Brett’s Run For CanTeen 29th – 30th March 2008.
After 3 years of training and 18 months dedicated to raising awareness and funds for CanTeen, the organisation for young people living with cancer the big day was almost upon me. With over 4000km of running, to build strength and endurance, including climbing and descending some of the highest and toughest trails Australia has to offer, while wearing through 8 pairs of running shoes and overcoming only two injuries including a serious back injury within two months of the event I found myself at the start line of brettsrun surrounded by family friends and supportive locals. Two weeks earlier it looked like I would be battling heatwave conditions and starting the event injured, fortunately for me the weather presented on the day was cool and wet, perfect for running, not quite so comfortable for the spectators. With local dignitaries performing the official duties of speeches and counting down to the start the Melboure Fire Brigade truck prepared to escort us down the road. 3….2….1.. we were on our way. A group of around 30 runners including the Mayor and little athletics members joined me as we ventured down the highway. During the first 12K some runners dropped off while others joined to support me, my support crew on bikes kept my food and drink supply up to me and the weather was perfect for my running engine.
Approaching the first support station we were joined by some very excited African peoples for a brief moment. At the first support station I took in some more food and fluids and promptly moved on. Joined by Australian ultra runners Dave Eadie and Scotty Orchard was a real boost, Dave is a mobile talking machine and his stories entertaining. The time flew by and before long we had passed our next support station in Essendon where the kids joined in on their bikes and were cruising to the Flemington race course support station marking the 21K point. With our support cars keeping ahead of us they were well set up and had all the provisions we needed. I still had the company of four other runners which continued to help the journey pass by with little effort. Continuing along the Maribyrnong River and through the industrial section of Footscray we passed under the west gate bridge then hugging the foreshore around to Williamstown where another milestone was ticked. The sky continued to threaten with black rain clouds hovering to the West. Taking another short break and grabbing a massage from James my masseur while the other support runners availed themselves of the abundant supplies set out by the support crew. My support crew manager continued to spruik for support over the megaphone while advertising the cause I was running for. Many bystanders offered words of encouragement and made some donations toward CanTeen. He also barked out instructions for me to be on the way keeping me as close as possible to the time schedule.
Barry dropped out at Williamstown after running from the start, a distance of 34Km a fantastic effort for a 71 year old. Dave Scotty Brendan and I continued on, we were joined by Damien on his bike, a CanTeen member who had half his leg replaced through cancer. It’s the courage and determination these guys show that drive me through any pain barriers. After all I can stop and the pain of running will go away, these young people living with cancer don’t have the option to make the pain go away.
For what little breeze there was it was now head on coming straight off the water which only added to cool things down. The route was picturesque through these parts as we wound away through the wet lands and bird sanctuary along the Williamstown front beach. It was here that Dave and Scotty left the convoy, they were fantastic support and really helped the distance tick over. They also put my mental state of mind in the right place to ensure it was a successful event. After several Kilometres the tranquil setting changed as we passed through the industrial section of Altona before arriving on the beach alongside the Altona Jetty, This was also another milestone clocking over the first of the four marathon legs. It was also another place to connect back with my support crew and have a quick stretch and restock my fuel. The stop was brief as the next section was going to bring night fall and even cooler temperatures. By now it was just Brendan and I with my cycling support crew. We weaved our way around the swampy bird sanctuary along Skeleton Creek fighting off mosquito’s trying to carry us away. There was not a breath of wind which was great for running but didn’t help blow the insects away. Crossing the bridge over Skelton creek brought us into the Sanctuary lakes estate and a major milestone was in reach. Rounding the corner onto Greg Norman drive brought the club house into view and the travelling party that was my support crew cheered our arrival.
The time was 7:40pm as I was greeted to the 1/3 distance, with hugs and handshakes. I made a dash for the men’s room, then took a 30 second shower and quick massage while polishing off a bowl of spaghetti. With my crew outside being well fed by a delivery of pizza and pasta it was time to keep this show on the road. I was due to go solo for several kilometres but received a surprise visit from Macca, who was planning to run the rest of the way with me, a mere 107 kilometres. This gave me a great boost; We donned our hi visibility vests, thanked the support crew and hit the road again.
