Tony O'Connell

Junk food to run junkie.

My journey started at 116kgs and fairly unfit about 5 years ago.  I had never been a runner, the furthest I would go is to the fridge.  I had been over 100kgs since I was 13 years old.

My work signed up to do a 12 week challenge and my life change began, first came the weight loss, 40kg in 25 weeks then the love of activity kicked in.  My wife found parkrun and signed me up.  This started a massive love for parkrun and all it represents in fitness, family, friends and community.  Suddenly my activities were all running based but I really lacked a goal.

I joined a group called Pakenham Road Runners, and they were promoting this thing called Run Down Under.  I signed up and this gave me the goal I needed.  It became a good addiction, the need to reach the next town, whether it was a major city or the smallest roadhouse!!

Some highlights have included watching the people around me and trying to keep up with them. I spent the entire Nullarbor trying to keep up with Connie Isherwood – even if she didn’t know it!!

In May 2018 I has a stress fractured tibia (probably from all the running). This slowed me down a bit as I was crossing the gulf in South Australia, but we were soon back on track, highlighted by completing the 73km Geelong to Melbourne section in a single day as part of a 100km race at Gow’s in Victoria. It’s a nice segment record to hold.

I managed to leapfrog with Steph Austin for a week or so down the East Coast of Tasmania.  We turned together at Hobart, and by the time I got back up the West Coast to Burnie to get on the return ferry to Melbourne, Steph’s training block kicked in and she was 500km ahead at the NSW border.

Run Down Under has provided heaps of incentive. Sometimes you know your run finishes just out of a town so you do the extra bit, or you know if you put in a big week you can reach the next town.

Coming up to the final line I arranged a small event for the finish to be at my home parkrun at Inverloch on the 16th of March where I was lucky enough to finish through a funnel of friends as I crossed both the Inverloch parkrun and the RDU finish lines at the same time.

I had an amazing day and the feeling of completion was huge, but in the weeks that followed I fell flat, no longer having a goal to work on.

A few days later my completion medal and T-shirt arrived from Travis, and these gave me a real shot in the arm to get stuck into the Extended course around Australia. The shoes went back on and out for 10, the new lap of Australia began.

I am now heading to Uluru but love seeing the RDU tops out and about and chatting to people about where they are at on their journey.  We are all on a different journey but we are all heading to the same destination. Remember to shout out when you see someone flying the RDU shirts.

Happy running.

Tony O’Çonnell