NOBODY was more surprised and elated than 36-year-old Gemma Maini from Mount Eliza when she was the first woman runner to cross the line in the Melbourne Marathon on 15 October.
Not only was Maini a new mum, having given birth to son Ollie less than 12 months ago, but it was her first official marathon.
The coach and secondary teacher, who has determination, good training practices, and a naturally athletic stamina on her side, beat the competition by close to five minutes.
“I’m still pinching myself; it was an amazing race; a big challenge but an amazing experience,” she said.
Maini has been running for as long as she can remember, but until the marathon was best known for cross country and distances of around five to 10 kilometres.
She has a world ranking and represented Australia in the World Cross Country Championships in China in 2015 and Uganda in 2017, and also won a scholarship to Idaho State University in the US, where she says she learned the value of consistency in achieving goals.
In the lead up to the Melbourne Marathon, Maimi trained with a running group she helped put together, the Ninch Track Club, and was coached by her husband and fellow athlete Matt Davy.
“That was also a big help, providing emotional support as well as constant back up and encouragement,” she said.
Maini says she believes some of her success was also due to not expending all her energy at the beginning of the 42-kilometre race and running with fellow peninsula athlete Dane Verwey as a pacer.
“Dane was registered to run with as a pacer, but he ran the whole way with me, which was an incredible effort and a big sacrifice,” she said.
She also had professional mentoring from peninsula podiatrist Jason Agosta, who specialises in orthotics and running issues, and who helped her work on improving her style.
“I had a long, loping style, but Jason is helping me to work on it and make it more suitable for marathon running,” she said.
After her success at the Melbourne Marathon, Maini has now been bitten by the long-distance running bug and is planning to travel to Japan next year for the Tokyo Marathon, a World Athletics platinum label marathon and one of the six world marathon majors.
When not training or caring for her toddler, Maimi has a hectic schedule coaching at Run2PB and teaching middle years at Peninsula Grammar.