The next 45K would present the greatest challenge both physically and from a safety point as we were pretty much running down the road, it was a slow start and our bike support crew suffered a second flat tyre in the space of an hour. The night was incredibly still and clear with a half moon to light the way. We looked like Martians on parade as reflective vests light the back roads of Wyndham shire, our orange flashing lights radiating across the market gardens bringing life to the scarecrow like figures. Our greatest hazard turned out to be the mud dragged on to the roads by the farm machinery. Making our way into Werribee as we crossed the freeway we seemed to startle some late night owls doing some kind of deal from their car windows, strangely this phenomenon continued for several kilometres through Werribee. Macca was a great asset, nice and fresh in the legs and continued to keep me on track while the support guys went about providing all my needs.
Reaching the 70K mark at the Werribee racecourse bought about a slow walk session. Now 10:30pm I found myself in the first of slog fest having to dig deep to keep moving forward. As we left the lights of the built up area and made our way through the back roads upsetting the local dog boarding kennels with our bright light and heavy footed slapping on the pavement. I finally found a suitable place to visit the men’s room. Not your tiled floor and walls and warm plastic seat but the location did the job and I felt like a new man and hit the bitumen with new vigour. This lasted a little while then the relentless roller coasting profile of the road brought about more walk sessions than planned causing lost time to the schedule. Not that time was a priority but it was good to stay with the clock as best I could.
Finally reaching the 80K turn point on the dirt back roads provided great relief and an opportunity for some warm soup and a quick leg rub. Lying on the mattress in the van was not a smart move as it felt real comfortable while James released the tension in my calves. Kevin Cassidy reporter and photographer tracked us down like a detective in search of a crucial clue to solve the case. The blackness of the night was interrupted by the flash from his trusty digital camera as he captured suspect pieces of evidence then like a ghost in the night he was gone. With soup boiled on the stove and blanket wrapped around the body we were greeted by some of my female running mates who came out to see me through to day break. Cathy injured, brought the bike and Veronica was ready to hit the road running. With another longer than planned stop it was time to get the show back on the road. It was a relief to be on the dirt which was considerably softer than bitumen. The next 10K was a mixed bag with some great pace and real slow walk sessions. The local farmer ploughing his field at 2am must have been perplexed to see such a light show and the skeleton like movements created by the safety vests intruding on his peaceful landscape. Conscious of keeping constant forward motion even while finding myself in a deep low spot I focused my mind on the CanTeen members and the courage they show when times are tough. Along with the constant support of my crew and some texts and phone calls from interstate and overseas I was able to bring myself out of the low spots and push forward, the lights of Little River were also a welcome sight. Approaching the 90K distance and again a visit to the men’s room set the scene for the next 10Km.
The walk session through Little River was a good tonic as the stretch ahead was straight and long. With difficulty setting landmarks along the way to tick off the 10K stretch in my mind was going to be the toughest yet. Amazingly it felt like the quickest section of the whole run, Harald arriving in the wee hours of the morning to help out and the extra activity added to the momentum of the hour. With more camera flashes than the paparazzi my night vision was taking a beating. Fortunately the road was flat and without hazard under foot. I looked to the heavens on several occasions, the stars were plentiful and a regular word of thanks was delivered for the conditions that prevailed and the strength my body was exhibiting. In what seemed like no time at all we were on the outskirts of Lara, with only a couple of streets to negotiate before the 100K point would be reached. The stone monument erected here to commemorate the expeditions of explorers Hume and Hovel also marked the point I would reach my greatest running milestone. Much to my dismay the road to this point was horrendously corrugated creating extreme conditions to run in. The criss crossing and slipping and sliding on the corrugations brought about my first blister in 100 Km. After a quick photo at the Monument and 100Km mark it was down to the support crew to get the blister attended to and a warm cup of soup.
