Six locals to run 90km ultramarathon for Black Dog Institute
SEVEN thousand kilometres, 25 pairs of shoes and millions of calories in food later; six Bundaberg locals are ready to run the oldest ultramarathon in the world.
The Comrades Marathon began in 1921 and is 89km long. It is run annually in South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
And in the marathon world, it is one of the most recognised, highly regarded races on the planet.
The race takes marathoners on a painful journey through the Valley of a Thousand Hills and sees them run both up and downhill, reaching a total elevation gain of 1150m.
Born in South Africa, 38-year-old Chantal Kriel said it was always her dream to run the Comrades.
"It's something that South Africans aspire to," she said.
"We all follow it and I always said one day I'm going to train and do that. And I guess that day is now."
It was Ms Kriel who connected the rest of the group to the renowned race.
"We are doing it to raise funds for Queensland Rural Clinical School bursary ... and for the Black Dog Institute," she said.
The Black Dog Institute is an institute which aims to reduce the incidence of mental illness and the stigma around it and to actively reduce suicide rates.
General practitioner David Shilton, 36, said running the Comrades had always seemed like "an impossible task" for him.
"I heard about (the race) in a magazine when I was 18. Since then I have always wanted to do it but I never thought it was a possibility," he said.
"But then we conveniently started running with a South African woman (Chantal) and it just happened."
On the other side is 46-year-old Campbell Gradon, who never wanted to run a marathon.
"I led the 'You guys are mental, I'm not going to do that' group, and then as soon as they entered I was like 'F-ck, okay, fine, I'll do it'," he said.
The pharmacist told the NewsMail since he started training for the Comrades, he had burned through five pairs of shoes and about 3500 calories each day of training.
"It's addictive. You find out a lot about yourself when you're doing long distances."
"Once you cross that three-hour mark your body goes into survival mode ... Your body is aching and telling you to stop but you have to find a way to go forward, so you start to reflect on your life. And whatever problems you've got going on in your life mean nothing at the time because your body is crying out for food and water and rest."
Nurse John Laverick, 52, has been running with the Bundaberg Road Runners the past five years.
Mr Laverick said his main motivation flowed from his mentor, who recently died.
"He always said I should do it (the Comrades). So that's kept me motivated this past year," he said.
"But you also have your doubts, like 'Why am I doing this?'."
Mr Laverick has been forced to reduce the number of kilometres he has run this month due to a nagging calf strain.
"I ran 600km in April alone," he said.
Injuries are not a new concept for the rest of the group either.
Ms Kriel said each team member had been ailed by achilles and foot injuries over the past year of training.
"It takes a lot of time and effort and kilometres on the legs," she said.
Both together and apart, the six have been training six days a week, sometimes twice a day for the past 12 months.
"We fly over on June 5 ... the race is on the June 10," Ms Kriel said.
Each group member is aiming to complete the Comrades in under nine hours, which will earn them a medal combined of both bronze and silver.
To donate, go to the Run with Rob Comrades 2018 Facebook page at @ComradesWithRob.
To watch the live stream of the race, go to the website at http://www.comrades.com/.