Where it all started

As most kids do, we run a lot.

I didn’t love it or hate it, I just did it. Maybe I was good at it – though not the fastest.

I was impressed when I was young, with the likes of Tony Rafferty, with his running across Australia efforts. It wasn’t until 40\5 years later I had the opportunity to try it for myself, but I decided to run across south to north instead. (as I already lived in Melbourne).

Also, I was lucky to have an understanding partner to allow me to do this.

Melbourne to Darwin – Solo run 12 March – 13 June 2017

On 12th March, 2017 I set out to run solo from Melbourne, Victoria, to Darwin, Northern Territory. As Google would have it, the distance was approx. 3,700*kms – all dependent on final route. There were deviations in the route as I moved off the main road to seek accommodation or and medical help, and sometimes mechanical assistance for the Intrepid. (yes I named the buggy).

To garner funds and support, I needed to get some publicity. ABC Radio graciously invited me for an interview. I joined several other speakers – all doing something for a good cause – on the Jon Faine Conversation Hour. I also spoke on 3AW, The Daily Drive Omny.fm, ABC Alice Springs and RPP radio. A bonus was 3AW (Melbourne), and FiveAA (Adelaide) had me on weekly for updates. When I was out of range/signal, my dear wife stepped in to have a chat.

There was also the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts (not that I did all that much on the latter two – I had a couple of ‘PR’ people for that). Interest was shown and publicity was building …

Money isn’t everything!

Like many of us, the day to day struggle of paying bills etc was on my mind, hence my initial hesitation, so it was not the most financially beneficial decision made either. I took as much annual leave I had accumulated, and another two months unpaid leave.

“Everything will sort itself out,” was the phrase heard in the house. Personally, the ‘sorting out’ to my mind was ‘eviction’ of the unit, and ‘repossession’ of the car! My dear wife, Morag, is a very positive thinker – when one door closes and another one opens – not ‘when one door closes, another slams in your face’.

It had been suggested afterwards, if I was only doing it for myself, I might have given up when it got too hard (and it was hard, especially solo) but because I had supporters and sponsors, and doing if for a charity, I wasn’t going to give in.

Finance

IGA, Great Frames (both Northcote businesses) and a few good friends helped out with financial support. Their generous contribution was what allowed the initial purchase of shoes, medical supplies, camping equipment and a Garmin watch.

The Running Company–Clifton Hill supplied me with my running gear and Garmin watch for cost price, thereby allowing me to stretch the budget further. Great advice was given too; they did a running analysis to study my gait/stride to determine the type of footwear most suitable (and it wasn’t the most expensive either…) Due to the distance to run, the advice given suggested to purchase at least 3 or 4 pairs of shoes and wear them alternately each day. The logic behind this (no, not to ensure I bought all my shoes from them…) was to even out the wear and tear; otherwise going from a worn out shoe to a brand new shoe with intensive running could cause foot problems. Another consideration was without any ‘rest’, the shoes gel/cushioning had little time to recover. Ever worn thongs (flip-flops).. and noticed the depression under the heal and ball of the foot after a while? Resting the shoes prevented that. I cannot complain as the three pairs of Asics got me to Darwin without a problem. On my non-running days I indulged in the comfort of a pair of Hokas – so much cushioning – it was like a Jason Recliner Rocker for feet!

Not only was phone signal going to be a problem over the larger stretches of road, power was also a concern. Not so, thanks to the EnviroShop in Northcote. Ruby donated a PowerMonkey Extreme Solar charging kit for the run. While the first month or so I had accommodation to recharge all my devices, it definitely came into play once past Port Augusta and kept the various devices going for the remaining 60+ days. The PowerMonkey Extreme did quite well considering I was using it to charge and iPhone 6S+, an iPhone 4, iPad, Garmin Forerunner 235, a Bluetooth speaker and LED lights. Sitting on top of the Intrepid was probably not an ideal location for it as I was constantly running, and not always able to get direct sunlight on its surface, but we managed.

A bit about Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. Many of us have been affected by anxiety and depression, either personally or through family, friends or colleagues. Right now, over 1 million people in Australia experience depression and 2 million are experiencing anxiety. On average, 8 people take their lives every day in Australia.

It’s sobering to note that in the course of my 93 day run, 744 men, women and children in Australia alone would have taken their own lives; over a year that number is about 2,912. (not to get political, less than half that number die on Australian roads, yet less than half the dollars spent on our roads is put towards mental health research). Why is that, you ask? I have no idea, but perhaps the perception is a picture of a politician with nice new road/overpass/crossing as a backdrop looks better than standing in front of a mental health clinic … ☹

What is also sad – depression and anxiety is curable if detected early enough. No one chooses to suffer from anxiety or depression, whereas people can and do choose to drive stupidly and dangerously … and they are not always the one who is the victim.

Back to the run …

Prior to the run, in my planning stages, I had considered accommodation and the type of buggy to carry my supplies. I emailed nearly every provider of accommodation along my route (a list of acknowledgements at the end); those that replied were positive and very supportive. There were only two who were unable to assist. Some I turned down because I had already accepted an offer for the night. So, when I travelled through a town, regardless of where it was, I had a place to sleep and a meal – and sometimes even breakfast! And, when there was no town, I camped a ‘safe’ distance off the road. More of that later.

Also, according to anecdotal evidence, larger accommodation chains will not respond at all if they wont support with accommodation or meal. Their assumption is if they decline – and there is written (email) evidence of their lack of support – it will look bad on social media. So, they completely ignore you, even if you contact them two … or … five times.

Which brings me to the other item in preparations – how was I going to bring all my water, food and equipment? I didn’t like the look of those running prams – they just didn’t inspire confidence in their durability; remember, this is 3,700 kms along all sorts of road surfaces and gravel shoulders, with few opportunities for spare parts; jogging with 60+ kgs in a backpack was also very unappealing.

Some  might be inclined to think I’m a bit of a hoarder (“That will come in handy – one day…”) I had various bits of aluminium tubing and a whole swag of spare bikes, (we live in a block of units and the amount of accumulated discarded bikes was amazing), and nuts and bolts. I got my trusty tools out, pencil, paper and tape-measure and went to work. Once I had the initial frame set up, one of my good supporters MetroSigns took it away and created the Intrepid (Mk1). Their work gave me the signage and housing for my supplies … and a sunshade!

As it turned out, some re-engineering needed to be done (thanks to the Bacchus Marsh Lions Club), when the buggy broke. The sunshade made the whole buggy too top heavy and off balance, so that had to be removed within a couple of days, which was a shame. To my frustration, in Coober Pedy a stress fracture on the rear left wheel caused it to snap. I spent an impromptu rest day and searched for spare parts, then after repairs, continued north.

To the finish…

The run took 94 days, and I arrived in Darwin CBD mid-afternoon, with the graduating Fire and Rescue class as escort.

Overall, I had about 11 rest days, including a 4-day stint in Clare (thanks to Ken and Yvonne – Clare Lions Club), to recover from an infected any-bite received two-weeks earlier. I even gained a couple of kilos!

My longest run was 64kms – and at this time I was – unknowingly – suffering from the infection. With 83 days running/moving, I still managed an average of 44.5kms a day.

And … I managed to raise $10,000 for Beyond Blue.

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