"I ran my first marathon"

Mum-of-four Danielle Ritchie-Halligan used to see exercise as a punishment. Now, it’s given her a new outlook on life – and the ability to achieve whatever she puts her mind to.

Danielle's journey to a healthier lifestyle


Name: Danielle Ritchie-Halligan
Weight loss: 12.6 kg
Was: 76.4 kg | Now: 63.8 kg
Height: 1.60 m
Age: 47
How long it took: 1 year
How she did it: Workshop + Digital at Upper Coomera, Qld, with Coach Tanya Teese.

"I started to realise that exercise shouldn’t be used as punishment, and I no longer link it to food. Now, I work out because it contributes to my health and my weight-loss efforts."

Then & Now

Danielle before and after

I used to put everyone else first

Since having kids, I became used to putting everybody else first. I was the burnt chop Mum... I gave everyone else the good chops, while I had the burnt ones. I never cared for myself enough to make time to exercise – to me, it was punishment. It was something I did when I was ‘bad’, to work off a piece of cake or a glass of wine. I didn’t think about exercise in terms of the health benefits. Then three years ago my husband, Steven, and I, together with another couple, decided to do the Kokoda Challenge – a 96km trek!

"In 2015, it was time for a fresh challenge, so I decided to train for a marathon."

I set a challenge to walk the Kokoda Trail

Walking the Kokoda Trail was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life – and I’ve had four children! We didn’t respect the challenge and after 36 hours of non-stop walking we came last out of hundreds of competitors. It was soul-destroying, but it was also the beginning of the new me. I started to prioritise myself and make time for exercise.

The next year, we did the trail again, this time with my sister and her husband. We trained smarter, increasing our workouts each weekend over a long period of time. We shaved 10 hours off our time! In 2014, we did Kokoda for a third time and, this time, we came first in the family category. In 2015, it was time for a fresh challenge, so I decided to train for a marathon.


It's good to push yourself

I had been a walker – not a runner, so committing to do a marathon was a big step. The first time I tried to go running I stopped every single time a car passed because I was so embarrassed. Then I made a commitment to myself that I’d run every time I saw a hill. Slowly, I stretched the running distance a little further. With a marathon, the goal is to run 42km nonstop, yet, just like losing weight, you have to start small. First you do 5km, then another 5km, then 7km, and you slowly build your endurance while trusting in the process. It’s the same with weight loss – little wins add up to big ones. A few hundred grams here and there and before you know it, you’ve lost 12 kg.

During my training I continued to push myself, saying: you can do it! In July 2015, I completed the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in four hours and 45 minutes. I started to realise that exercise shouldn’t be used as punishment, and I no longer link it to food. Now, I work out because it contributes to my health and my weight-loss efforts. When you exercise, you’re spending time with and for yourself. I can’t help but think that if I can do the Kokoda Challenge or run a marathon, I can do anything.


Food is now my fuel

These days, I rarely make the same meal twice. I have access to so many WW recipes, whether online, in the cookbooks or the magazine, and it has opened up a new world of healthy eating. I feel so liberated! I still have occasional treats, but now I look at food as currency and ask myself if it’s really worth it.

For breakfast I have two eggs, as the protein helps get me through my morning run. My mid-morning snack is fruit, or 120g of no-fat yoghurt, or 7g of toasted almonds and mixed spice. I always get a sweet craving after lunch, so I have two fresh dates. At 4pm I have vegie sticks with hummus, which I eat whether I’m hungry or not, because I know it'll reduce any later cravings.


My kids are more active too

My kids (Soleil, 17, Poppy, 15, Cato, 11, and Jazz, 9 ) have been a great support and motivation for me. They realise how important exercise is and my healthy eating is also good for them. My eldest two have both done the School Kokoda Challenge and the youngest two take part in kids’ dashes and fun runs at events that Steven and I do.

As a busy mum of four, it’s all about being organised. I literally diarise my exercise. If it’s not written down as an appointment for myself, it won't happen. Sometimes, I wake up at 5am, have my breakfast, and then go for a run. I feel satisfied knowing that by the time the kids are at school, I’ve done a 12km run. It’s all about planning.


How to become a runner


Danielle shares the lessons she’s learnt.

  • Start small: Whether running or walking, set small goals and gradually increase them. Don’t be impatient with the process, just be confident that small slowly becomes bigger and bigger – and better.
  • Be positive: There’s not a person out there – whether an elite athlete or a parent – who hasn’t at some point heard that voice telling them to give up.
  • Self-doubt is normal: You have to push past the discomfort and remember that after a workout, when you’re all sweaty, you feel awesome.
  • Embrace social media: I joined a Facebook group called Running Mums Australia. You see people posting on there about their big and small achievements, and when you see that, you think: if they can do it I can do it!
  • Use technology: I linked my Fitbit to my WW online account, so I could keep track of my activity. It gives it currency and meaning and is really motivating.
  • Cut yourself some slack: Everyone runs differently, people will pass you and it can be deflating, but remember you’re not competing with anyone but yourself.