Tricia Sloan

Claire Jennings

Our series on the Scottish MW50s continues, as Tricia Sloan interviews Claire Jennings.

If I had a “Super Woman cape” I’d give it to this woman. Claire Jennings quietly fulfils a leadership role in Scottish by turning up to events, leading the purple pack – which I know has helped many women get over feeling intimidated by those of us obsessed with speed – and calling us all to order in a firm but fair manner when needed. Claire combines her sporting challenges with a demanding role as a senior clinician in Hutt Valley Hospital. I hit her with some questions…

What motivates you to run?

I have come to sport late in life. I was one of those kids at school who did everything and anything to avoid sport – I’d enter the discus, or anything that involved a minimum of effort to get points for any sports ‘house’ I might be part of at school, but that was it. It didn’t help that I had no hand-eye coordination skills and loathed team sports! 

Anyway, fast forward to my early/middle 30s and a colleague at work persuaded me to help her coach ‘nippers’ (juniors) at Lyall Bay Surf Life Saving Club and I had to get fit to pass the Surf Award. I joined the (then) Tasman Aquatics adult swim squad to get my swim times up and some of the ladies there persuaded me to join them at the Kapiti Women’s Triathlon. Well, I borrowed my sister-in-law’s old 10-speed with the gears on the down tube that I didn’t know how to change (so I didn’t!), bought a short-sleeved wetsuit from the Warehouse and did it! Much to my (and others’) surprise I loved it and went on to do other small tris, slowly progressing from borrowed bikes and Warehouse wetsuits to a road bike and tri specific wetsuit. 

I also joined Wellington Marathon Clinic, again to get my running up, with a friend who had been a member for a few years, and the then pack leader offered to write a training programme for my first half ironman in Taupō, which I completed in December 2001.  My then coach suggested I join Scottish to maintain run fitness over winter. A number of my friends, including John and Mary-Anne Palmer, were already members, so that helped me transition into harriers. 

In terms of what motivates me to run? Well it helps keep me fit, it helps keep the weight off (especially those pesky menopause kilos!) and is something you can do anywhere; occasionally I have travelled for work and a pair of running shoes and kit is easy to pack.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Probably completing my first Ironman in Taupō in 2004. I would it consider one of my biggest and most memorable achievements, especially considering that I was the chubby bookworm who avoided sport! 

Since then I have completed six Ironman races, about nine half-Ironman races, numerous sprint and standard distances, a number of half marathons, and two ‘stand alone’ marathons (including the Berlin marathon). And of course in recent years I have ‘discovered’ swim/run which is a whole new level of madness!

What are some of the challenges you face? 

Well, I’m not fast, though I suppose I got used to that a long time ago! I am lucky in that I have had a few injuries, but nothing that has kept me back for long. I am also yet to get my nutrition sorted for long distance stuff where my gut has frequently gone into ‘shutdown’ meaning I stop absorbing anything – but I have always managed to get by! Like everyone involved with endurance sport, finding time for that, plus full-time work and ‘life’ is always a challenge. Being single has its advantages in that I just have to look after myself, but the disadvantage is that I still have to cook and take out the garbage as no one else is going to do that, even if I’m knackered. 

You have an important role as a senior member of the health care team in Hutt Hospital. What do you take from your role into running and vice versa?

I like to think that I present a good role model to those I work with in terms of carrying both my running and triathlon into work. Ironman also gives you a mindset to carry on and work through things, even when they are tough – which is a handy mindset to have in health! Again, my sport helps me maintain a good work-life balance that helps keep me sane. Otherwise it’s easy to let work become all-consuming. 

What does Wellington Scottish mean to you?

I love being a member of Scottish. I have met and run with a great group of people over the years, in particular those of the purple pack. Through good luck and good management, I have even managed to get a couple of trophies over the years, which my Mum (at 89 years) has been known to giggle over, given what she knows her daughter used to be like! Everyone is very supportive no matter what, and it is truly a ‘family’.