For a lot of people running is something to be scorned and maybe even feared, yet you will often hear people saying they’d love to run a marathon “one day”. Running 42.2km is taxing, pushing body and mind to the limit, and if you don’t train properly, your body will give out. Despite all this, I travelled 5000km to Australia’s red centre to compete in my first marathon, the Australian Outback Marathon on July 31. The event is a spectacle, and working through Yulara’s corrugated roads, sand dunes and dirt tracks with the backdrop of Kata Tjuta and Uluru proved magical. Travelling to Yulara from Karratha during a pandemic was a marathon in itself. COVID-19 outbreaks across Australia caused havoc to my flights, and five changes later I was left with only one route available. Leaving Karratha, I would fly to Perth, then Darwin and on to Alice Springs before travelling by coach to Yulara. Running long distances teaches you a lot about yourself. You are alone for hours, fighting fatigue and trapped with your own thoughts. A marathon takes this to another level. The distance alone is enough to make people baulk, the time it takes is very long, and there is no logical reason to push yourself that hard other than a primal drive to challenge your limits. But if you do run a marathon, you will never regret it. For me, the run was years in the making. Minor back injuries after high school meant I was in pain every day for years before eventually listening to my physio and going through the rehab properly. The first time I ran gave me my one true runner’s high, and every run since has been a desperate attempt to chase that feeling. Five years later, I’m hooked. I’ve slowly been pushing the distance to see just how far a “non-athletic kid” can go. The run started easily. Fighting to hold back energy I cruised through the first 14km before patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee) began to kick in. Then at 19km, my knee gave out. Lying in the dirt in the middle of Australia with no one around left me two choices: give up and limp to the next aid station having travelled 5000km for nothing, or run through the excruciating pain for another 23.2km. Pride made me get up, and the fear of being labelled a “quitter” forced me to confront old worries and concerns as my brain screamed at me to stop. After collapsing a second time at 25km and having to run in a way that didn’t bend my knee, everything became a haze. Constant pain had reduced me to one thought: “Keep going, don’t quit.” The 30km mark is a hurdle for every marathon runner. Your body is exhausted and your mind will be screaming at you to stop. No matter how hard I wanted to run, I would begin to walk after just a few strides. Sheer willpower was all that kept me on my feet until eventually, with 4km to go, my brain shut off the pain in my knee and I could run freely again. Crossing the finish line to the cheers of other runners brought relief, but more importantly, that moment of joy taught me something primal about myself: I could push through pain I had never experienced before and I had found a level of willpower I did not know I had. It’s not glamorous and it will leave you physically and mentally drained, but the lessons you learn mean everyone should strive to complete a marathon at least once.