Marli’s 12WBT Story

Community // Madeleine // 25 February 2013

On top of the world, Marli after a 12km climb to the top of Mount Staypalton in the Grampians.
I’m sure you’ve heard it (or maybe even said it yourself) – “There’s no WAY I can run.” After reading Marli’s story, you might think a bit differently.

Eight years ago Marli and her father were involved in a serious road accident. In the aftermath, she was told by specialists she would never run again. With determination and some help from 12WBT, Marli has proved them wrong.

Here, she tells her story, in her own words.

The Accident

I was 20 when the crash happened. It was the summer holidays, and we were all travelling along the Snowy Mountain Highway heading away for a family trip. My Dad and I were on his Harley Davidson. My Mum and her parents were in our car.

Dad and I were coming around a bend when a ute driving on the opposite side of the road made a sudden right hand turn, cutting across our lane. There wasn’t a way to avoid the collision; a car was travelling behind us. Dad pulled the bike in on its side, and the left hand side of the Harley slammed into the side of the ute. The police estimated we would have still been travelling at 80km at the time of impact.

Both of us sustained severe injuries to our left legs and had to be transported to Canberra hospital via helicopter. I had fractures to my tibia and fibula and crush injuries to muscles, nerves, arteries and veins. Dad and I were in hospital for seven weeks, and I had countless surgeries. The muscles in my leg had died from the trauma and had to be removed. I also had to have numerous skin grafts.

Once I was stable I was transferred to our local hospital in Shepparton, Victoria, for rehab and discharge planning. After three long months spent in hospital, I was finally sent home to be cared for by my boyfriend and family.

Out of Action

Marl_3Keeping spirits high, Marli races her brother down a hospital corridor.
For the first six months after I got out of a hospital, I was in a wheelchair and was doing most of my uni via distance. I couldn’t drive myself, and I needed help with cooking and cleaning and laundry.

That first stint also wasn’t the end of my time in hospital. I had a lot of complications. It took another 18 months of surgery and rehab to get to the point where specialists felt the fractures in my leg had healed.

My recovery took three and a half years, and I was on crutches for the rest of my time at uni. In those years following the accident I found I put on weight. My arms were toned from the crutches but I was inactive and could only partially weight bare on my left leg. I couldn’t even do laundry or cook without assistance.

Meaning and Motivation

I had been studying to be an Occupational Therapist (OT) when I had the accident, but my own experience really drove home to me how beneficial that type of therapy can be. OTs assist patients whose ability to perform everyday tasks has been affected by an illness, accident, injury or aging. We help to increase people’s independence and your involvement in tasks and activities that are meaningful and important to you.

After my own injuries, the course made me realise what things were central in my life and really motivated me to achieve my goals.

At the hospital during Marli’s long slow journey to recovery. 
Initially finishing uni was the most meaningful occupation. Once that was done my new focus was getting back into general physical activity and improving my health and my weight.

I had played netball at school and in the first years of uni, so once my leg had healed I joined a social team and tried to get back into it. Things didn’t quite go to plan and unfortunately my leg fractured again in the same place! I ended up having to have another surgery to insert the nail that remains in my tibia today.

After that surgery, specialists told me that my physical capabilities would be greatly affected and I would never run again.

Getting Active Again

Marli with her husband Michael before she signed up to 12WBT

Eight years after the accident, my injuries had stabilised, but I was still finding it difficult to exercise and was struggling with my weight.

I had tried different fad diets and exercised on and off mainly with low to no impact equipment. I tended to work towards goal events like my wedding to Michael – my amazing partner who has supported me through this whole journey.

I always found though that once I lost weight, and the thing I had been working towards had passed, I’d end up regaining any kilos I’d lost.

Then I saw the 12 Week Body Transformation advertised on Facebook, and thought “Why not?” All up I have lost 9kgs with the 12WBT and am now at my goal weight. But even more amazing than that is that I can now run.

How I Proved the Specialists Wrong

Marli and Michael overcoming obstacles during the 20km Tougher Mudder run.

