21 September 2022

The road to NYC: Vanessa’s story

For many members of Team Fortem who will take part in the New York Marathon later this year, running has been a part of their lives since they were young. 

NSW Police Officer Vanessa Parry-Williams is different, taking up running a bit later in life. 

“I have been running since I was about 35, and I am 50 now,” said Vanessa.

“I just suddenly took it up after I had my fourth baby – I decided that I wanted to get a little bit fitter, so I started doing laps at the pool, but it shuts during winter. 

“A friend of mine invited me for a run and went from no running to half marathons in a few months and an Ironman about 6 months or so after I got into it.”

Vanessa has made up for lost time, recording a best time of 2 hours 53 minutes at the Gold Coast Marathon in 2009, was the 4th female over the line at the Sydney Marathon in 2008 and won the Hunter Valley Marathon in 2010.  

She has also completed 13 full-distance Ironman triathlon events and competed at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in 2019.  

Despite all these highlights, Vanessa also has experienced great tragedy.

As well as the difficulties that come with a decade-long career as a police officer, Vanessa also witnessed the death of her training partner while on a ride in 2010.

She describes running and triathlons as her saving grace, ever since she discovered the benefits of exercise for mental health.  

“That is the reason I do it, really,” said Vanessa.

“That is my stress management – if I feel like I have something going through my mind I know I can always go out and go for a good run and just feel calmer.

“I don’t solve problems on my run but often if I go for a run and feel like something is a big issue, by the time I get back I have usually put it back into perspective or at least worked out a way I am going to deal with it. 

“It is just a really good way of removing yourself from situations and problems and just putting things back into perspective.”

The mother of four and grandmother of three is using the opportunity on Team Fortem to do as much as she can to set a good example for her family and show them how important exercise is for good mental health, and says she is proud and grateful for the opportunity to represent all police in New York. 

Media contact: Simon Anderson, M – 0448 601 391 E – media@fortemaustralia.org.au