THERE was a time when Tracie Kaye wagged school to avoid athletics.
A time when the thought of running around Lake Wendouree was enough to make her cringe.
To use her words, she ‘‘hated running’’.
So it comes as a surprise that the Run Ballarat ambassador is now one of our region’s best long distance runners.
Now 28, it was only last year that Ms Kaye shocked herself, and everyone else, by winning the Great Ocean Road Marathon.
‘‘It was crazy. I still can’t really believe that I won it,’’ the bubbly personal trainer said.
‘‘I literally never even thought about winning it. I may have said something about a possible top 10, but even that seemed like a bit of a dream.’’
Laughing when asked about the seasoned marathon runner she beat, Magda Karimali-Poulos, Ms
Kaye said it wasn’t until about the halfway mark that she realised she was coming second.
‘‘This guy kept saying to me ‘oh, there she is, there she is’.
‘‘And I’m saying, ‘Who? What are you talking about?’ . . . and then he says ‘you’re coming second’,’’ she said with a laugh.
‘‘I was like, ‘What? You’re joking’.’’
She went on to win the event in convincing fashion, taking out the marathon category in two hours, 58 minutes and 19 seconds and the 45-kilometre category in three hours, eight minutes and 44 seconds.
Proving it was no fluke, Ms Kaye placed fifth in last Sunday’s Melbourne Marathon, an event renowned as one of the toughest.
It was an unbelievable feat from the personal trainer, who didn’t start running seriously until the age of about 23.
Ms Kaye recalled a conversation she had with fellow Run Ballarat Ambassador and Australian running legend Steve Moneghetti in the lead-up to her Great Ocean Road win.
‘‘I saw him at a dinner before the Great Ocean Road and just asked him how I should expect to go, having ran the Melbourne Marathon the year before,’’ she said.
‘‘And he said to add on about 20 minutes. I thought ’yeah that makes sense because it’s so hilly and stuff’.’’
She went on to run a personal best, 10 minutes faster than her 2012 Melbourne Marathon result.
‘‘I caught up with him (Steve) after and he was like, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you were actually any good at running’,’’ she said with a laugh.
‘‘And I said, ‘Well I’m not, something just happened . . . ’’ Moneghetti remembers the same conversation.
‘‘It was very funny,’’ he said.
‘‘It was at a basketball dinner and she was there with her partner Adam (McSwain – former Ballarat Miners captain) and he sort of mentioned that Tracie loved her running and would like to have a chat.
‘‘So I gave her some advice, not realising she was this supertalented runner who would go on to win the thing.’’
One imagines it’s this raw talent and humble sense of community that saw Ms Kaye chosen as a 2014 Run Ballarat Ambassador.
Granted, she has always possessed a certain amount of sporting prowess.
About six years ago Ms Kaye had a promising career with Ballarat’s premier women’s basketball team, the Lady Miners.
But that career was stopped in its tracks after a debilitating back injury.
A pinched nerve and bulging disc would see Ms Kaye stuck on the couch, hardly able to move.
In one of those ‘‘life intervenes’’moments, Ms Kaye feels if not for the injury, she may have never discovered her love of running.
‘‘The physio said, ‘You won’t ever be able to play basketball again . . . you probably shouldn’t do much running’, but I did,’’ Ms Kaye said.
‘‘I can remember specifically doing four-minutes walks, 30-second jogs, four-minute walk, 30-second jog. It was so frustrating. But I just built back up and eventually I was running 3km, 6km, 10km.’’
It was then that Ms Kaye decided to give basketball away and focused on running. She is now a personal trainer and health and wellbeing coach. She also specialises in raw food recipes.
The 2012 Melbourne Marathon was her first crack at the gruelling 42km distance and saw her finish in the top 40.
Kay decided to follow it up with the Great Ocean Road event, purely because she wanted to run alongside such scenery.
‘‘I’d grown up going to Lorne on holidays and love it down there and I just thought it would be awesome to run along the Great Ocean Road,’’ she said.
Moneghetti, who one gets the feeling is a big Tracie Kaye fan, saidher story was rare.
‘‘Obviously she’s had success as a sportsperson at an elite level, but it is a very unusual way for someone to emerge as a great runner,’’ he said.
‘‘Generally a runner with her talent would have come through the running club ranks and would have had a solid past as a distance runner.
‘‘But it couldn’t have all happened at a better time. She’s at the right age, she’s a great local talent.’’
Moneghetti said Ms Kaye was the perfect Run Ballarat Ambassador, with her story sure to encourage everyone to give running a go.
‘‘It just shows the beauty of running in that you can get involved and discover something you might love,’’ he said.
Run Ballarat, now in its third year, sees the city unite to run, walk or roll a six or 12-kilometre course to raise money for the Ballarat Base Hospital children’s ward.
Last year’s event raised almost $190,000 for the ward with more than 4200 people taking part.
Ballarat Health Services chief executive officer Andrew Rowe said the children’s ward admitted almost 2500 children each year and the money raised was crucial in redeveloping the ward.
‘‘Currently the ward is very tired and is in need of desperate redevelopment,’’ Mr Rowe said.
Construction on a brand new children’s ward will start in 2016 and is expected to be completed by 2017.
The Run Ballarat event forms part of the Cotton On Foundation’s RunAustralia program,which aims to increase engagement in regional communities.
For more information about Run Ballarat, visit www.runaustralia.com.au