other thoughts float into your head or you might see someone you know on the course shouting at you which gives you a lift. With Gold Coast I was mostly thinking about how long it will be until the next drink station! It was hot!
Do you take part in any other exercise that compliments your marathon training?
I would love to take part in other exercise, but I don't have the time in my week. If I have a tight spot or a weakness I'll complete the necessary pilates activity or throw in an AlterG session. But, I'm a Mum of a 3 year old boy, I work 4 days per week for IBM and I run. There's not much time for anything more. If I was in a position to be a full time athlete I would certainly love to add some yoga into my regular routine.
How do you balance working as a project manager and business architect at IBM, with training as an elite athlete and raising a son?
There's so much talk about women in Corporate roles and in the ability to combine a career and a family and I think I am a great ambassador for successfully achieving that in recent years. Finding new ways of working, being more agile and appreciating that happy employees produce amazing results is something Corporations need to focus more on. I'm always looking out for opportunities to demonstrate that we can have it all. We just need to be given the chance!
I have an amazing family and was blessed to have my entire family there at the finish line on the Gold Coast. There's nothing better than finishing the race of your life and getting hugs from your son and your nephews and niece. I'd run another 30 degree marathon tomorrow just to get the amount of hugs I did on Sunday 15th April from these adorable little people!
My parents take care of my sister and I in our pursuits. My Mum takes care of our son Peter while I work in the office and on session nights and my Dad helps with handy man needs! My sister and I share our kids with each other giving each other the opportunity to achieve in our sport and Corporate lives. Lachlan's (husband) parents take care of the three of us on many weekends when we head to the country town of Creswick, just outside Ballarat to train and catch up with them.
They say it takes a village to raise a child and we are a true testament to that!
How do you like to relax in your down time?
I play lego with my little Pete. I go for walks, as opposed to runs and I watch shows like Suits, The Good Fight an Chicago PD!
What advice do you have for people aspiring to represent their country in sport?
That there will be set backs. There will be times where people tell you that you're not good enough and there will be times when you feel like you aren't good enough. Don't let those feelings stand in your way. If I'd listened to the negativity I'd never have achieved what I have achieved in the last decade.
I've spent my entire running career proving that "I can" and my career is still peaking!
What role does The Muesli play in intensive training and how do you like to serve it?
I've always enjoyed muesli as a regular part of my diet and when I had the opportunity to try The Muesli it has really made a difference to my health and performance. Muesli was always something I had after a training session as I felt the high sugar content and the heavy feeling in the tummy wasn't great for a hard session. I have recently been trying The Muesli before my sessions and I've even managed to run a few personal best sessions off it in the lead up to the Games. You can't argue with a personal best session so I'll continue to incorporate it into my regular diet and introduce it into my son's diet too when he is ready.
Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
I'd like to continue to be a role model for women who want to combine a family and a Corporate or sporting career. I want to be not a slogan or a policy but a "real" example of how women can do anything with the right opportunity and the right team. I want to be a role model for my children and Australian children demonstrating that if we have a dream that seems almost unachievable and we continue to strive toward it that we can actually exceed it beyond our wildest expectations. I believe I've got a lot to offer the Corporate world in regard to performance coaching and creating and nurturing high performing teams and hope to help others achieve personal best!
From a running perspective the family would like me to try for Gold in 4 years time! My first goal is to qualify for a fourth Olympics and have the race I'd hoped was on the cards for me in Rio at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Out of my three main roles in life above it all I want to be an amazing mum!
Photo Credit: Peta Bull