Boss Lady

She runs 180mi/290km, bikes 621mi/1000km, and says the benefit of women getting fit outweighs any sacrifices


Meredith Quinlan’s feats of fitness and endurance are an inspiration to those of us who too often turn the alarm off and go back to sleep rather than getting up to exercise, or feel too tired at the end of the working day to work out. The busy architect has a high-pressure job with Perumal Pedavoli Architects, largely involving design for government clients in the educational and justice sector, with the aim of delivering projects where both the client and user group are happy with the outcome.

And despite that, she regularly runs and rides the kind of distances that have even professional athletes saluting her! And she says all women — and particularly career and business women – can benefit from being fitter.

You’re clearly hyper-fit. How does this level of fitness enhance your working day?

I function better when I am fit on all levels. Notwithstanding the obvious physical advantages, It allows me to sleep well, clears my head, energises me and often can give me head space to work out complex issues that can’t be solved straight away. My enthusiasm and appreciation for sitting in an office is increased especially after doing it tough on a cold, dark, rainy commute. The latter also grounds me as it’s a stark reminder of the comfortable life we live in our first world luxury.

Quite often my commute also involves trail running or mountain biking through the plentiful bushland that is available relatively close to Sydney’s CBD. I have heard that studies show cognitive advantages obtained from exposure to the natural environment and can attest that it definitely is of benefit to my working day.

Have there been long-term benefits for your professional abilities and your career?

It has enhanced the endurance I need to last out the long jobs. Sometimes it can take many years for a job from start to finish and you really need to dig into those endurance reserves to see out all those details till the end. Working in architecture can get very tedious at times, so endurance sport is also a great way of honing your patience. Achieving the unachievable in physical challenges also give you confidence in other areas of your life I think.

Are there also downsides to maintaining this level of fitness. both day-to-day downsides and long-term ones.

It reduces the time I have for normal social interaction. Being mentally focused on an event can lead to a myopic view of the world, something that I need to monitor although it’s a necessary evil in order to achieve difficult goals. Coming off that state of mind that is not easy mentally, emotionally or physically. There isn’t much down time.

What attracted / drove you to ultra-marathons and ultra-cycling?

It all started as a simple get fit campaign when I was 31 and evolved into way more than what I could have imagined. I ended up liking running for the sake of running and then soon after discovered that I seem to possess enough of the natural attributes required for ultra distance running to make it enjoyable. The easier distances feel for me, the more I want to push the boundaries of what is possible and go longer and more difficult.

When I had my first major running injury I turned to cycle commuting to keep me sane and have kept it up as a second string to my bow. It morphed into a competitive mountain bike career for a few years reaching the national podium a couple of times. It comes in handy for running, as I tend to do longer and more arduous running events these days which take their inevitable toll on my body requiring long breaks.

You recently did a 621-mile/1,000km+ ride in around 60 hours over 3 days. Those are long days in the saddle. What does your brain occupy itself during this kind of endurance feat?

It’s a perfect opportunity to OVERTHINK EVERYTHING and proof that I am female …haha. No seriously, I tend to go through phases where I might think over complex issues until there is some kind of resolution. And then I go through other phases which are more dream-like that are just a series of flashbacks. It helps if you have seen a controversial movie the night before or had an interesting social interaction, as it can occupy you for what seems like hours unpacking the details. I’ll also send plenty of prayers upwards for safety etc, its hard not to believe there is a God listening under that big bright starry sky.

By the second night awake the hallucinations had kicked in so I had to keep a check that I wasn’t wasting energy trying to work out why strange things were appearing on the side of the road. Someone really messed with my head on the Buckets Way, they had congregated a whole bunch of stuffed animals, tied to trees etc and I was convinced they were a group of logging protesters chained to the trees.

The major thread of thought throughout the ride is focusing on the critical details to ensure I can stay safe and meet my objectives. You have to be ever vigilant to ensure no mistakes put your life at risk when riding solo long distance. Keeping this focus takes up a fair bit of emotional energy rendering you sometimes quite unsociable. Ensuring I stopped for enough breaks, ate enough, drank enough, kept up the sun block reapplication every 4 hours and had enough battery life for my lights was more than enough to keep me busy.

Are you working towards a particular challenge planned for the future?

I will be defending my title at the 298km Hong Kong 4 trails Ultra Challenge ( in early February 2019. The race gives the entrants 60 hours to finish all 4 long distance trails around Hong Kong and includes 14km of vertical mostly in the form of steep stairs. I was fortunate enough to finish 3rd over-all in 2018 and set a new women’s record – although was 6 hours short of being a finisher, but instead considered a “survivor”. Every Year the event founder Andre Blumberg makes the event more difficult – this year running poles are banned and our quads are not looking forward to that one!

I then hope to do the Monaro Cloudride 1000km mountain bike race at Easter which is a solo unsupported non-stop race held in rugged remote alpine areas around Canberra. It is renowned for its hazardous alpine weather, ridiculous hills and suicidal night time wombats – I can’t wait.

What tips or advice would you give for other professional women regarding fitness – and ultra fitness.

If you want to balance work and ultra endurance sport it requires a rigorous approach to organising your time and life. You have to eat as healthy as you can, drink as little alcohol as you can bare and learn to cope with less sleep. I guarantee the benefits more than outweigh any sacrifices.

About Meredith Quinlan'

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