By Justin Flynn
Imagine running 375 kilometres in nine days with a 14 kilogram backpack strapped to your body.
Murray Pearce did exactly that, running between Barwon Heads and Myrtleford in Victoria’s northeast all for charity.
Murray raised just over $21,000 for SCIA Spinal Cord Injuries Australia and Beyond Blue through a gruelling nine-day journey that saw him chased by bulls and attacked by a dog.
Murray slept two nights in a hammock with only a survival blanket for warmth.
“The bag itself was warm but I had no insulation underneath my back and because I was hanging my back was very cold, also the bag didn’t breathe so the condensation made my body wet and cold,” he said.
“There wasn’t a second I thought I wouldn’t make it. It’s funny, I considered what would happen if I slipped and got seriously injured like breaking a bone.
“I had already made up my mind that if that happened I would finish on crutches or whatever was necessary to finish what I’d started.”
Murray initially planned to complete the trek in 10 days, but adrenaline pushed him to cross the finish line a day early.
“I listened to a lot of music, but I found some motivational speeches that I listened to on repeat that almost became a mantra,” he said.
“I felt so independent, empowered and virtually unstoppable. Being by myself with such a large goal was one of the best feelings I’ve experienced.”
One of the final stretches of the trip – Mansfield to Cheshunt – was particularly tough going and on day six, Murray ran after virtually no sleep at all.
“The day started with a gradual 15km climb to about 900m to the top of Tolmie,” Murray said.
“Once there I then had a very steep descent down a slippery 4×4 track to King River. My legs were tired at this point and it was very hard not to slip and get injured.
“On day six I started to get shin splints in my left leg and this made my ankle pretty swollen. I had to mask that pain and push on to finish. I used my knowledge to strap my ankles and support them as best I could.
“Carrying 14kg also started to affect my hips on the steeper inclines.”
Despite the physical punishment, Murray said the entire experience was worth it.
“It sounds over confident but I knew I would finish the minute I started,” he said.
“Not finishing wasn’t an option I was willing to accept. When I was within kilometres of finishing though, I felt ecstatic.
“The feeling is hard to describe, but I guess I’m just super proud and so lucky to be able to do it. Finishing made me realise how capable we are as humans. I also feel like anything is possible now.”
Murray’s next adventure is slower paced, but no less daunting.
He heads to Katherine in the Northern Territory in the next few weeks to begin his teaching career.