Voices of Real Australia: Why do we run?

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The motivational signs were a sure indicator things were going to get harder.

The motivational signs were a sure indicator things were going to get harder.

What's with the addiction to running?

I asked myself that a few times on Sunday when I was panting laboriously up towering sand dunes, feeling like a mountain goat as I swerved around clumps of spinifex, and then winced my way across a seemingly endless gibber plain.

I was just one of about 200 lycra or Merino wool-clad people who'd signed up to actually run through the Simpson Desert on the weekend.

Organised by Jenna Brook of Running For Bums fame (she raised money for, and awareness of, bowel cancer by running from the bottom of Tasmania to the tip of Cape York), the newest addition to ultra trail running debuted on her family's property west of Birdsville.

In sight of Big Red, some very experienced runners were giving the Simpson Desert Ultra 100km track a test, mostly by headtorch-light from what I could see.

Some of the 100km ultra marathon runners leaving the Simpson Desert Ultra hub on Saturday afternoon. Photo - Sally Gall.

Some of the 100km ultra marathon runners leaving the Simpson Desert Ultra hub on Saturday afternoon. Photo - Sally Gall.

From my position as a novice trail runner, trotting out from the warm and cosy event hub powered by generators and enthusiasm, into the vastness of the desert at night, following a Hansel and Gretel trail of markers, is one I will have to work into.

I found it tricky enough being alone on country roads for the months that I trained - I've lived in western Queensland all my life and would not have been at all surprised to have found a wild dog quietly trailing me on one of those early morning runs.

But survive I did, and so did the runners on Sunday.

The techniques used to propel themselves around the course of lumpy, deceivingly soft sandhills, interspersed with plains of gibber stones, that vomit of long-ago volcanos, would have frightened any dingo off - Twenty Questions was one I was asked to contribute to as I jogged by.

One bloke had Spotify blaring on his phone - I guess silence can be scary for some.

Another, a female runner, had me intrigued as I approached - her walking poles were flailing and I was wondering if the flies were getting too much to bear.

But as I drew closer, I could hear she was singing and sure enough, as I drew level I could see the headphones in as she conducted her own private concert in the desert.

It sounded a lot like Bon Jovi's 'Living on a Prayer' - I don't know that 'oh oh, we're halfway there' would be the tune I'd be playing to motivate myself but each to their own.

I'm sure this was Big Red's big brother.

I'm sure this was Big Red's big brother.

My motivation? Just to see what I was capable of.

I'm not young and unbreakable anymore - OK, I'm 59-and-a-half - and I started running two years ago just because I knew I had to get moving.

I could feel that sedentary lethargy creeping up, slowly but surely, and I knew I had way too much living still to experience, to let it drift away in a sea of apathy.

Goals and challenges became the way I got myself through the horrible panting hell of interval training and threshold running, and it was only by accident that I discovered the surge of energy it gave me to be even more productive at work.

But it was on Sunday that I discovered the ultimate pleasure of putting myself to the test in the 25km run, and coming up trumps.

I don't know if this happens everywhere but at the midpoint checkpoint and again at the end, the organisers had binoculars out seeking the number on your bib so they could encourage the crowd to cheer you in.

If I doubted what the hell I was doing, it evaporated then

That's no bad thing, to feel a sense of achievement, and I reckon doing it in the Simpson Desert, which swallowed up novice explorers and made men out of many a pioneer, is no bad thing either.

Bring on SDU 2022!

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