graham whittaker

gswhittaker

for this week’s installment of the sh*t-sorter files we finally break the pattern of having a female runner from queensland… yup, it’s a queensland-based bloke this week!

he’s actually an ex-pat pom like myself, so i think that means the queensland domination era is coming to an end 😉

the reason i asked this guy to be a part of this is for two main reasons; firstly he is crazy (when you find out what he does you;ll understand why), and secondly he’s doing some fantastic fund-raising work for a brilliant cause. so, without further ado… can you introduce yourself, who you are, what you do, where you’re from?

I’m Graham Whittaker (sometimes known as G, George, Stanley & on occasions Batman)

Originally from Worthing in the UK, moved to Cornwall whilst at uni studying Industrial Geology then emigrated to Australia to live in Melbourne, Victoria for 10 years and now call Ipswich, Queensland home – has a bogan reputation but I love it!

I’m State Manager for a geotechnical/surveying/engineering company (actual qualification is a geologist however now far removed from my uni knowledge)

excellent, thanks. now before we get into the details of what you do, why you do it and so on, what would you say is the motivation behind everything?

I need events to keep me motivated and training, I don’t enter nearly as many as a lot of other runners but I focus on specific ones and train for them, then once done say “I’m never doing that again” before promptly searching for the next event (if not already entered).

so what was it that got you into running in the first place, was there a classic “enough is enough” lightbulb moment?

Happened while at uni as I lived 12 metres from the student union bar for the first year… always a dangerous prospect when pints of beer were 50p (AU $0.85/US $0.75), could feel myself getting unhealthy so rather than cut out the social life added in running to it.

now I happen to know it’s gone a little beyond just being a counterbalance for your social life – you’ve got some pretty big goals, can you share what some of those are?

Having recently achieved one of my big goals of completing a marathon in under 3 hours (2:59:08) I’m focusing more on bigger distance trail events – coming up very soon is the 2013 Surf Coast Century which is a 100km trail run.

After that really depends on how well I go at Surf Coast – possibly another 100km trail or shorter ultra (currently looking at the Washpool 50k trail run organised by TRAQ) and then there’s the possibility of getting into triathlons (recently purchased a tri-suit for motivation and also been challenged by a couple of more experienced triathlon friends to have a crack at Noosa 2014 Olympic Distance… just have to learn to swim more than 50m in any one stretch first!

(yes folks, he really did say one hundred kilometres. utter madness)

i can’t even begin to imagine running 100km to be honest. it must take a heck of a lot of effort in terms of training and preparation, can you describe how that has gone so far?

Training for the 100km had a slight glitch in that I strained my hamstring at the Ipswich Park2Park half marathon, was backing up from a 17km hilly trail race the day before and just went out too hard – was meant to be an easy recovery run and especially as I was dressed as Batman was just for fun!

This enforced 2 weeks on the sidelines which although didn’t drop my fitness level too much has meant my training has been compressed slightly. After 2 weeks on the sidelines I came back with the following increase in distance 5k, 8k, 24k, 40k!

Wouldn’t recommend stepping up in distance after a lay off but I had no real choice. Just maxed out with a 50k training run so now starting the taper

that’s amazing – if we could just take a step back for a moment – before this ultra marathon, you had a pretty substantial running career under your belt already – would you mind sharing some of that?

This last year & a half has gone really well – I’ve achieved pb’s in 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon and also smashed my first ultra time (Two Bays 56km Trail Run; 2011=6hrs 42mins/2013=4hrs52mins).

This has purely come down to putting in the training and also going out for group runs with the Brisbane Trail Runners.

I cannot recommend more highly finding a local group to go running with – as our site says “Find a trail, take a breath…… and run!!!” It’s incredible the motivation and support you naturally get from fellow runners and a bit of light-hearted banter along the way.

that’s a lot of running, and i’m sure the 100km training has added to that even more – i imagine all this would come with a unique set of challenges for you?

Time management and staying focused – I need goals/big events to keep training and in my previous role as a Geotechnical Engineer allowed work to get in the way – I averaged 13hrs/day for over 2 years – not healthy for me or my wife!

I focused on putting in the hours at work to get the home loan down rather than actual life but that changed around, I left that company for a larger organisation for 18mths then went back to the original company but for an office based role running the department – still struggled to get out running frequently as there was an hour commute to and from the office and Melbourne winters are just nasty.

I’ve now been in Qld for 2 years and with the move have adopted a much more balanced lifestyle – although now I’m sure my wife Elise thinks I run too much!

on the other side of effort and challenges are successes and achievement, with so much being put in, i’m sure you have enjoyed your fair share of that good stuff?

There have been two running achievements that I really cherish… finishing my first marathon back in 2001 on only 3 weeks of training (prior to those 3 weeks I had only ran 10km in any one time – again wouldn’t recommend this but I was 22, stupid & thought I could do anything!).

Then this year breaking the 3hr barrier – both times were very emotional with similar feelings each time – it feels awesome to achieve a personal goal.

that’s fantastic – 3 hours is an amazing barrier to break for the marathon. congratulations! looking now at the bigger picture a little – what would you say have been the biggest impacts that running has had on your life?

The biggest and best impact running has had is on my son – he’s only 2 ½ but he loves running already, calls me “super daddy” and says he’s going to “run with daddy when he’s a big boy”, fact is he already is completing his first 1km trail run at the age of 2yrs & 4mths in a time of 12 minutes – he was over the moon!

continuing in a similar vein – what do you think are the greatest benefits?

The greatest is just general health & fitness gained through running leading to greater confidence in all aspects of my life. Also the friends made through the Brisbane Trail Runners are awesome too, no matter your ability they welcome you and ensure fun is had.

and just to look at the other side of the coin for a moment, what would you say are the pitfalls and drawbacks of taking up running to the degree you have?

Probably the length of time required to train, I’m a little bit competitive so always want to push myself hard at events so to do that and feel like I’ve done my best. There are many hours away from Elise and Cameron training.

so taking those drawbacks into consideration, how do you stay motivated?

Purely by entering events and setting myself personal goals; without a big goal at the end I’d be eating kettle chips and drinking wine – I still do but in far greater moderation than if I didn’t have to go running.

that’s fantastic mate – now while i’m not suggesting that everyone go out and run the sort of crazy distances that you do, there are many people who are perhaps considering making changes to their life, taking up running, starting a fitness regime and so on. if you were able to say one thing to people considering taking that sort of step, what would it be?

Take it steady in the early days, don’t expect to always succeed and look after your body to avoid injury – nothing more frustrating to a runner than not being able to run.

now before this gets wrapped up, I happen to know that you don’t just run for yourself – you run on behalf of an amazing cause – can you just tell everyone about that please?

I’m running the Surf Coast Century for Blaise, a four year old boy here in Ipswich with a condition called Spastic Quadraplegic Cerebral Palsy. Spastic Quadraplegia means Blaise has muscle tightness in his arms and legs as well as torso, neck and head. The treatment he is getting in the US is working however it is not available in Australia and is very expensive so to help out a bit I’m trying to raise as much as possible to go towards his treatment. More information and the option to donate can be found at http://developingfoundation.org.au/appeal/scc4blaise

brilliant. and please everyone DO check out the link, it’s a fantastic cause! if you want any more information on that, or would simply like to connect with graham, you can do so on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.

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