We are fortunate to share that Anja Barugh, Olympic Halfpipe skier who proudly represents New Zealand has decided to take on the Queenstown Marathon in November, to raise awareness and fundraise for Endometriosis New Zealand. Anja lives with endometriosis and has met with some difficult times as a professional sportsperson living with a chronic health condition and pain. We were lucky enough to sit down with Anja and ask her a few questions about her experience and why she has decided to take on this challenge. You can read her Q&A and visit her fundraising page below!
Can you tell us a bit about your background and experience with endometriosis?
“From my first menstruation at the age of 11, I consistently endured severe pain accompanied by nausea and dizziness. Unfortunately, my schoolteachers and peers didn’t take me seriously thinking I was exaggerating, and some doctors were skeptical of my symptoms. Fortunately, I had a supportive family, particularly my mother, who advocated tirelessly on my behalf. My passion for sports was a significant part of my life, and I faced the challenge of balancing it with the need for surgery and a 12-week recovery period, which often felt disruptive to my progress in my sport. I was also anxious that undergoing surgery might lead to a situation where no concrete diagnosis was made, and the feeling of having imagined it all.
Over time, I reached a point where I began making excuses for my “illness,” attributing it to nerves before a comp or trick or other factors, as discussing endometriosis was considered taboo. I feared how I would be judged, perceived as weak especially since I didn’t have an official diagnosis, making it challenging to assert that I was indeed affected by the condition. However, in April 2022, just a few months after my Olympic debut, I underwent surgery that not only provided me with a diagnosis but also empowered me to find my voice. I recognised my role in breaking the silence surrounding endometriosis in sports, and I was determined to help.”
What is the biggest challenge for you in managing your endometriosis and professional sport?
The biggest challenge in managing endometriosis alongside my professional sports career is finding the right balance. In professional sports, there’s a lot of training, competition, and physical effort involved, along with a focus on proper nutrition. It’s tough to predict if I’ll have pain on a competition day, and this clashes with the need for rest and recovery that endometriosis demands. Deciding when to push through the pain/ what I can push through and when to prioritise my endometriosis needs is a constant struggle.
What made you decide to take on the Queenstown marathon, fundraising for Endometriosis New Zealand?
My “why” is deeply rooted in the experiences of young individuals, much like myself, have confronted the excruciating pain and discomfort of endometriosis while pursuing their athletic aspirations. I want to stand as a source of inspiration for these girls, encouraging them to view sports as a powerful tool for personal growth and unwavering resilience.
Despite not having a particular inclination for running, I willingly embraced the challenge of participating in the Queenstown marathon. This undertaking symbolically represents the daily trials faced by 1 in 10 women, girls and those assigned female at birth due to endometriosis. It serves as my way of shedding light on this issue, fostering greater awareness, and rallying support for those engaged in this battle.
What are you hoping to see as a result of this challenge?
I have several hopes for the outcome of this challenge. Firstly, I aim to raise awareness about endometriosis and how it affects both athletes and individuals in general. My goal is to spark open discussions about this condition within the sports community, breaking down the barriers of silence and judgment. I want athletes to feel comfortable seeking the support and care they need.
Furthermore, I hope to inspire and empower others who are also dealing with endometriosis to pursue their dreams and passions without letting the challenges hold them back. By sharing my own experiences and story, I want to demonstrate that it’s entirely feasible to excel in sports and other areas while managing this condition.
Ultimately, my aim is to contribute to a more compassionate, understanding, and supportive environment for individuals living with endometriosis. I hope to promote greater awareness and inclusivity, particularly within the realm of sports.
Interested in taking on Queenstown Marathon with Anja?
Join Anja in her Queenstown marathon run and support Endometriosis New Zealand in their efforts to provide information, education, advocacy, awareness and research to all those living with endometriosis. Supporting you to support us is our promise, so for this event, if you raise $400 or more we will refund your entry ticket! Hurry as
tickets to this event may run out soon. Sign up to join Anja through the link below!