The stop was very busy as Robyn tended by blister and Steve warmed the soup, we were a few hours behind schedule so there was a bit of panic in the camp to keep us moving forward. Not that time was critical but it would be nice to keep close to the anticipated 24 hours finish time. The early morning air was very cold and blankets were required to keep our stationary bodies warm. Keen to keep moving I tossed the blanket and headed off under the freeway into the darkness. For the first time torches were going to be needed as there was no vehicle access for the next few Kilometres. The trail ahead was undulating and added an extra challenge. It was another time to really dig deep as fatigue was setting in and the presence of every step reminded me of the blister under foot. Only a minor thing and short term I kept telling myself. The trail eventually rounded the hill and brought the lights of Geelong into view and our next check point where we would reconnect with the support vehicles, it wasn’t another planned stop but the option to visit the men’s room was utilised, after all the support cyclists had been feeding me constantly for the past 16 hours and I wasn’t burning all the fuel.
A message came that my cousin would soon be joining me and any fresh minds and legs were a good thing. The roadside trail was surrounded by water on one side and an oil refinery on the other; I was keen to get out of the industrial area as quickly as possible. The pace was hard to maintain and more than planned walk sessions were creeping in. The terrain was also uphill and I was pleased to peak the top and basically have a downhill run to the next major stop. This stop would also bring daylight and new life. Wayne and Russell were also about to rejoin the support crew after taking a break during the night. Local internet TV http://www.GOTV.net.au would also join the support team filming various sections through to the finish. It was great to shed the reflective vest we had to wear for safety through the night as the morning sun crested the horizon across Corio Bay. Arriving at the second last major stop had the usual routine of toilet, massage and more food, as if I hadn’t eaten enough already.
This break also meant James my masseur would leave us along with two of my running mates Cathy and Veronica. Harald and Nathan would also use the opportunity to get a lift back to town. We headed off again into a magnificent golden sunrise over the calm waters of Corio Bay. The weather through the night was perfectly still and it continued that way as the sun rose. Andrew who had been by my side since the 55Km mark was looking strong, my cousin Craig Duff was a great support having spent the last 6Km pepping us up. We continued around the Geelong Foreshore constantly being chased down by the TV camera crew looking for that magic shot with the boats and water in the background. Scheduled to stop at Eastern beach but given the slow session over night we ran straight through making our way to the Ballerine Rail Trail. Before getting there we were joined by local runner Brett Coleman and City of Greater Geelong Councillors Tom O’Connor and Steve Bentley on their bikes, these guys have been instrumental in gaining support and promoting the event in the Geelong region. I felt a new lease of life and the pace picked up slightly. Before long I found myself approaching the rail trail and the opportunity to get some dirt under foot rather than the harder concrete and bitumen surfaces I had to contend with for many Kilometres.
The rail trail also marked the spot where local CanTeen member Idonette would join me in her motorised wheel chair, despite dealing with her leukaemia she is a bubbly young girl and very inspiring. We continued for several kilometres before her battery started to run down, but along the way we chatted and her friends followed us cheering us along which really help the distance go by. I was also joined by some friends through my work connections that came out to run and ride with us. Although the general trail is uphill we kept a fair pace and were making up some lost time from over night. With continued support from Wayne my chief crew member at road crossings and on the trail from Chris and Kylie on bikes it wasn’t long before I was approaching Drysdale rail station. Another huge milestone and where Mum and Aunty Val and Uncle Ken would be waiting for me. It had been amazing how this section had gone by so quickly, sure the legs were sore and the feet were suffering but arriving at this point meant only 25Km remained. As always the support crew were setup and ready to attend my every need. Robyn filled in and gave me a quick leg rub, while I took in some more soup and a Nurafen to dull the pain in the feet. It was great to see lots of family here and the kids would join in on their bikes and ride to the finish.
As quickly as possible I checked in and out and hit the trail for the final leg. The trail is mostly downhill but it has a couple of steep drops that you need to climb out of. This offered an additional challenge to the already tiring legs. Part way along the trail Darren Duff another cousin joined in and brought a real vibrancy to the group. If Andrew or I dropped off a little he would stay with us and keep us focused and moving forward. Andrew was a real inspiration to me, it’s one thing to be doing your own event, but to commit yourself to support someone else’s was inspiring and I was honoured to have him by my side. It wasn’t long before we were due to leave the trail and make our way via some back roads. The spectator contingency was growing at every corner. More family and friends had come out to cheer us on and support us to the finish. The roads ahead offered some very challenging rolling hills and more than ample corrugations to challenge our feet some more, as if they weren’t doing it hard enough. We were also joined by Brendan who ran the first 55Km then headed home to rest before running the city link run for the kids early Sunday Morning. Not content with that he jumped straight in the car with his family and joined me for the last 20Km. This was a huge commitment to supporting a friend of which I was most grateful. As the numbers grew we clocked off the Kilometres. The TV crew kept following us and local newspaper photographers were snapping away. For the first time the sun was breaking through and the day was warming. The water supply was being kept up to all of us along with freshly cut oranges, my favourite choice of food for the last 50Km. The road surface was smoothing out and the bitumen ahead was to mark the 8km run home.
