Kirsten Ellis will be running a marathon on the Gold Coast this Sunday, just months after her home was damaged in the Lismore floods.
Ellis, who has earned the moniker “bug lady” around Queensland’s Southern Downs for her research and passion in helping farmers control the macadamia lace bug, isn’t letting the devastation of the floods impede her participation in the marathon.
“Even if I have to walk some of it, I’m going to finish it! I want the finishers’ medal, regardless of my time! The challenge is ultimately with myself, not everyone else, and I want to prove the floods can’t knock me down,” Ellis said ahead of the race.
Ellis says running saved her life back in 2014, when she faced a pre-type-2 diabetes scare, and also suffered from PTSD following a marriage breakdown. Now, running is a healthy obsession which she says is about the process, not the time.
“Other runners beat me any day of the week but I really enjoy the long distance, endurance stuff because that’s where it’s just me and my brain. I had a lot of demons to work through and running is where I do that,” she said.
“When I started I had this brain that was overthinking and a voice inside my head putting myself down, a kind of monkey-on-your-back. I used to gauge how bad it was by how many kilometres it took for the first positive thought to happen. There’d be that click in my brain and I’d exhale a sigh of relief, my thinking would switch to ‘life is great, I am good enough to do this’. The effect of that lasts for days.”
Away from running, Ellis is a PhD research at the Centre for Organics Research at Southern Cross University, and is passionate about research on the problem of the lace bug in the macadamia industry.
“In Australia, we have changed the chemicals available for use since 2010 when we removed some of the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) from use. At the same time, we also reduced the funding into agriculture and extension. For farmers, that has meant the loss of effective insecticides, plus the loss of research into alternative solutions,” Ellis said.
“Consulting in Stanthorpe became difficult because some insect problems simply had no solution. That is why I want to see more research in this area, our food crops are depending on it.
“For my PhD I’m trying to solve the problem of the lace bug that has emerged over the past 10 years and has become a really significant pest for the macadamia industry.”
This weekend, Ellis will be helping Team SCU in the Southern Cross Recovery Hub, located near the finishing chute at the marathon, and cheering on all the competitors.
“I like to believe in people,” she said. “You’ve only got to get a couple of what I call ‘finish line feelings’ under your belt before you realise, ‘oh maybe I can do this’. That runner’s high gives you a fresh perspective where you believe in yourself a little bit more, and that seeps into other areas of your life.”
“I want that finish line feeling for everyone. You can be so down and suffering from depression or anxiety or any of the mental health problems, and in Lismore there are so many people struggling at the moment after floods. But if you can just get up and moving, perhaps find a 5km parkrun event in your local community.”