Ann Rust from Watsonia

My name is Ann Rust. I was born in 1971 and have lived in Watsonia for 18 years. I’ve got two sons, Mitchel and Thomas, and a dog called Murray. For 25 years I’ve worked at the Austen Hospital as a nurse, and whenever I am not working I’m running - or having coffee after a run.


When I was 16 my family migrated here from South Africa because my parents wanted a better future for us. I arrived in Torogan, Gippsland, in the middle of year 11 and found the transition very hard. I was fairly shy and when I arrived I fell in with a popular group, but I really didn’t fit in with them. It wasn’t until I made a couple of friends that I started feeling at home. After year 12 my two best friends and I moved to Melbourne together to study nursing. I knew nothing about nursing at that time, but my friends were doing it and I wanted to wear the hat and white dress!


Today my mother has passed away, my father lives in Cairns, my brother in Sydney and my sister in Brisbane. Mum had MS and my sister read that it’s more common in colder climates, so she moved up north. MS isn’t inherited yet there’s still a genetic risk. However, being adopted I’m not as worried about it. My parents adopted me when I was three weeks old, and they are the only family I knew.


I am lucky I got to meet my biological mother when I was 18, and my father two years later. I’d always wanted to know what they were like, what traits they had, how they looked. I had many questions and was quite excited to meet mum. She came from a strong catholic family and when she got pregnant at 17 her mother sent her away to have me. When I met my grandmother, she said “At least you’ve had a good life. I think my daughter made the right decision giving you up.”


After our first year married we moved to Watsonia. We had looked at Heidelberg but it was too pricey, so we moved here, to what was then considered “the sticks”. We’d been here a few years when pregnant with my youngest son, my marriage ended. Soon after, my ex joined the French Foreign Legion. With my parents in Torogan, I needed to rely on my mother and sister in law to help with the boys while I worked.

My sons are estranged from their father, not having seen him since my oldest was three. So while being adopted didn’t impact my life much, it’s helped me understand what they’ve gone through, not having the opportunity to know their dad. Marriage was difficult. My ex-husband expected dinner on the table but wouldn’t help with anything; he’d say his job was our security, and mostly sat in the shed reading the paper.


I’m trying to educate my sons to respect women and be self-sufficient. They clean our toilets, do their rooms, do laundry and prepare basic food for themselves. I think it’s important they start working from an early age, just little jobs, so they learn to earn their own money and to budget. I want them to be respectful of people and help out in the community.


Soon I’ll run a marathon in South Africa. It’s 87 kilometers in 12 hours but I hope to do it in 11. I’ve run all my life. It’s my outlet; my time. Until four years ago I’d run on my own, doing 05K or 10K around the streets. Then I joined Parkrun and met many different people. Parkrun is a social running group where some run, some jog and some walk, but everyone gets exercise and to be in a group - which is good for our mental health. I’m one of Diamond Creek Runners’ 500 members. It‘s my social outlet.


As a nurse, I mention Parkrun to patients who say they need to exercise. We have people with various health problems, people with depression, people who are overweight, and once they start doing it they love it. We are a very supportive community, and it’s a positive environment for men. Running can be competitive but has none of the aggression we see in other sports. It’s also a mixed-gender activity that promotes mutual respect, and one that socially doesn’t have to revolve around alcohol.


For me running is a bit like life. When you do a marathon you go through many emotions; you’ll have pain but then it gets better. Life is constantly changing, but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. My marriage ending was hard, but it made me a stronger person. I am proud that I’ve been able to bring up my boys on my own, and I’m proud of bringing people into running and seeing the positive changes in their lives.