About two months out from turning 75, Robina Bodle’s a role model for keeping fit and active. She sits still long enough to talk to PHILIP CHANDLER about why she got into running, life as a solo mum before meeting her hubby 40 years ago and her unusual sleeping arrangements

If anyone typifies the adventurous spirit Queenstown’s renowned for, it’s Robina Bodle.

Conceivably the fittest 74-year-old you’d ever meet, she’s seemingly always running, cycling, indoor rowing or, in season, skiing in one discipline or another.

And last month she was, by miles, the oldest competitor in the Routeburn Challenge run over the Routeburn track.

She and her husband Jef Desbecker also live in a lovely homestead in a stunning Crown Terrace spot 300 metres above the valley.

‘‘I can look around here and I’ve basically run up every hill,’’ she says.

Growing up in Palmerston North, Bodle recalls her father encouraging her running at an early age.

‘‘He made sure we were always very physical; he had a high jump and a long jump in the backyard.’’

She attended a private primary school but after the family moved to Mount Maunganui, ‘‘I went to probably the worst primary school in New

Kids chased her home and threw things at her due to her refined accent and academic superiority — ‘‘I had to be one of the worst children just to be accepted’’.

For high school she was sent to an Auckland boarding school she disliked so much she’d tick off how many days she had to go, as if she was
serving a prison sentence.

When she left after four years, she did a secretarial course and went flatting in the swinging ’60s.

When she had an affair with a man who’d been married, her parents — by then farming in the Waikato — kicked her out, she says.

Bodle subsequently married another man and they had two children — Nikki and Anthony — however by the mid-1970s they’d broken up.

‘‘I was one of the early solo mothers which was not an easy thing to be because you had the finger pointed at you quite a lot.’’

In the late ’70s she came to Queenstown on holiday and decided to return to live here — ‘‘I could be free here and I liked the mountains’’.

Bodle worked a number of jobs including being lawyer Graeme Todd’s first secretary.

She also recalls becoming the first female to hang-glide solo off Coronet Peak after earlier enjoying a tandem flight.

‘‘It was interesting being a solo mother.

“I definitely woke up a few nights and there was somebody’s husband by my bed thinking I needed companionship.’’

In 1984, she picked up an American off a bus, Desbecker, who’d been given her address by a friend — ‘‘he’d seen pictures of me on a snowmobile and thought, ‘I want to meet this girl’’’.

Two years later they married in a little Spanish church in Los Angeles, swapping earrings for the occasion and wearing cut-off T-shirts.

Interestingly, they’d separately discovered telemark skiing — ‘‘it’s awesome, it’s just like dancing down the slope’’, Bodle says.

They both taught the discipline, and she became chief examiner of the telemark division for the then NZ Ski Instructors Alliance.

During 1989 they bought their ‘Skyview’ property on the Crown Terrace.

They got into organic gardening and Bodle grew organic herbal tea she sold as Wakatipu Gold.

In 2001 they built their homestead using 100-year-old Jarrah bridge beams and local rough-sawn timber — Desbecker building it to floor plans Bodle drew up.

She says they sleep in a bedroom exposed to the elements as they like the fresh air — ‘‘some people probably say it’s crazy’’.

Bodle helps people with nutrition and is a qualified naturopath and has latterly taken up painting as a hobby.

But she’s far from sedentary and when she’s not running, biking or skiing, has Pilates and rowing machines at home and a cycle trainer.

‘‘I’ve got eight pairs of skis and six pairs of running shoes.’’

She’s now swapped the latter for road bike shoes as she and Desbecker prepare for a six-week cycle holiday in Eastern Europe.

The couple also sponsor a $500 award to the best improver in the Kepler Challenge running event each year under the motto, ‘good planets are hard to find, don’t blow it’.

As to what drives her ‘‘very active lifestyle’’, Bodle says ‘‘apart from how good it makes me feel, I intend to be around for a long time still being physical and enjoying the life I’ve been given to the best of my ability’’.

‘‘I’ll still be running when I’m 100.’’

[email protected]

- Advertisement -