Why I Run
The night of the Darkness To Daylight solo run is fast approaching. And I have hit a major wall with my training where my legs don't seem to work and I worry about the smallest thing – a small blister on the back of my heel, for example – which normally wouldn't concern me at all.
This always happens when I approach a big run like this. The first time I ran 100km was back in 1995 during the Sacred Run. It was an all night (and half the next day) run near the end of our two-and-a-half month journey. Some of the 'long runners' including myself were challenged to each cover the distance. In the days leading up to the run, though, my feet swelled up double in size. I never worked out why. I tried everything available (not much, given that we were living on the road) to fix them – acupuncture, massage, rest – but they wouldn't go back to normal size. I wondered if I would be able to do this big run at all. But I recall Dennis Banks reminding me that this run was bigger than any one individual and I needed to understand in myself what was more important and whether this problem with my feet was going to stop me.
So I ran. And within 20km my feet had gone back to normal size. This may have been because of something physical because of blood circulation. But I think it also had a lot to do with me getting over the psychological obstacle of nervousness, trepidation and, yes, even fear of doing this run which had perhaps manifested itself physically and knowing that it was more important to do what I could to carry the message that All Life Is Sacred.
For me, running is not about competition, PBs or even fitness. For me, running is a prayer and a meditation. I get most out of a run when I am doing it for a higher purpose. I hope my run on Wednesday night fulfils its purpose and makes a positive difference.
And so today is the first day of a week off work to focus on preparing physically and mentally for the run. I have bought new shoes, shoe supports, sports drinks & snacks and an arm band to hold my phone. I have received some fantastic support from family, friends and colleagues. This has all put me in a positive frame of mind to do the best I can on Wednesday night.
I still have fear and trepidation not knowing what the night will bring – but that it will no doubt include some pain and despair. And then I remember those who face each night of their lives with the same fear and trepidation and not by choice. And so I will overcome the 'swollen feet' in my mind and I will run. To put an end to domestic and family violence.
Working Together To Address DFV
I first came to understand the issue of DFV in the early days of establishing a community engagement program in the Brisbane office of MinterEllison almost 20 years ago. We had a meeting with the then Lord Mayor who impressed upon us the impact of DFV on the Brisbane community as a whole and in particular the business community. He introduced us to a small group of people who were looking at ways (based on a model from the US) to engage with workplaces to address DFV and raise awareness about the issue. This small group of people became Australia's CEO Challenge. It made sense to work with ACEOC to address what was then a very silent issue in the community. By working with ACEOC in a very holistic way, coordinating a variety of our resources into assisting it to run its business, we could be part of a significant and uniquely targeted approach to addressing DFV.
Logically, then, if we were going to make a difference in the community, it made sense for us to be part of raising awareness about DFV, to do something about it and to work with ACEOC. But, for me, there was also the emotional connection.
In an earlier blog, I mentioned the Sacred Run as the catalyst for the Darkness To Daylight Challenge. The message of the Sacred Run was that 'All Life Is Sacred'. To me, this means we need to do whatever we can to take care of Mother Earth, plants & animals and other people. I am passionate about helping others and the thought of DFV is just abhorrent to me. Early on in the partnership with ACEOC, they sent me to a conference on DFV. The conference opened with the playing of real 000 calls – one from a victim of DFV and the other from her son who had run away from home. Those calls were horrifying. I still remember them to this day and particularly when I am out in the middle of the night running. When I'm hurting and tired and, yes, sometimes scared, I remember those calls and push through it – thinking about the hurt, tired and scared that others go through every night. By running with this mindset, I can do my little bit to raise awareness and put an end to DFV.
Preparing To Run!
Training for the run on 27 May has been a bit of a challenge with the various restrictions in place coupled with my ongoing need to be careful how much UV I absorb! My usual running tracks are not really designed with social distancing in mind – I'm mostly talking bush tracks where there's not much room to move to one side. I have ended up settling on a few different variations of running around the streets of my neighbourhood. I'm in a suburb where you don't get very far without encountering yet another hill which has made training interesting – and then I realise that this is probably where I'll be running on the night and the prospect of getting up those hills over and over again all night is a bit daunting (whereas the usual D2D track is pretty flat).
In the past I've tried a few different ways to prepare physically for D2D. I haven't really properly looked into it – I'm not a professional runner or personal trainer – I've really just made it up as I go along. For me, what seems to work is consistency – just making sure I get out and run at least once a day. Not necessarily great distances – maybe 10km a day as a base with some extra kilometres here and there if I get the chance. To ensure consistency I've got to have a routine and this year I have had to adapt my routine to fit around the world as it is now.