I don’t think I would have tried running if I hadn’t signed up. I had tried jogging a little bit over the years but always felt really uncoordinated. I worried I just looked ridiculous, so I had never really persisted.

For the first couple of weeks of 12WBT, on the days when running was involved, I would think “I can’t possibly do that.” I would go do RPM at the gym or something like that instead.

One training session, for some reason I couldn’t get to the gym. I thought that maybe I should just try running instead. The 12WBT exercise plans suggest that if you have never run or haven’t done it for awhile, you should try jogging for 30 seconds then walking for 90 seconds. Then repeat. I tried that method and found it wasn’t too bad, so I kept going.

My perception of how I looked while I was running was a challenge I had to overcome. I don’t have a normal pattern with my heel strike so was worried I looked silly, but I just kept going. After a few sessions, I started to get into a rhythm and then a pattern that didn’t jar my ankle or my knee. My style started to look not too bad.

My husband now says that unless he watches me really carefully, you can’t tell that when I run I modify how I land on my left foot. The way I am able to do it also doesn’t put any extra force through my ankle or my knee, so it hasn’t caused any issues.


I gradually built my training up and I am now officially a runner! I can even do sprints on a treadmill – running for 30 seconds at 12kms per hour. When I started, I thought I would have been flung off the back.

I can also run 4 to 5 kilometres in 30 minutes, and in January I completed Tough Mudder, a 20km run and obstacle course, with my husband alongside me supporting me the whole way.

Surprising Yourself

Marl_9Marli, her husband Michael and friends, triumphant at the end of Tough Mudder!

If someone had told me six months ago I would be able to do what I can today I would have thought they were crazy. I actually don’t think I would have ever tried to run if I hadn’t done 12WBT. I have definitely caught the running bug!

I’m addicted to the buzz I get from exercise and running. One-off events are now not my motivation, living a happy and healthy life is my driving force.



  1. Trish Blackman Reply

    Wow, Madeleine – what a woman! 13 years ago, I used to say, “Oh, I can walk all day, but I can’t run”. Then I joined a running group, the Melbourne Ladies Hash House Harriets, and since then I’ve run 10k events, a few City to Surfs and three half-marathons. If I can run – anyone can!This is what I’ve learnt – until you’re fit, running is hard, and even then, the first ten minutes of any run is hard. So, you just have to persevere; start by alternating walking and running. That’s what I’m doing at the moment, trying to get my fitness back after a hysterectomy. Any ladies, especially those 40+ who think the MLH3 group sounds like them, we run every Thursday night, mostly in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne, and we cater for all fitness levels. You can start by walking, then, like me, build up to running. It’s a lot of fun and we make newcomers very welcome. Contact me if you are interested. Trish 🙂

  2. Griselda Reply

    Hi Madeline,
    I have tears in my eyes reading your story. Wow! You are so amazing and inspirational.
    I love the smile on your face because you are one determined woman and it shows!
    I can’t wait to read your future posts.
    BTW how is your dad doing? Has he done the 12WBT program! He looks like a happy chap too.

    I will keep thinking about you and your journey all day today!
    Thank you for sharing it with us

  3. Marli Kelly Reply

    Hi Griselda,

    I wanted to reply to your post. Madeleine is on Michelle’s team and blogged my story for me.

    Thank you for your comments. It is a strange feeling having people I don’t know tell me I’m inspirational 🙂 But if sharing my story helps others then that’s awesome

    My Dad is doing ok. The surgeons were not able to save his leg, they tried, but 10 weeks after the accident they had to amputate his leg. He has a prosthetic leg but he has a lot of difficulty walking still.
    However my dad is not in any of the photos. I think you may be referring to my brother when we were having a wheelchair race up the hospital corridor… And yes he is a very cheerful guy Always able to make me laugh no matter how down I was feeling 🙂

    Thanks again for your comments and good luck with your journey

    Marli Kelly

  4. Jen Reply

    Thank you for sharing Marli, I really don’t know what to say. This story makes me feel incredibly guilty, when I make up excuses, or I believe that I can not achieve. When I see what you have been through, and see how you have drawn on your inner strength, it makes me want to dig deeper to find mine.

    all the best
    Jen xo

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