Running to the Roof of Australia

In November of 2018, my best friend Billy and I ran up Australia’s highest mountain in our Pyjamas in under 4 hours. We did this in an attempt to raise money to help children who suffer from cancer and after being featured on multiple radio shows, news articles and television we succeeded in raising over 5000$ for the ‘Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation’. I want to write this blog to reflect on why we did this, what the experience was like and what we plan on doing next.

It all started (like anything) with a thought which formed into an idea which formed into a plan. I don’t remember exactly when the seed started to grow but I remember multiple conversations with Billy about how much I love Kosciusko (Australia’s highest mountain), we then talked about summiting it together and then somehow we thought “It would be cool to run up it” then “Why don’t we do it for a charity?”. After these conversations, we decided to take it seriously. The next question was “What charity would we want to support and why?”. For me this was clear.

I had been volunteering at a Children’s Hospital in Australia, and at the time I was upset, strangely angry and humbled by the experiences I had at that hospital. There were many days at the hospital where I was the only volunteer in my department which was ‘Play therapy’. Basically, I would visit the different children in hospital and offer them toys or activities to do and often times I would sit and play or talk with them to try to make there day a little brighter. I saw children as young as 10 years old suffering from a serious terminal illness, I saw babies and mothers in hospital on and off for weeks, I saw 8-year-olds in hospital by themselves who were so bored that they asked me for homework. The thought that there are kids out there that suffer and die in hospitals like this due to terminal illness, does not make sense to me and it breaks my heart and I refuse to live in a world where we don’t do everything we can to help relieve the suffering of people (especially children) as much as possible.

After talking with Billy about this he shared his story about how his father had once been diagnosed with cancer and how much that scared him and how he couldn’t imagine a child going through that same experience.

The decision was made. Now it was time to work. We trained exhaustingly. We trained both separately and together pushing ourselves to our physical limits. I would run for hours, I would run every chance I had. In my spare time, I would contact different businesses, radio stations, magazines, blogs and news stations to see if anyone was interested in our story. I posted photos of our training all over social media, I put up posters promoting the run all over my town, I talked with the owners of restaurants, bakeries, cafes and grocery stores to see if they would contribute.

Training in our local national park

Slowly, some money started to trickle in. First from friends and family than other people who had heard about our mission. Then one day while I was running, the editor of a news article contacted me and asked if he could interview me about our run. Shortly after, we were in the local newspaper. Following this, we had a stream of media asking for interviews and expressing interest in our mission. I could not believe the amount of support we received in these following weeks. We were featured on multiple radio shows and articles, NBN News even contacted us and asked us to film the run so they could feature us on television.

We were on a high. A runner’s high. All of our work had come to fruition and the mission had grown beyond anything we imagined.

The run was getting closer and before we knew it, it was time to make the trip to the highest mountain in Australia. We drove down a day earlier and met with the founders of the ‘Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation’. They were such lovely people and they explained to us how their son Steven Walter was just 19 when he passed away from cancer and how much he loved life and adventure. Since then, they had committed themselves to live Steven’s dream of raising funds for Cancer Research so no one had to go through what he went through. It was an honour to meet such incredible people.

Accompanied by our two friends Matt and Andrew (who decided to join us on our run) and with a fire in our belly and a mountain to conquer in the morning, we slept. When we woke up, we peered out the window to see dark clouds surrounding the mountains. When we arrived at the start of the track it was freezing cold and raining lightly. Perhaps not an encouraging start but with the support of our family, friends and the fire of motivation burning in our bellies we began the long run on two strong feet.

The start of the run was perhaps the most difficult. The mountain was so steep and there were a few times that we had to stop to cross a river or were forced to walk fast up the steep sections, to avoid burnout. After this initial section, we started to run on snow, which was also difficult but kind of cool at the same time (pardon the pun). We slipped and slid and it was hard to keep a solid pace, on the snow. We then arrived at a section which was flatter, so we took full advantage of it and ran as fast as we could, to gain back some time.

The first site of snow…here we come
Beautiful views of the surrounding mountains
Trudging through the snow

We then ran into a wall. A big, snow wall. The snow was hard, so it was slippery, and the only way around was down. This really set us back, but afterwards, it was back to smooth sailing and before we knew it, Kosciuszko was in our sites. We ran as fast as our tired little jelly legs could take us until finally, we reached the summit. Standing on the roof of Australia I took deep breaths of joy (and gulps of water) and we said our words to Steven Walter, to the life he had, the person he was and the mission he continues to carry out through us.

Then…well…we stripped and took half-naked photos of ourselves in the snow on Australia’s highest peak. What else were we gonna do? We then filmed what we needed for the news and continued running to the end of the track.

Half naked photo on the summit

Now I must admit the final part of the run tested me both physically and mentally like never before. So close to the end, I was exhausted and my mind was playing tricks on me. “The end is just around the corner” my mind would say ten times over and still believe itself. There is a certain feeling, a specific mindset you reach sometimes during a long run. I call it ‘Runners high’. When you feel you could run forever even if you broke your leg. No force on earth could stop you. You feel powerful and infinite. I felt this while listening to ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem for the 20th time. And soon after, the end was in sight and before I knew it, I was lying on the road with a chocolate bar in one hand, water in the other and a beat-up look on my face.

We raised 5298$, completed the track in under 4 hours and spread our message all over the media. However, finishing the run was not the end of our adventure. I had never felt so alive, so driven and so fulfilled, this was only the start of something much grander and much more testing. Billy and I always talked about how if we could just help one person, make one small difference, inspire one person to spread kindness, then every minute of training and pain and work was more than worthwhile. This is why we are continuing our work through our next mission. Go here to learn about our next mission http://peakofmind.org/myadventures/

Media Appearances

Radio Shows-

https://omny.fm/shows/sea-fm-central-coast-breakfast/coasties-running-22kms-in-their-pajamas-for-charit

https://omny.fm/shows/sea-fm-central-coast-breakfast/local-lads-raise-over-5k-running-in-their-pjs

NBN News-

https://www.nbnnews.com.au/2018/11/20/pyjama-hike-up-mount-kosciuszko-for-cancer/

News Article-

Promotional Video-

I want to thank the following people; Our friends Matt and Andrew from Home Care Heroes, Steven and Sue from the ‘Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation, SeaFm, NBN News, Central Coast News and all of our friends, family and people who made it all possible.