This year, my routine has been to run almost 10km around the neighbourhood at around 4am (very few people to avoid and no UV), make an early start on my 'working from home' day and then do a 3km walk with my son in the early afternoon. Over the last week I have been increasing the morning run slowly up to 30km at any one time. Over the last seven days I've run/walked (mostly run) about 154km in total (so an average of about 22km a day). Generally I try to enjoy it to get through it but I must admit there are many times when I'm struggling and wishing I was back in bed!
So I find that the mental and spiritual preparation is equally – if not more - important for a run like this. The hills, the cold, the pain, the blisters – they are going to be there no matter how much physical training I do. It's my mind and spirit that will keep me going. This is not about me. This is for people in abusive relationships who go through way more than me most nights and not by choice. And so I spend time leading up to the run thinking about that – remembering the purpose of this run: to put an end to DFV. And I also try to stay positive – when I come to a hill I smile at it – and always think of the run in achievable segments. With purpose and positivity in mind it's much easier to get out of bed at 4am and run!
May 1st - Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month
Today, May 1, marks the beginning of Queensland’s Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month.
In recognition of the importance of Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month, we invite you to take a moment to watch Darkness to Daylight event Founder, Rob, holding a drumming ceremony in the spirit of the American Indian Movement's Sacred Run in which Rob participated in 1995.
We believe in a world without domestic and family violence, join us by watching and sharing this video.
History of Darkness to Daylight
In 1995, I was honoured to take part in the American Indian Movement's Sacred Run as around 100 people from many corners of the world joined together to run from the top of Japan to the bottom, relay fashion, over the course of two-and-a-half months to commemorate the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, arriving in those cities on the 50th anniversaries of those horrible events. All the way, we carried the message in a willow staff always held by the lead runner, that 'All Life Is Sacred'. This was not a competition. It was not about who came first, who ran faster or who ran further. It was about a community of people, all passionate about raising awareness and making positive change, coming together to achieve way more as a group than they could achieve as individuals. Every person contributed the most they could because they believed in the cause. We were running for a reason.
Over 15 years later, the Fukushima disaster occurred. This brought back to me strongly the memory of running along the coast of Japan and the message of the Sacred Run. One of the highlights of that time for me was running 100km overnight and Dennis Banks (founder of the Sacred Run) later saying that he now knew that if he needed someone to run a long way in Australia, he could call on me. With that in mind, I set out to raise awareness about the situation in Japan and some funds for the recovery effort by running 100km from Gold Coast to Brisbane. This reminded me of the power of running for a purpose and I wanted to do more.
I had been on the Board of and working with Australia's CEO Challenge for many years already. I have always been impressed by their work addressing domestic and family violence through workplaces. And I had learned the terrible reality of domestic and family violence from them. When I was talking to them about my running they told me that in the last year 110 people had been killed in Australia as a result of DFV. This horrified me. The idea came to me of raising awareness of how huge a number this is by running that many kilometres. So in 2012, I ran from Sunshine Coast to Brisbane, virtually on my own and through the night. This was a highly symbolic run representing the darkness and isolation of being in abusive relationship with every kilometre representing a life lost.
Out of all of that came the Darkness To Daylight Challenge. I have been so proud to see that grow into a major community event with thousands taking part but never losing the initial intent of community, symbolism, purpose, meaning, non-competition. This is a physical and positive way for people to come together to make a stand against DFV in a way that people will not fail to notice. And each person can contribute whatever they can to the cause – run alone during the night or in a relay team, marshal, run the last 10km in the morning or walk the final 3km. Every step counts.
With the events of earlier this year and now the significant impact of the current health situation on those in abusive relationships, it is more important than ever that carry the message that DFV is not okay. While we can't carry on with the public Darkness To Daylight Challenge event as planned, as its founder I am passionate about keeping alive the essence of the run and its connection to DFV Prevention Month – until we can all (hopefully) come together again in October. That's why I will be running around my house and yard overnight on 27 – 28 May – with every step a prayer for the end of DFV.
I hope you can support me by donating to ACEOC, buying a hoodie or sending out messages to your networks.
Thanks for visiting my fundraising page for the Darkness to Daylight Challenge!
Every 1km in the 110km challenge represents on average a woman, child or man's life lost to Domestic and Family Violence. Together we are running through the night to bring Domestic and Family Violence out of the Darkness and into the Daylight.
With your support we can make a difference in the lives of those affected by Domestic and Family Violence, and help end the cycle of violence.
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Thank you to my Sponsors
Women's Crisis Support Service Inc.