Running on water

Actually on the Spirit of Tasmania 







Desembarking in Melbourne











Running with the Service Manager Luise Jarman














A lap around MCG with Sydney Swans and Richmon Tigers mascots




It is more than a year since my last charity run for the Make A Wish Foundation. I did not think that another run on Tasmanian soil would create much interest with the media and without the public being informed I could not expect much success in fundraising. It occurred to me that it could sound interesting if I made it a run “From Tasmania to Melbourne”!

How to do it? Place a treadmill on the ferry “Spirit of Tasmania” and keep running on it during crossing from Devonport to Melbourne and back.

I had some doubts that in these days of worries about public liability the management of the Spirit of Tasmania would allow me to do it. Nevertheless I wrote to them hoping for the best. I offered even to pay for my own fare. The only other person I discussed my plans with was Bob Weeding. He immediately offered to pay for his own fare if it goes ahead to be with me during the trip.

We did not have to wait long for the good news – to my surprise they said yes!

The first question was when? Firstly I looked at the AFL Season Fixture to see when the Sydney Swans are playing in Melbourne. I am a great fan of the team but so far have seen them playing only on TV. It could be a great opportunity to see them playing live. I could not believe my luck when I discovered that they were going to play Richmond in the last round 22 – 28th of August – the day of my 65th birthday!

Maybe I can make it even bigger event than just running to Melbourne and back.

I contacted Sydney Swans about the possibility of running onto the football ground during the match, which was to be played on the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground. At that time I let the Burnie branch of MAWF know about my plans. Through their contact with the Head office in Melbourne I soon discovered that it was not enough to talk to Sydney Swans only. It was Richmond’s home game so they would decide on what can or cannot be done. We would also need approval from AFL and MCC. Well, life was not meant to be easy! Luckily it was not so difficult either. The State Coordinator of MAWF Adrianne Sharkozy used to work for Richmond Football Club and knew whom to talk to. I did not have to worry about it any more. Meanwhile Dennis Hayes decided to join me on the ship as well and paid for his own ticket too.

I expected the Burnie branch of MAWF to take care of the fundraising while I concentrated on training. I never ran on a treadmill, always preferred running outdoors regardless of weather. Now it was time to get used to it. Graeme Thorp from Sports Power store in Burnie has been always very supportive and once again helped by providing a brand new treadmill free of charge. I had it for a month prior to the trip to get used to it as well as take it with me on the ship for the run.

Bianca Williams replaced Adrianne who left for greener pastures but both continued in the efforts to make sure that every detail was taken care of. Without their help I could not organize such a complex event.

It is Friday, 27th August 2004 and the day we have been waiting for is here. Dennis, Bob and myself are heading to Devonport to meet at 9.30 am with Caroline de Guingand who is the Corporate Communication Assistant of the Spirit of Tasmania. She arrived on the Spirit from Melbourne to ensure that everything runs smoothly. After meeting with her and the president of Burnie branch Joan Fawdry to discuss the final details it is time for media conference and photographers to take some pictures for newspapers and Win TV to take few shots on the location of the run on the Spirit.  Dennis and Bob had set up the treadmill and a very impressive display of MAWF information and a table with merchandise. The support from Tasmanian media is once again overwhelming and very much appreciated.

At 9 pm the Spirit leaves the Port of Devonport and I start running. There is no lack of support. Apart from Dennis and Bob my both sons with their wives and six children are there to cheer me up. There are about 600 passengers on the ship so there is a lot of movement around. It helps to keep my mind away from running. I am enjoying every minute of it.

Louise Jarman, the Hotel Service Manager approaches me with a surprise announcement: “I am going to walk next to you on another treadmill for an hour in my pyjamas if the crew collects $300 in donations.”

It does not take long and she is there. I did not hesitate to put on my pyjamas as well. It is a lot of fun. But it did not end after the hour. There was another challenge – make it two hours if the amount exceeds $400. It did not take long and there are big smiles on the faces of the crew – yes, we have over $400 so Louise has to do 2 hrs! Not easy in warm pyjamas as hers. I had only light one with shorts and yet was very happy to take it off after 2 hours and put on again my singlet. It was fantastic what Louise has done. It was the sort of attitude we experienced from the crew the whole time during both voyages.

After midnight most passengers were in beds. I did a few laps around the area to relieve the monotony of running in one spot but soon returned back to the treadmill. I was very lucky to have four TV screens in front of me. In the evening I watched the football and the rest of the night it was live broadcast of the Olympics. The worst time was around 2 am when I was getting a bit sleepy and started to count the hours – five hours gone - five to go. But after that the time started to move reasonably quickly and at 7 am, after 10 hours running we are in Melbourne. We have been very lucky with the weather. The sea was very calm so there were no problems at all.