Much to my surprise we were greeted here by the local country fire brigade who were going to escort us to the finish line. This was also a huge relief as the road here becomes quite busy and the fire truck provided us protection. My Uncle Tom Watson also joined here and has been a huge inspiration to me all my life. There wasn’t a whole lot said over the following distance as both Andrew and I were focusing our energies on getting to the finish. The mood in the group was fantastic and to my surprise I was still very much aware of everything and in total control albeit tired and sore. The fire truck was announcing to the locals and holiday makers that we had run for nearly 160Km and had been on the road for 24 hours, many responded with cheers and clapping which added to the atmosphere. Passing through St Leonards was a great relief as it was all downhill from here. The wind had come up and was head on to add a little extra challenge. With a kilometre to go we were joined by Idonette in her wheel chair and some of our children. We had kept up a relentless pace and taken very few walk sessions in the last 25Km and it was starting to show. We crested the last little rise to be confronted with the welcome to Indented Head sign. A few hundred metres up the road and we would head for the foreshore trail for the last 500 metres to the finish. After crossing over the road we regrouped and headed for the finish line. It was an extremely emotional moment as the crowd of family and friends came into view. As always when the finish is insight there is a new kick in your step and we broke through the finishing ribbon made from CanTeen Bandanas to the applause of all our supporters. What a relief to cross the line and the emotions flowed freely, there where loads of hugs and congratulatory handshakes. It was an amazing journey that proved the human body is capable of so much, so long as the mind is strong and willing. The finish line was a buzz as I chatted to people and did a TV interview. After the formalities I just wanted to thank the people who helped me get here. I took a brief moment to soak my legs in the cold water of Port Phillip Bay then mingled with family and friends.
Brettsrunforcanteen started as a solo journey over 18 months ago but it ended as a team effort. One man could not have completed this journey without the support of his family and friends and for that support I am forever grateful. My beautiful wife and children gave me the time to train and prepare and Robyn put together the final touches leading up to the start of the run. Robyn also kept everything running smoothly for the entire run without any sleep herself. My mate Wayne who kept the whole thing moving and setting up the aid stations was a rock. James for keeping my legs operating and other support drivers in Steve, Nathan, Russell and Harald quietly went about doing the jobs seeing everyone was safe, a fantastic effort. My Running mates Andrew (107Km), Brendan (75), Barry, Dave, Scotty Veronica and Cathy (30Km) were an incredible support, each added a dimension that helped me get to the end. A special mention for Andrew who ran 107Km and was by my shoulder the whole distance was truly inspiring. To the other groups and individuals who joined for short sections I am most grateful for your support. Last and by no means least my cycle support crew, Chris and Kylie who were at arm’s reach for the entire journey keeping me fuelled with food and drink. Without you I would not have arrived in the shape I did. Your efforts and endurance were amazing and I am most grateful for all you have done to support me. To all who were involved in helping setup this event I say a huge thanks.
As part of my preparation for this event I also required much remedial maintenance to keep my body in good working order, this came in the form of Chiropractic Adjustments from Dr Jim and Physio and Massage from Dave and Michael at Physiohealth, without their skilled attention I would not have made the start of this event, to you all a huge thanks. The support and advice from fellow ultra runners was also valuable in seeing me complete this ultra marathon, thank you to all for your advice and encouragement.
Not forgetting that the event was all about raising awareness and funds for CanTeen and without the support of the many sponsors and donations that have been pledged this would not have been a successful event; to all of you I also say huge thanks and offer my most heartfelt appreciation for your generosity.
For all the latest information including pictures and interviews keep and eye on the website at http://www.brettsrunforcanteen.org Brett will continue to support organisations like CanTeen through his running, stay tuned for the next adventure