Sanji Johnson started running so she could keep up with her kids.
Now she is poised for her first event, the Lake Macquarie Running Festival 10-kilometre race.
The Fletcher mother of three and full-time professional is one of now around 600 members of the Night Striders running group, which offers a safe, supportive and encouraging environment for women to exercise at all hours.
Ms Johnson, 45, has religiously been going to Blue Gum Hills parkrun for the past 12 months.
In that time she has lowered her 5km time from 65 minutes to 34 minutes.
“Every Saturday I would try to get out there and these other women that have joined the Striders got me running more and now they’ve got me doing this Lake Mac run at twice the length,” Ms Johnson said.
“I’m nervous but excited at the same time because I’m worried if I can make it.”
New Lambton’s Darlene Reis co-founded the Night Striders with Melinda Roberts after they met at a party seven years ago and bonded over a love of running.
Ms Reis’s first running event was also the Lake Macquarie Running Festival 10km. Now she enters 100km trail runs.
“That’s the best part of this group, you see people join and say I just want to do 5k,” she said.
“So many times I’ve heard them and said, ‘You’ll be doing a half marathon’, and they say, ‘No way’ then six months down the track it’s, ‘I just want to do 10k’. I love it.
“But it’s also the friendships you make when you run and the honesty that you have with those friends. That’s just really, really nice.”
Ms Johnson said the other benefit was improved fitness.
“Never in a million years did I think I would run,” she said. “I started going for fitness because my kids are young but I’m not a young mum,.
“To keep up with them I have to get out there and give it a go and, honestly, I’m probably fitter than them now.”
The Lake Macquarie Running Festival is on August 27 and offers a 10km “fun run”, 21.2km half marathon and 4km kids’ scamper.
More information at www.lakemacrunning.com.