At the recent World Masters Games in Auckland, the 66-year-old won a silver medal in her division in the 1500m and bronze in both the 10km/road race and cross country events. She also finished fourth in the 800m and the 5000m which she was competing in for the first time, eighth in the cycling time trial, and a highly creditable sixth in just her second ever triathlon. Better still she set personal best times in four of her events.
Falkner admits to being ``pretty stoked’’ by her efforts.
It’s a far cry from the young girl who was so embarrassed at finishing last in a school sport day race that she shied off running again for more than 50 years.
Tramping with her family was the main exercise she did until in a bid to lose weight, improve her fitness and lead a healthier life, she took up running and biking four years ago.
A major motivation was the memory of her mother and sister who both died at a younger age than she is now.
``I feel I want to be the strongest, fittest and healthiest I can be for the years that they didn’t get to enjoy.’’
Her 74-year old brother – who has run all his life and still does - was also an inspiration and role model.
Her first event was the 2013 South Island Masters Games (SIMG) in Nelson, which she continues to be a keen supporter of along with other Sport Tasman events. The next SIMG is to be held in Nelson again later this year. SIMG 2017 has 40 + sports on offer and open to participants 30 years plus.
Falkner reflects on her first event, ``I did the 5km run at the one slow speed that I knew I could maintain to get me all the way to the finish.’’
She also entered her first duathlon, which she found tough. Two years later she finished fifth at the World Duathlon champs in Adelaide.
``The first few Masters games were huge because they showed me I could compete, even though I am not built to be a runner.’’
She showed the same steely resolve in learning to swim so she could do triathlons, going from a non-swimmer to competing in her first race in November in just 12 months.
Her second open water triathlon at the World Masters Games was the ultimate test for a novice as it was held in atrocious conditions which saw many other competitors withdraw. Finishing sixth was a testament to her mental strength and training.
``It was unbelievably difficult to overcome a lifetime fear of water but a combination of determination and my brilliant swim coach Lionel Padial who was incredibly patient has seen me achieve my goals.”
``And if I can do it at my age then so can anyone else, you just have to believe you can.’’
Falkner, who largely trains on her own, says it helps having events to work towards.
``I need something to get me out the door in the mornings for a run, especially when it’s freezing outside or heavy rain and it would be much more desirable to stay in bed.’’
She trained daily for the World Masters Games but ideally likes to do a fun event once a month, although it’s not always possible over winter. To keep it fresh, she likes to enter new events and to keep travelling costs down she tries to incorporate them with holidays.
While she is ``very goal driven and pretty stubborn’, winning medals isn’t everything.
``Taking part at whatever personal level is what is important. I believe personal bests are the only thing that really matters because everyone has different abilities.’’
She enjoys the camaraderie among athletes as much as the competition. ``It’s good fun.’’
Married with three children, four grandchildren and one great grandchild, Falkner says her exercise regime gives her the high energy levels needed to cope with a busy life, which has seen her work in the TDC offices in Murchison and library for 25 years and a first responder volunteer for the local emergency ambulance.
``I stay well and I’m always looking for new challenges.’’
Falkner is determined to maintain her fitness, saying she was inspired by older athletes at the World Masters Games, including a 101-year-old Indian woman who ran the 100m.
``It was a very moving experience.’’
Don’t count against Falkner doing the same one day. But first there is the South Island Masters Games in Nelson in early October to train for.
Online registration is now open. For more information and to register go to www.simasters.com or contact Belinda Crisp at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 03 923 2310.