Evelyn Lister found her love of running when she first started seeing her husband, Mark. ‘He asked me to come with him for a run and I said ok. We ran down to the wharf, and he stopped after one month and I kept on going,’ she says.
Today she gets up at 2am every morning to single handedly prepare over 100 meals to deliver around Port Vila, before going for her first run at 5am. After doing her domestic duties and last minute food preparation, the mother of four girls delivers her pre-ordered lunch boxes around town. Valued at 250vt per box, the meals are tasty and generously sized, consisting of meat, rice and aelan kai kai. As well as frequenting the gym, in the late afternoon she will go for another run. Her running routes differ every day, she says, if not it tends to get boring. She can run up to 15km per session.
At 48 years old, this multi-tasking superwoman still manages to make running a priority in her life. ‘I like running because it makes me feel good and it’s good for my health. I encourage my kids to do it too. We run together and do everything together – shopping, going out, eating.’ Mark jokingly adds, ‘And fighting too’. They laugh and Evelyn says that she is lucky to have him. ‘Without Mark, I wouldn’t have discovered running or have my girls and have everything that we do now.’
Evelyn was born on Irririki Island, before she moved to Naraside, Efate. She met Mark, an English plumber and shareholder of Trade Base, while working at Trader Vic’s back in the 80s. They have been married for over 28 years. If home is where the heart is, a glimpse at their house at Numbatu reflects how well they complement each other. Mark is the handyman, from adding a fish pond to making a spice rack for the kitchen, while Evelyn complements his practicality with her green thumb in the garden and creative flair in the house. Pictures of their daughters and three grandchildren are spread across the lovely decorated house.
Evelyn admits that she is very family orientated. Two of her daughters still live in England after the family relocated there in 2003. ‘I didn’t like it at first,’ she says. ‘It was very cold and I wasn’t used to the lifestyle, especially coming from the islands.’ Now she says that she loves England and even appreciates the snow. ‘I would consider moving back, but that’s because my grandkids and daughters are there.’ She says that it’s challenging to have them on the other side of the world and misses them dearly.
While living over in England, she became the first Ni-Vanuatu women to run the London Marathon, a grueling 42km run. She has also run in various other marathons around the world including the Gold Coast, Sydney, London and New Caledonia, with her best time being an impressive 3 hours and 50 minutes.
It’s not often you will see a Ni-Vanuatu woman running the streets. But for every woman who has, she knows that cat calling and harassment are all too real. This can often be a deterrent to take up the sport. How much talent is Vanuatu potentially losing? Natural athletes may never discover their skills if they feel uncomfortable and unsafe venturing out on the street. Yet surprisingly, Evelyn says that she has never faced harassment while running but her daughter had an incident that caused the police to get involved. She suggests that the only way to handle harassment is to ignore it.
For any woman who wants to run, what would Evelyn’s advice be? ‘Don’t say you don’t have time,’ she says. ‘The only thing I don’t have time for is a morning coffee. I’m too busy for that.’
With an attitude like that, that’s how she gets it all done! Tuff tumas!