Paramedic Megan Parr conquers Ironman challenge to raise awareness for endometriosis

Megan Parr, a paramedic from Marlborough, dedicates her spare time to rigorous training, including running, biking, and swimming, in order to help her complete the recent Iron Man competition in Taupō.

This challenging race involved a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride, and a full marathon, all to be completed in under 17 hours. Megan, who suffers from endometriosis, hopes to raise awareness and funds for Endometriosis New Zealand, a charity close to her heart. Endometriosis affects up to 1 in 10 New Zealanders, including some of our Good team. The condition can cause painful periods and infertility.

She first heard of Ironman in 2014 when she was training for her first marathon. She read the distances and her first thought was how crazy those distances are to do all within 17 hours. But at that moment, she knew that the Iron Man was a challenge she wanted to conquer. Megan became significantly impacted by endometriosis in 2015 and 2016, and it became so severe she had to stop all physical training. “There was a period in time that I couldn’t run 500m, bike more than a couple of kilometres and swim more than a length,” she said, “but for some reason, the idea of doing an Ironman one day stuck with me. I watched amazing videos of people overcoming huge challenges in life to complete one, and that kept me going during some more darker times.”

Megan teamed up with coach Richard Greer at Team CP, and together they found what training worked for Megan. Richard spent a good chunk of time learning about endometriosis, the menstrual cycle, and how to train athletes who are impacted by these conditions. “He writes my programme and alters it based on how I’m going with my body, and we have back-up plans for weeks that are unexpectedly hard,” says Megan. “We live by the motto of making hay while the sun shines! Usually, the week of my period is whatever my body tolerates. This might be lighter activities, even just going for a walk or heading to the gym.”

Megan has found that the most important thing for her training is being adaptable. “There is always a 15-minute rule of if I’m struggling, I tell myself to go out for 15 minutes and see how I feel. More times than not, I’m able to complete the session, but it’s important to be kind to yourself if the day doesn’t go your way. I’ve had four surgeries for endo, and the recovery from these has varied. It’s important to trust your body to heal and give it the time it needs.”

On the day of the event, Megan was 30km into the bike section of the event when she realised she had gotten her period – a time of the month that many women dread, especially those who suffer from endometriosis. “I had prepared in training for this possibility but also don’t think I truly understood how much it was going to hurt,” she says. “I managed the bike okay, but once I got to the run, the full extent of the pain and nausea kicked in. I put ice down my shorts as a way to shock away the pain, and using different temperature sensations helped.” 

The nausea experienced during the event – a common symptom of endometriosis – was so bad that she was unable to hold down food and had to survive on ice chips alone for the period of the competition.

Though Megan had to deal with adverse health during the event, she would still do it again: “The conditions this event threw at me were pretty full-on, but it’s also given me the confidence that my mind can overcome my body.”

With over 120,000 Kiwis being affected by endometriosis, we asked Megan what her advice would be to others who suffer from the condition and aspire to complete similar sporting events. 

“Be ambitious and don’t be afraid to chase the goals and dreams that scare you! During those really hard moments where I couldn’t run more than a few minutes or pain stopped me once I started, I told myself I’m getting out there to train for Ironman,” says Parr. “This seems crazy, a 200m run certainly isn’t what one pictures as a training run for Ironman! But I told myself that’s what I was working towards and one step towards that was better than none. It took me eight years to get to this dream, but whether it was the 140km final training ride or the 2km bike ride I did in 2015, it was all moving towards that goal. So be brave, and just start – no matter how slow or short that is”. To learn more about Megan’s journey and to make a donation, visit: megans-journey-to-ironman-new-zealand-2023.raisely.com.

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