As Nicole Bunyon crossed the finish line of the Sydney Marathon last September, she knew it wouldn’t be her last. She’d been an avid runner since she was a teenager, but those 42.2 kilometres had well and truly cemented her passion.
A few weeks later, she sat contemplating which challenge to tackle next and found herself wishing she could bounce ideas off other mothers who loved to run. “I thought, wouldn’t it be good to have a group where you could connect with other running mums?” she says. “Most of the training I’d done for the marathon was on my own and I was ready to take the next step and learn from other people to become a better runner. I felt like I needed to connect with people who had the same interest because none of my friends or family members were really into running and I felt kind of alone.”
And so one night in October 2013, Nicole created a Facebook page called Running Mums Australia (RMA). “I contacted a few people I knew who had running pages and said, ‘I just made this group if you’re interested in joining,’ and it just went from there. It grew and grew and grew and it’s just blown me away.”
Within nine months, RMA had already attracted 3300 members. “It could possibly be a lot more, but I keep it as a closed Facebook group to protect people’s privacy and keep it focussed on mums as much as possible,” says Nicole. “On average, we get 50 new members a day, and on a Sunday we get up to 100 because people are running at events and they see the singlets or they hear about it.”
In an effort to offer members even more helpful advice and support, Nicole launched a website for RMA in January this year. With a physiotherapist and a running coach on board, RunningMumsAustralia.net contains plenty of training tips, healthy recipes and inspiring stories from running mums. “I wanted the website to be a place where our members and other runners could get advice and share their running journeys,” says Nicole.
Following RMA’s online success, the next logical step was to connect members in person. “We now do running clinics through Running Injury Free in several cities, as well as social runs that members organise themselves in their local areas,” says Nicole. “They put up a post in the Facebook group called Run Club and they meet once a week or a fortnight for a run and a cuppa afterwards.”
Members donning white singlets emblazoned with the pink and lime green RMA logo also meet up at races across the country. “Our most popular event recently was the Gold Coast Marathon,” says Nicole. “There were about 70 of our members that ran either the 10K, half-marathon or full marathon. We didn’t all run together because people have their own families and running partners, but we had a tent at the end and we all met up for massages. Sometimes we’ll meet at the beginning of an event and take a photo together.”
With three kids of her own and a part-time job as a teacher’s aide, Nicole is busier than ever since RMA has taken off. “I feel like I work 24 hours a day now!” she laughs. “I’m still trying to get my head around how quickly it’s grown. I don’t really know where it will go, but I want to keep the focus on building a community for women and inspiring each other. I think a lot of mums feel isolated and don’t have that connection with people, so RMA gives them sense of purpose and belonging to something.”
In addition to keeping her out of trouble, RMA has also been whipping Nicole into shape. “I’ve been doing lots of events because I think, I’ll go along to that event to meet some of the girls and I might as well run it. I’ve run six half-marathons so far, and the Adelaide Marathon in August will be my third full marathon since last September. I’ve pretty much been non-stop marathon training for 12 months now!”
Despite being literally run off her feet, Nicole says the members’ inspiring stories make it all worthwhile. “A mum put up a story on the website last night that I loved,” she says. “She lives in the country in Perth and she runs on her farm, sprinting from shed to shed. She decided one day that she’d run into town and someone told her that would be a half-marathon, so she organised a half-marathon for the town and raised money for a project they needed. That’s what I love about RMA – you find out about all these amazing women around Australia and the incredible things they do through their running.”