TILLY WATTS IN CONVERSATION Casual chats with Peninsula people By Kate Sears

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Twenty-year-old Matilda ‘Tilly’ Watts suffered a traumatic health crisis three years ago that put the Mount Eliza resident in hospital and left her unable to even walk around her own street. Fast-forward to this year and this remarkable woman has grasped her recovery with both hands and is running with it — literally and figuratively. Over the weekend of May 18-19 she will join 8000 athletes in the 2019 Great Ocean Road Running Festival. As a sports coach, English tutor, promotional video maker, fundraiser and runner, she’s a force to be reckoned with.  

Could you tell us about your health crisis?

I used to compete well in school cross-countries, and then a dramatic deterioration in my physical and mental health meant I experienced impairments to my daily functioning. Facing insomnia, a temporary speech impediment, depression, PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks and suicidality as a result of a traumatic experience is something I refuse to be ashamed about so others can be encouraged to break their silences and seek professional support.

You’ve been working in the community raising $10,000 for mental health. Could you tell us what this entails? 

Over the past year I have been passionate about fundraising for Beyond Blue to role model advocacy and acceptance for those suffering with mental illness. I involved myself with 12 independent businesses and five schools throughout Mount Eliza, Mornington, Frankston and Tyabb as a part of this. 

Why did you pursue running? 

My father competed in marathons when I was a child, and my family regularly participated in fun runs. It was always a goal of mine to run half-marathons. It wasn't until I nearly lost my life, though, that running became an important goal for me again.

What methods did you employ to tackle your journey to recovery?  

Recovering from a health crisis is never linear, so I had to celebrate every achievement no matter how minor and accept the setbacks as a natural part of the process.

We heard that you facilitated a junior running club. Could you expand on this?  

My friend and I were both qualified in sports coaching so we specifically designed a program tailored to the abilities of children aged six to 12 years to focus on improving running form and aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Together we facilitated this program to raise funds and promote physical, social and mental well-being for young families.

How have you been training for the Great Ocean Road Running Festival?
I use the 14km Paradise Run as a milestone for my upcoming half-marathons. I combine training with running outside on local tracks and the treadmill. 

Do you have any advice for others tackling a health crisis?
Someone once wrote to me: “Even the blackest, darkest nights eventually see daylight.” Simple yet encouraging.

Where’s your favourite place on the Mornington Peninsula to run?
The beachside track between Mornington and Mount Martha.


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