Our series on the Scottish WM50s continues, as Tricia Sloan catches up with two of the most decorated athletes in club history: Anne Hare and Melissa Moon.
How did you both get into the running business?
Anne: My primary school in Tokoroa did running every day for about 10–15 minutes before morning tea. I loved it and tried to get in as many laps of the field as I could each day – trying to improve each time. This was the start of my journey into top level athletics. I just kept running after that even to this day and that would have been almost 50 years ago!
Melissa: I was spotted by Scottish Junior Women’s Coach Alan Curwen at a secondary school’s cross country. He encouraged me to join the club at 14 years old. Our training was fun and social. My main motivator back then was the dishy junior boys who were in the club at that time!! I made the New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country team.
When I was 16 I left school and New Zealand to embark on my University of Life education overseas, which involved no running. But when I returned to NZ at 23, I met Clive, a passionate runner who encouraged me back into the sport. He introduced me to his good friend, legendary coach John Davies, and the rest is history. I was soon winning national titles: 21 New Zealand Athletic titles and a record 7 NZ cross country titles, and 10 consecutive North Island cross country titles – I still hold the course record of 16min 55sec.
What do you consider are your major achievements in running?
Anne: There were a few new events back in the 80s which gave me the opportunity to shine. But 1986 was my big year. Firstly, the inaugural World Road Relay took place in 1986. I was selected for the NZ team. The event was held in Hiroshima, Japan and we took first place. For me, the highlight of the event was that I also got a gold medal for being the fastest on my lap – the last lap. Also, in 1986 I set the record for the NZ Women’s 2,000m in a time of 5mins 44seconds. This record still stands today.
Then there was the inaugural Women’s 5,000m at a little event in Atlanta called the Olympics in 1996. Imagine, women only started racing the Olympic 5000m in 1996… what a breakthrough for women’s athletics. I was a finalist at those Olympics.
Melissa: My ability to race on cross country translated well onto the World Mountain Running Scene. After securing bronze medals in the Czech Republic and Reunion Island, I went onto win two World Mountain Running Titles in Italy (2001) and Alaska (2003). (Interjection by Tricia: I was an “also ran” at several of these races – the event in Alaska took place in a blizzard – it was magic!). Like Anne, I just kept running and in the twilight of my career competed on the Vertical World Circuit which is a series of races up the world’s tallest buildings. I was the Vertical World Champion (yes, there is such a title!) and the Empire State Building Champion. A perfect way to end my competitive career.
Other achievements include the New Zealand Sportswoman of the year and Wellington Scottish Athletics Female Athlete of the Century (a tremendous honour)! The strangest achievement is having a potato named after me…Moonlight!
What challenges have you overcome in your running career?
Melissa: My challenges have come in the way of health-related issues including endometriosis and pollen related allergies which have impacted on my performances. But I never let these health issues deter me from running; they only made me stronger and more determined mentally.
Anne: Nay-sayers and other idiots I’ve had to deal with over the years! Like being told by Athletics NZ that I didn’t need to acclimatise for the heat and humidity of Atlanta! Unfortunately we have our fair share in our sport but COVID-19 has revealed the world is full of idiots!
After all these years, what motivates you to still run with Scottish?
Anne: For me it is being around other women my own age. We enjoy each other’s company, have a laugh and maybe win the odd event here and there!
Melissa: Scottish is like a second family to me. I have known many familiar faces and personalities since I was 14 years of age. The club will always remain a special part of my life and I will always be involved in some way. The comradery of the current W50 group has been fantastic and certainly a reason to dust off the racing shoes.
What advice do you have for aspiring top athletes?
Melissa: Enjoy and have fun in the younger years. I did not start running seriously till I was 23 years old. Life balance is so important in running. When running is going so well it is important mentally and emotionally to have other areas of life to focus on, which puts the running life into perspective.
Learn to be aware of your mind in sport. I paid just as much attention to the mental aspect as I did the physical. When I talk about the mind, for me it is being mentally tough but also learning to manage emotions to perform at your best. You can use strategies such as visualisation, self-talk, thought control to keep it positive, self-awareness, and using your initiative during the many unexpected moments in sport.
Anne: Focus on your own training, don’t worry about what others might be doing, take care of yourself for the long term and seek advice from those with first-hand experience at the top level.