Skip to main content

Before you download

We use your information to keep you updated on kidney health matters of interest to you. We will only ask you once and then you’ll be able to seamlessly download resources as you need. You are free to unsubscribe from our communications at any time.

Find out how we protect your information in our Privacy Policy.

David's Story

Sitting down enjoying a latte with my wife Elly after another run through the rolling hills & bushland that we are so lucky to enjoy on Melbourne’s north-eastern fringe I was surprised when she suggested “why don’t you run the UTA (Ultra Trail Australia) 50km race?”. I’m not sure why after a decade of road and trail marathon and even ultra-marathon running, that this thought had never occurred to me before. Set in the heart of the spectacular Blue Mountains this is surely the pinnacle of trail running in Australia.

As I considered Elly’s suggestion, a few thoughts went through my head. Whilst no doubt being the little sibling of the beast that is the UTA 100km race, the 50km version is certainly no ‘walk in the park’. With nearly 2,500m of climbing and descending over the course and literally thousands of stairs, including the 991 of the Furber Steps that make up the last brutal kilometre of the course! On top of this, I would have turned 58 by the date of the race. The thing that was the largest ‘unknown’ swirling in my head though, was 'how could I cover the distance and the terrain just eight months on from donating a kidney to our son Declan?'

Fast forward a few short weeks and suddenly there we were, on the starting line of the UTA50! As happened so many times during the day, my thoughts turned to our son and our shared time recovering in hospital after surgery. I was calm, I knew that I had trained strongly and that I was confident in my race plan for the day, as I pictured him hopefully sleeping in, or relaxing at home in the early morning with his girlfriend Alana and their little dog Alfie.

To be part of an event such as UTA is simply spine tingling. For a start, there’s the simply awe-inspiring terrain that makes up the course, but also there’s the way that the race embraces the indigenous history of this special place, and then there’s the 7,000 runners that challenge themselves across three days of racing at the event. The first 5km or so of the run was a great way to start the course before the challenges that lay ahead. I was able to fall into a nice rhythm and felt strong as we traversed some of Katoomba’s hilly streets and bush tracks.

To spread the field, the almost 2,000 runners in the UTA50 are split into 7 waves, each leaving 15 minutes apart. I was allocated into wave 4 which was maybe a little late in the field compared to my goal time (7 hours), but it meant that I could run those first few kilometres without being ‘dragged’ along at faster speeds than I should be running in an ultra-marathon. After 7km, I was so happy to see Elly standing on the concourse of Echo Point, the site of the iconic Three Sisters rock formations. I was a little surprised when Elly called out “you’re in sixth place”. Did she mean, in my wave? I didn’t understand but felt buoyed that I must have been travelling along ok in these early stages of the run.

Once again, my thoughts turned to Declan. What was he doing, how was he feeling? Three days after the transplant surgery we were crushed by the news that the transplant was not successful. I would never not go through what we did with the transplant, but there’s no doubt that life can sometimes be unfair, and for a smart, strong young man like Declan, this was certainly one of those times.

After quickly saying hi and bye to Elly, the course really started to show its teeth and its beauty. A perilous trip down the Giant Stairway and then into the awe-inspiring Leura Forest. As much as I wanted to stop to soak in the views of the sandstone cliff faces which were practically ‘glowing’ in the early morning sunlight or stop to soak in the forest I pressed on with the run.

Seemingly in no time at all, we were more than 17km into the race and arriving at the Fairmont Resort checkpoint. I had great help from the volunteers filling up my water flasks, quickly grabbed some fruit and was off again. Apparently, I arrived at the checkpoint still in 6th position in my 55-59 age group and 338th out of the 1,940 starters in the field. Feeling nourished and still fresh and strong, I pushed on, starting to notice that I was passing multiple runners with every km that went past, but rarely being passed myself which felt great.

I do have the most fantastic little family, our youngest son Harvey is so different to Declan, but we are equally so proud of the young man that he is. We are all close and laugh a lot when we’re together or over the phone. That said, life for one of us is harder that it should be and if ever a part of the course started to feel hard, I only needed to think of one person for inspiration to keep pushing. Declan has recently started haemodialysis at home, so if he can manage to needle himself with so much courage and positivity, and then sit hooked up to a dialysis machine for six hours every second day, then I can get past another hill!

As I get older as a runner, there’s no doubt that climbing steep hills is not getting easier, but thanks to gravity, running downhill is still a joy, and the part of the course that leads into the Kedumba Valley was certainly joyful for me! Once again, I felt great running down the steep 6km downhill, whilst other runners were shuffling or even walking to lessen the stress on their screaming quad muscles. To me, there’s always a part of a race where you know “yes, I’ll make this” and again passing other competitors climbing out of the Kedumba Valley was that time. Usually this is a time for just a little internal euphoria, but today was different; thinking again of Declan, suddenly I could feel tears starting to fall as I pressed on and on.

Getting to the base of the Furber Steps, although I did not know it at the time, I had managed to make my way up to second place in my age group and had passed dozens more runners in the field before that final grinding kilometre of steep, steep stairs. 16 minutes and 200 metres of climbing later, suddenly there was the Finish Shute and the cheering crowds. With Elly yelling encouragement and Declan pushing me on inside, finally the race was finished. I had made it home in a time of 6hrs 37minutes, second place out of 82 in my age group and 194th out of the nearly 2,000 starters in the race.

Out of the crowd Elly appeared, as did another tear or two from my eyes as we shared a sweaty hug. An amazing day! Thanks so much Elly, Declan, Alana & Harvey!! Thanks as well to the amazing team at Monash Clayton who were every bit as shattered by the news of the transplant failure as we were. They have done so much to ensure that Declan and I are as healthy as we can be.

Looking to the future, the plan is to now train for, and run the Surf Coast Century 100km race in September. We plan to use this as part of our fundraising for this year’s Kidney Health Australia Red Socks Run.