Often, it’s only when you run for a purpose greater than yourself that you can go further and faster than you thought possible. Here, two indefatigable men reveal the joys and struggles of running for a reason.
Ahead of their latest challenge, the 84km Bali Hope Ultra, seasoned endurance runners Jason Cronshaw and David Jones reflect on how they turned a passion into a partnership founded on offering a helping hand, both to those in need and their fellow runners.
DAVID: “I’ve always thought that if you’re in a position to be able to help other people, you should. We love running because of how it makes us feel and the fitness aspects of it but if you’ve got a cause outside of yourself to run for, then the times when you’re ready to give up, they go away.
I did the Bali Hope Ultra on my own last year. A good friend of ours is Samantha Gash, the ultra-runner. She knew it was exactly what I like to do. Last year the goal was to put 100 kids through primary school. Over there the family unit income is like 50 bucks a month. You put these kids through high school and the family unit income goes up to about 250 bucks a month. I signed up on the spot.
The race itself brings together 20-30 people from all over the world. A bunch of them had never done anything like this or run any sort of distance before.
I think a couple of them hadn’t even run more than 5km before in their life. And this is 84km. Overnight. In Bali.
JASON: Bali will be a challenge because it’s hot. But it doesn’t scare us anymore. It’s the 180km races that scare us now. If you can do a half marathon you can run an ultra because the checkpoints are about the same distance as a half, you’re just backing up. It’s all about that frame of reference. What was a challenge for you previously just becomes your warm-up. We apply that mindset to the way we train people, the way we train ourselves and then to the events that we take on.
Nowadays we try and insert ourselves into as many races
as possible during the year, just as sweepers. It’s the joy of helping people overcome that struggle. The amount of times I’ve crossed the finish line with somebody running beside me in tears because, for them, it’s monumental. I love it, because I’ve now introduced somebody else to something that I love. And that feeling that you get when you cross the finish line together, it’s mind-blowing.
DAVID: The truth is, if we were good enough to be competing
at the pointy end, we probably would be. But really, just helping other people through it is a big part of why we do it now.
Last year in Bali I wasn’t intending to sweep at all. But there are a lot of wild dogs that just roam around and some of them are aggressive, which made a lot people nervous.
Just by chance, I ended up next to a woman called Julie, a hundred metres off the start line. And a dog started barking and she grabbed my hand. I said, “Oh, okay”. She had a chest infection, which she had been dealing with all week. The first 4-5km is okay and then for 17km, it’s straight up. So,I sort of had to tow her up for 17km. And after that, we just stuck together. The next 60km is undulating, fairly easy terrain, but as you hit the morning and the Bali traffic, it’s pretty uncomfortable conditions for running. And she was miserable. I’ve never seen anyone who was just so out of it. She could barely walk for periods of time and I had to cheer her up. It was so good to see someone push themselves to that level. She was determined she was going to finish.
In terms of the cause, in Bali Hope where there are cars and trucks and smog and dogs, your normal reaction would be, ‘What the hell am I running here for? This is miserable’. And then you think, ‘Well, hold on a minute, a lot of the kids that we’re raising money for walk through this every day of their lives to get to school’. So, actually it changes your mindset, and suddenly you’re like, ‘Well, this is nothing, we’ll be done in a few hours, we’ll just get this done’. So, it gives you a different context, which enables you to push yourself further than you otherwise could or would.
JASON: I think when we first started, it was more about accomplishing things
and having the bragging rights. But then that evolves, it becomes less about yourself and more about others. It’s about being authentic. We do it because that’s who we are, that’s what we believe in.
DAVID: I think when it’s related to endurance there is such a long lead period, it isn’t like just putting some money in a charity tin. You spend 3-6 months getting ready for an event, so you just naturally engage more with that charity than you would otherwise. You’re really invested in it by the time you get there.
JASON: In the lead-up we’ll work our way up to 36, maybe 38km, as the longest run. The majority of the training will focus on strength, so hill climbing
with weight because, obviously, the first 20-odd-kays you’re going straight up.
We also do interval stuff, tempo work. We’ll average around 50km a week. You’ve got to simulate the conditions as best you can. I’ve got a stairwell at the apartments where we live, which is enclosed, no air, it’s hot. And I’ll throw my weight vest on, throw a face mask on, and just go up and down until I can’t move. You’ve got to get yourself to that point of saying, ‘Okay, now I’m uncomfortable’. But you’re looking for that feeling, versus trying to stay away from it.
When it comes to ultra- running generally, the advice I’d give is run when you can, walk when you can’t. Just keep moving forward. It’s when you
sit down, and your mind then says, ‘Okay, we don’t need to do this’, that it’s very hard to get up again. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
DAVID: In terms of suffering, you can never replicate what it means not to get an education or what it means to live with a rare disease. But that knowledge pushes you to be able to do more, so you go, ‘Well, I’m really hurting now, or I’ve got a massive blister on my foot, but that’s nothing compared to those I’m supporting’.”