NEW BALANCE IS HELPING FOUR AMATEUR RUNNERS REALISE THEIR NYC MARATHON DREAMS — RUN YOUR WAY
Editor’s note: Leshay Wells is one of four amateur runners who New Balance is supporting to run the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon. Tempo is partnering with New Balance as we follow these four aspiring runners to the finish line and beyond. Along the way, we’ll also shine a light on some of the inclusive run crews and communities helping them reach their highest goals.
We're celebrating the message that each person has their own story and their own way of running. Because the only right way to run is your way.
On the fourth of July, just after completing her first marathon in her hometown of the Gold Coast, Leshay Wells posted a photo on Instagram showing a 10-year-old version of herself running in the 10km distance on the same course back in 2004. Wearing race number 3549, young Leshay appears about half the height of the adults around her.
That 10-year-old runner would go on to compete at school, state and national levels throughout her teens. Even more remarkably, she did so with only the steadfast commitment of her mother to support her, after her father passed away when she was very young.
“I lost my father when I was four years old,” Leshay says.
“It was very sudden, which impacted the whole family, particularly me and my younger sister. At that age, it’s difficult to even know what you remember of that time, but I think it’s something that helped me to build a lot of resilience. And I also think my dad was a part of my life in my very formative years. There are a lot of quality traits that he had that are part of who I am and that have helped me as an athlete and a runner.”
“Running gave me a focus, and my mum was a big support in that. She really enjoyed taking me to training and running events and travelling around to those competitions. I’m very appreciative of the time and effort that she put into that, particularly in my childhood. It was great to have those experiences with her, growing up.”
“When I was arriving at the race this year on the morning of the marathon, I messaged my mum … I wanted to thank her for all the effort that she’d put in over the years.”
Describing her junior running career, Leshay says she joined a club with well-known coach Brian Chapman. Though she did plenty of cross country, her favourite event was running 3,000 metres on the track. She won two national titles in 2011.
Looking at that Instagram photo, Leshay says the associated Gold Coast Marathon events have been a massive part of her life every year since she was 10 years old, and her mum was integral to that.
“Actually, when I was arriving at the race this year on the morning of the marathon, I messaged my mum to say I was reflecting on the number of times that she brought me up to Southport to run in that event. I wanted to thank her for all the effort that she’d put in over the years.”
Leshay had missed out on the marathon in 2021 after the event was cancelled five days out due to the pandemic. This year, she completed her debut in just over three hours: 3:00:30.
She got there with the support of her friends in the Gold Coast Run Co. As Leshay explains it, before this she had struggled to make the competitive leap from school athletics to elite adult competition and had also suffered a series of injuries. The result was that she scaled back her running ambitions for a long time. Eventually, however, this left her craving both structure and a social context for her running.
“I still ran when I could for my own fitness, but I always felt like I was missing something during that time, around eight years, that I wasn’t competing and wasn’t running with other people. Then I joined the Gold Coast Run Co,” Leshay says. This was “probably the end of 2019, the beginning of 2020”.
“I decided I’d just turn up and give it a go. And it was a very welcoming place to be. Over time, I’ve felt a lot of connection and belonging there, and it’s helped me get my passion for running back.”
“It’s a fun club to be a part of. It’s social and inclusive. You have people of all abilities, people from different backgrounds. A lot of people are working hard towards their goals, and supporting each other towards that, but they also enjoy just having a chat. We always get a coffee after group or have a drink after the night-time sessions.
“It’s very supportive. Amber [Donnelley] and Andrew [Stalling] have done a great job in creating that community and are always thinking of things to improve the club and create those connections and inspire other people.”
Leshay, who works in allied health, recently completed a Master of Clinical Psychology degree. Capping that achievement, in April she won the 5000m at the UniSport Nationals. With middle-distance events a strong feature of her running background but with her second marathon coming up – when New Balance guides her to compete in New York – it’s natural to ask if Leshay will continue to balance these different running forms.
“The 5,000 metres was a goal I had for quite a while, wanting to run on the track again. I don’t think I’d ran a track race since like 2012 or something. It was nice to be able to do that at the university games.”
“My training has been pretty consistent, running five days a week, usually with two interval sessions with Run Co as well as a long run. I just tweak that to whatever event I’m training for. For the 5000m, just focusing on doing a bit more speed work in the lead up, a few more track sessions, but then, with the marathon, focusing on building that long run up and maybe increasing some of the distance in my solo runs.”
Of course, for now Leshay is focused on the NYC Marathon in early November. She has high hopes of erasing those 30 seconds that stand between her and a three-hour time.
“New Balance have given me an incredible opportunity to run at New York. It was definitely a longer-term goal to run at a world major but it’s amazing to have that fast-tracked for me. It’s such an iconic event. It will be incredible to be a part of and an opportunity to see how I can progress on the benchmark I set myself here at Gold Coast.”
“I just missed the three-hour barrier, so it would be really nice to go under that in New York. But I’ve got some good perspective around that as well, with a bit of limited preparation and the travel over there. So another goal will just be to enjoy the experience of such a massive event and to take it all in.”