I have time for a quick shower before arrival of Melbourne TV cameraman. After few shots and interview we are meeting with members of Melbourne branch of MAWF as well as four members from Burnie who arrived on a Toll ship. Without wasting too much time I am being driven to Adrianne’s flat for well-earned rest. It was nice to lay down and close my eyes though I could not sleep. Hour an half later I am driven back to the ship from where I restart my run, accompanied by Lauren while Bianca is leading on her bike. It is a very pleasant run through parks and other beautiful parts of Melbourne ending at Punt Road Oval – home of Richmond Football Club – for pre match function. The welcome is again overwhelming. TV cameras, Tiger Stripes Dyer – the mascot of their football team and many fans enjoying the lovely weather. MAWF is getting a lot of exposure, which is very pleasing. It is a pity that the club is having a very lean season finishing at the bottom of the ladder. The crowd would have been much bigger had they been more successful on the football fields and our fundraising could have been more successful.

After a couple of hours it is time to move on to MCG. I have with me a “wish child” Lachlan Cripps who is a mad Richmond supporter and is very exited about all the attention he is receiving from the crowd. Ten minutes before the start of the match we meet the mascots of both clubs and start running a lap around the ground. With 30,000 spectators cheering on, it is a feeling I have never experienced before. It is all projected on the large screen accompanied by voice explaining the event and giving information about MAWF. I can see the excitement on the face of young Lachlan, the same on the faces of my family when we are running past them and feel so proud to be a part of such a worthy cause. It does not get much better than this. I know that it has made a huge contribution to the awareness of  MAWF and what it is about.

My team – Sydney Swans had a big win. Strangely enough as important win as it was I could not enjoy it as much as I normally would. I had met with many officials and fans of the Richmond Tigers who had done so much for us. I felt a bit guilty for being a supporter of the team that caused them so much heartache. It was their 14th loss in a row and kept them at the bottom of ladder. Some people would say it is not important enough to cry over it, but many would not agree.

After the game my whole family attended the Sydney Swans’ after match function. Around two thousand fans packed up the hall at Bob Jane’s Stadium and when the players arrived, the crowd went crazy. Everyone wanted to take pictures with the players and get their autographs. I was really surprised to see how many supporters the Sydney Swans have in Melbourne. Perhaps it should not be so surprising – it was originally South Melbourne team, which was moved to Sydney some years ago.

All I was concerned about was that my grandchildren get autographs and pictures taken with the players. It was all achieved and with everyone happy we had to get back to the ship. I had about one and half hour time before departure so hurried to the cabin to get some rest.

At 9 pm the ship started moving and it was back on the treadmill and start my run to Devonport. This time there were only about 340 passengers and the difference was obvious. There were many groups of older passengers and soon after departure many of them retired to their cabin. It got very quiet, there was much less movement around than on the previous night. It obviously meant much less work for the crew on the ship and we enjoyed much more of their company. They were all so friendly and helpful. They could not do enough for us. Before long to my surprise they started singing “Happy birthday” to me accompanied with a lovely cake!

The rest of the night went on without any problem. I was watching the Olympics on TV, Bob and Dennis took turns in having rest in the cabin and I was counting the hours. Finally we are in Devonport and I must admit that I was relieved when I stepped down from the treadmill at 7 am for the last time. I was looking forward to meet my wife Jo with my dog Asta and to continue my run to Burnie – another 50 kms.

Although it was a very enjoyable time on the ship, I was glad to be back on the road. It was great to have again changing scenery around and to run with my training partner – Asta. It was very cold when I left ship so I started running in my tracksuit. But as the sun started to warm up, it did not take long and I was back in my running shorts  and T-shirt. It took me about seven hours to Burnie. We were due to run onto a football ground at half time – at 3 pm so we had to slow down towards the end and even found enough time to sit down in a takeaway shop near the football ground to enjoy a nice cup of coffee in a very relaxed mood.

After the run around the ground collecting donations it was suddenly all over. It was time to drive home, have a good shower and get ready for work next morning. Many people were surprised that I did not take a day off to rest. It might sound strange, but I was not really tired, in spite of spending around 30 hours running during those two days and having no sleep at all. I was so happy that everything went well and that was probably why I felt so fresh. And it was all so enjoyable that I was actually sad that it was all over.

I have to say, that our fundraising result was very short of our target, mainly because we could not shake the tins at the MCG. But the value of promotion of MAWF was significant. Some would say that never before MAWF received so much publicity in Melbourne. And for that reason alone this event can be considered to be very successful.