From the July 2012 issue of Runner’s World
Police sergeant David Eadie will run in the world’s toughest race this month to show Melbourne Street kids they don’t need to suffer alone
By Evie Serventi
Breezing into Melbourne’s St Kilda Police Station each morning, David Eadie doesn’t grumble about traffic jams, abusive drivers or weaving cyclists. The reason? He runs to work. And often back home, too. After all, what’s a mere 40 kilometres – each way – to your average ultra-marathon runner?
In fact David, 41, the 2011 Australian male ultra runner of the year, is clocking around 220 kilometres each week in preparation for the Badwater Ultra Marathon, a 217-kilometre run in Death Valley, California. He is also sizzling in a sauna to acclimatise, to make sure he can cope with running in heat of up to 55°C, in what its organisers claim is the ‘world’s toughest foot race’.
With only a handpicked group of athletes from around the world make the cut each year, just being accepted is a badge of honour. But for David, who will be running for Reclink Australia, his main mission is to help St Kilda’s disadvantaged, homeless, drug and alcohol affected people improve their health and wellbeing through sport. David says it’s not about winning; it’s about setting and achieving a goal.
“Street kids and disadvantaged people don’t often have a goal. My work is primarily about setting a goal and achieving it.
“I see people doing nothing all day and I want to see them engaged,” says David.
Running first turned into a useful icebreaker for David about 10 years ago when he was a police instructor on the High Challenge Program; a three-day camp of sports, flying fox, high ropes course and problem solving for troubled and socially disadvantaged people. After chatting about his running he found more and more young people were interested in joining him for a run.
“So I found myself taking a group for a short run the next morning at the camps. It gave me a talking point to build some rapport with the young people – who were often anti-police.”
Troubled youths find a police uniform off-putting, but David discovered his hobby is the crucial missing link.
“I have found that talking with people about my own running and sporting achievements breaks down the barriers and they often open up about their own interest in sport.”
Cracking your comfort zone
The global ultra marathon industry has raised its profile in the last 20 years, but remains niche. And it’s an oxymoron: you run alone, but with crew support. It’s a huge commitment, but the rewards are worth it, as talented UK-based ultra marathoner, coach and event organiser James Elson (centurionrunning.com) explains: “When you finish a race, you feel an incredible sense of achievement for yourself and your crew, who are with you for the entire race and as invested as you are in the experience. It’s almost therapeutic – and addictive!”
James and David agree that physical training aside, you won’t get far in an ultra race without being mentally prepared. They both use visualisation techniques to get them to the finish line.
“At some point, something will go wrong,” concedes James. “You have to be mentally prepared and work through each problem beforehand to minimise them in the actual event.”
David adds: “It’s a massive psychological battle, but you break it down into sections. Positive affirmations are the secret.”
“Ultra running is about finishing, not about the time,” he concludes. In other words, it’s the journey you take that counts. And when David sets off on 16 July, every step of his journey will imprint discipline, self-belief and courage – leaving a pathway for St Kilda’s street kids to follow.
Reclink Australia is a national charity whose mission is to provide sporting, social and arts activities to enhance the lives of people experiencing disadvantage. Reclink’s people believe that everyone has the right to experience and develop the social connections achieved through participation in community, recreational and cultural activities. As an ambassador for Reclink, David aims to raise $10,000 to help fund the charity's sporting programs which includes weekly runs/walks, golf, swimming activities, table tennis, football and mini golf, among others. For more visit www.reclink.org.
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