Listen: Elite runner Eloise Wellings chats to Sam & Duncan about her career, faith, and charity work.
When Eloise Wellings takes off from the starting line at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April, she won’t just be propelled by her 20 years of experience and training.
It’ll also be her trademark tenacity, a bit of stupidity (her own words!) and a lot of faith.
Eloise is a two-time Olympian who’s has competed internationally for more than two decades now as a distance runner in races like the 5,000 and 10,000 metres. But with several injuries and setbacks along the way, she’s often had to dig deep to keep going.
Her Christian faith has been a big part of the formula.
Talking to Hope 103.2’s Sam and Duncan, she said it was her passion and her beliefs that helped her push ahead.
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“God Had a Better Plan Than My Plan”
“It was really difficult going through that period of injury after injury,” she said. “It was devastating to miss three Olympics. But I’ve always believed that God had a better plan than what I’d planned. So I just get back into running and get a taste for it again and set new goals and press on.”
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She laughed saying that she wouldn’t know what else to do with herself anyway.
“All I ever really wanted to be when I was younger was a runner, so it’s part stupidity and part tenacity I guess,” she said.
For Eloise, faith was a big part of getting through the pressure of the London and Rio Olympics.
“In the leadup there was post-traumatic stress, a real anxiety about ‘would I make it to the starting line’,” she said. “But I just had to daily give it back to God and hand it over, and think, ‘I’ve worked hard for this’… so I enjoyed it as much as I could despite the pressure I felt. It was an amazing experience.”
Now, as a wife and a mum, preparing for the Commonwealth Games is a juggle, navigating one day and week at a time (she only just took down her Christmas tree!) – but with altitude training behind her, and a number of races ahead, training is going well.
Changing Lives in Africa
The thought of winning isn’t all that keeps Eloise running. There’s also her charitable organisation, the Love Mercy Foundation, which she founded with Ugandan runner Julius Achon 10 years ago.
It raises funds to support projects that are helping rebuild the nation of Uganda.
“Whilst I can still run and still use running as a platform to bring light to what we’ve had opportunity to do in Uganda, then I’ll do it for as long as I can,” Eloise explained.
Eloise struck up a friendship with Julius when they first met, around their common love for running, as well as their Christian faith. Struck by Julius’s story of growing up in an environment of poverty and civil war in Northern Uganda, she wanted to do something to make a difference.
“He shared his vision about going back to his community and starting some grass roots projects to help people get back on their feet after the war,” she said.
“I was really touched by his story and my husband and I became really good friends with him… we met the orphans Julius had been caring for – he had found 11 orphans living underneath a bus on a visit home to his community. We thought we should start something in Australia to raise funds and help Julius with his vision of helping people get back on their feet.”
The first project the Love Mercy Foundation achieved was to build a health centre built to service the 20,000 people. It is the Kristina Health Centre, named after Julius’s mother who was shot by rebels during the war.
Perhaps the most impacting initiative, though, is the Cents for Seeds program, which provides microfinance loans for women. With 30kg of seeds, women in the program set to work to produce a crop of 300 to 350kg of food, feeding her family and giving her an income.
“We’re really seeing a massive impact,” Eloise said. “We started with 100 women in 2009 and we’re doing it this year with 13,800 women. It’s getting incredible results and enabling the families to create their own livelihood.”
In many areas it’s replacing the child-sponsorship model.
“Once I met Julius and we started Love Mercy everything started to unfold, and it enabled me to keep going.”
“I’ve heard women [in Uganda] say ‘with Cents for Seeds I now have a hope for the future and can now stand on my own two feet’,” Eloise said. “And that was the goal from the beginning.”
With these wins, Eloise no longer questions what she is doing with her life.
“I did question God’s sovereignty and whether [running] was a dream He’d actually placed in my heart,” she said. “But once I met Julius and we started Love Mercy everything started to unfold, and it enabled me to keep going. I kept believing this was actually what I’m meant to be going.
“Julius’s motto is ‘never give up’. That became my mantra as well. And things have worked. There’s the scripture that says ‘God will cause all things to work for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose’.
“I really believe that.”
Find out more about the Love Mercy Foundation on the foundation website.