Run Like Tanya – A Story of Courage & Resilience

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Tanya Bottomley is an athlete, a storyteller, and an advocate. She possesses a determination and an adventurous spirit that will leave you in awe, and her story is one of hope, courage, and resilience. Tanya joins us on the Snowys blog to share her journey so far.

Mine is a story of hope, facing fear and living an authentic life true to my own values.

A female trail running wearing racing gear and holding a pair of hiking poles. She's got her arms up and with a big smile of achievement. There's a landscape of mountains and high peaks all around.

Let’s get to know the woman behind Run Like Tanya.

Hi, my name is Tanya and I love long runs on the trails, dehydrated meals lit by headlamps in far-flung huts, and conversations about anything running-related, including poop… because we runners love to talk poop!

So, if we’re going to be friends you should know that I am addicted to coffee – but I quit. I only drink it every second day now, so you’ll want to catch me on one of my caffeinated days. My favourite movie is ‘The Sound Of Music’ and I have been known to sing The Hills Are Alive while running through fields of wildflowers. I feel a great affinity for Maria – she’s my soul sister, and just like her, I can’t sit still. All I want to do is roam free in the mountains and sing!

I have an irrational fear of cows. If we are out on the trails together, I will use you as my human shield – not joking! It’s entirely possible that if I am lacking a human shield, I might just turn around and go home if I can’t find a clear path around these terrifying beasts!

Now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, and you’ve accepted the friendship agreement, we can go a little deeper.

A female runner in active wear is mid stride on a mountainous trail with lakes and snow capped peaks in the background.

Never one to keep still for long, Tanya thrives on the trail!

My life is fuelled by adventure, human connection, helping people, and a strong desire for self-improvement. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the person seeking out the new and exciting – quick to learn and hungry for knowledge.

In my primary school days, I actually got a principal’s award in front of the assembly for being the person most likely to lose my jumper! Not that I realised it back then, but I was too busy getting out there to care for where I put my things. I’ve always been ready to make new friends with a welcome smile. Forever curious and full of questions… I must have been an exhausting child!

My journey has been one heck of a ride, and when I think of my younger self, I give that girl a fist bump and a fierce hug for getting here. She’s turned out to be one hell of a fighter, resilient and pretty badass to make it through with her heart and will intact.

The finish line of an ultra-marathon with brand flags and banners behind and a very happy woman in the foreground who has just completed the race. There's another support crew person off to the left of frame.

In February 2021, Tanya finished The Northburn 100 Miler.

In the way that we all seem to become known as our social media handles, mine has become how I’m most often referred to.

Run Like Tanya – I sometimes marvel at how I became this entity. I didn’t really plan it, I was just a girl running on trails and sharing her story. A story that resonated with people, so here we are.

It took me a while to accept myself being called an athlete. It was a label that felt much like a too-tight t-shirt that you self-consciously tug in a vain attempt to feel more comfortable. But my resistance has given way over the years and now I proudly wear the title.

I first started running about 14 years ago. I had recently quit smoking (for the third time), was dealing with an abusive partner, and life was pretty bad. I had few friends, no job, and nothing to motivate me to get out of bed. It was a winter morning, just another day like any other when a major life change began. I was in bed, losing the will to live when my sister called me. During that conversation, she suggested I run a marathon.

It was a completely ridiculous idea. I didn’t run and it was winter… I mean, I’d need to hire a treadmill because surely, I couldn’t run outside in the cold and rain?! 

But my sister knew me well and once the seed was planted, it began to grow. I figured maybe I should take up running and give that marathon a go. I didn’t have anything to lose, right? That was in 2007, and after three months of training, I completed the Auckland Half Marathon.

Two women hugging and smiling at the camera. They are sisters and one has just supported the other through a marathon.

In 2019, Tanya’s sister crewed her during the 100 mile Krayzie Kapers.

Running became my saviour. A place I could escape the abuse at home, and an activity that fuelled my desire for adventure, self-improvement and connection. I ran from the pain, depression, and anxiety. I ran to feel powerful and strong. When I first started running, it was with a grim determination, but what grew out of that was something much, much more.

A love, a passion, and a calling.

Today I am an ultra-marathon runner with more 100-mile buckles than belts! My favourite place to be is on a trail or in the mountains. Running has taught me so much, and my adventures continue to help me grow as a person and overcome my own limitations. Happy, limitless and free is my motto, and that’s what running, and adventuring have allowed me to be. I’m excited to see where the future takes me, as I step further into my power and start forging my own path. Going off the beaten track to conquer more literal and figurative mountains.

A female hiker stands at the summit of a mountain looking out to the view of surrounding mountain peaks. It's a clear sky day with great visibility over the landscape.

This is Tanya’s home! The mountains surrounding Wānaka and the gateway to the Southern Alps’ Mount Aspiring National Park.

I am also a storyteller and an advocate. This was like a two-for-one deal, the kind where you’re like, I don’t really need this thing, but since it comes as a package deal, okay.

Both are roles I fell into by accident, and it is always with sweaty palms and a racing heart that I hit upload on the stories I tell. I decided to become an advocate for domestic violence awareness after finally leaving the relationship I was in for more than 10 years and for most of my adult life. I felt a whole lot of shame and stigma around my story, and that was exactly why I decided to share it.

It was not my fault I was abused. I hated the way it was so often talked about in hushed tones like a dirty little secret. Domestic violence affects one in three Aotearoa / New Zealand women, so I knew I wasn’t alone, and the numbers are even more shocking in Australia with reports stating 54% – that’s more than one in two women!

The reasons that had me wanting to stay silent were the exact reasons why I knew I had to speak out. By keeping quiet I would simply reinforce those cultural norms which desperately needed to be challenged. It started with blogs, which turned into podcasts, newspaper articles, and then public speaking. I was able to stand up and be a voice for a hidden part of society and shine a light on a very real problem that is killing people. I have also been able to share my recovery and my story of hope. Mine, like so many others, is a story of pain, horror and hardship. But it is also a story of love, hope and light. It is a story of resilience, grit and determination. I now run free, happy and limitless and that is the story I want to share.

A female athlete traverses a rocky ridgeline in the New Zealand mountains. There's a bank of cloud behind her with clear blue skies above and a bright sun shining down.

Ridge-running in Aotearoa / New Zealand to celebrate her 38th birthday.

So, now you know to only catch me on my caffeinated days, and you know how I, Run Like Tanya, came to be here. I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship and I promise to be present for the hard conversations. I promise to be real, honest, and keep turning up, and that there’ll be lots of laughs, exciting adventures, and tips as I embrace living life at full speed. There’ll be the excitement, joy, and wonder of a puppy because let’s face it, who doesn’t love puppies!

Welcome to the Snowys Blog, Tanya! What tips would you like Tanya to share?

About the writer...

Joined back in September, 2021

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