A Taupo grandmother is the definition of the word inspiring when it comes to being fit, healthy and active. She’s about to conquer her 40th Rotorua Marathon at the September 26 event. What’s even more impressive is this will bring her overall marathon tally, including NZ and international marathons, to 125 marathons.

Verna Cook-Jackson, 68, will be walking this year’s 42km distance. She has a bit of a “dickie knee” and will be taking her time to lap the lake, soaking up the sights along the way and remembering wonderful memories of years gone by too of doing this annual goal. 

She will be doing this event proudly. She’s chuffed she can still conquer this these long miles – given most of her mates now keep active with golf, bowls or gardening.

Verna tries to downplay her incredible feat with her feet when we chat during this interview, saying she’s no elite athlete. She says she will be celebrating her achievement likely “very quietly”.

But I tell her she simply is my goals. Most people dream of being this fit at 68…

Verna may walk this distance now. But she used to be darn speedy. Her fastest marathon time was 3 hours and 15 mins in New Plymouth.

Her first marathon was aged 26 at Rotorua when she clocked in at 4 hours 14 mins.

Back then, not many women ran, she explains. It was purely a male sport in this era. Verna used to run around an Auckland park in the dark to train back then so she wouldn’t be seen. This was because she was a woman running and so wanted to be “hidden away”, but also too because she was overweight then and was self-conscious also about being seen.

Back then there were no fancy tights. She wore a pair of shorts, oversized t-shirt and a sweat-band around her head aka “Rod Dixon style”, she says laughing.

She started running because she wanted to lose weight post having children. She couldn’t get to tennis because she had children to care for and so running at night was how she could fit fitness into her life. She has used this sport since to keep in shape and feel great, she adds.

Verna says she loves how the sport has attracted more women, and people of all shapes and sizes and abilities, over the years.

“Now you can go to a start line and see every size possible and it’s really nice”.

Verna says she uses the Rotorua Marathon every year as her motivation to keep active and fit.

“Rotorua has become a good habit. It keeps me motivated”.

So how long will she keep lapping this lake?

“I was going to get to number 40 and call it quits,” she says, then chuckles and adds. “Well that was the theory anyway…”

When I tell Verna she her marathon tally is simply inspiring, she shrugs it off. She says if she wished to inspire anyone around anything to do with running it would be just simply to “start” and take small steps. She recommends starting with a walk/run journey to keep healthy and then progress if you wish to running.

Every morning she gets out for an 8km walk and ticks it off “so I feel good”.

Asked what’s the secret to her long-run journey? She says her mindset is key.

“My knee needs replacing at some stage. In the meantime, I may as well keep running until it gets so bad it has to be replaced!”

This grandma is goals!

Join this amazing grandma and enter the Rotorua Marathon event (either the fun run, 10km, half-marathon of full-marathon distance.). Click HERE

Article by Rachel Grunwell: Rotorua Marathon ambassador. Qualified Coach. Yoga teacher. Author of the book Balance: Food, Health + Happiness.

Follow Rachel on Instagram & the InspiredHealthNZ Facebook page.

This article was sponsored by the Rotorua Marathon #sonsored #ad