Justin McDonald is due to appear in Kayo’s 1000 Miles to Light, running 40kms a day for 10 days! We were lucky enough to sit down with him and talk about his running journey, especially his last four and a half years where he and his wife, Kate, have run 5km a day, every single day!
How did @jk.5k.a.day begin?
I would like to say we came up with the idea, but many people have been doing these run streaks for decades. When we saw a friend of ours, Brad Tilly, was embarking on this crazy challenge of running 5km a day we just had to join in! Our first run was on the 27th of December 2016 and the plan was to just do it for 30 days… then 50 days… then 100 days and once we reached that goal our the fitness levels had increased so much a full year became the ultimate target. Well at least that’s what I thought, and as every year comes around I look at Kate ready to suggest we call it a day. She knows all too well what I am about to suggest and the look in her eyes tells me that we have another year ahead. When will it end, only Kate knows!
Were you and Kate both runners at school or the like?
Kate was very active during her school years playing tennis and netball for Mt Barker, but running as a sport was not really on Kate’s radar. However, I was actually running in high school, at Mile End in 1998, when I was approached by the late Gill James. Gill asked me to join the Western Districts Athletics Club and coached me for a short time, where I raced 400m-3000m events here in Adelaide for two or three years.
We know you’ve done a lot of running in the last four or so years, including a run through Uganda, can you tell us about that?
In 2018, at a seperate event, we raised almost $20,000 for The Love Mercy Foundation which is based in Sydney and founded by Aussie Olympian Eloise Wellings and Ugandan Olympian Julius Achon. After-which, Australian ultra marathon running legend, Pat Farmer called me up to ask if Kate and I would join him and the Love Mercy Foundation to run 500kms in five days from Entebbe to Lira (South to North) in Uganda.
I could honestly talk for half an hour or more about our experiences over the 10 days that we spent in Uganda, but I’ll keep the answer short. This trip was life changing and eye opening to see just how privileged we all are here in Australia, simply because we were lucky enough to be born here. Julius Achon was kidnapped by rebels as a young boy, he and other children were forced at gun point to walk through the day and night for over 100km. Luckily, Julius and the others saw an opportunity to run and escape from the rebels. He told us that only the boys that ducked and ran below the height of the elephant grass survived the escape. Julius has and incredible story and I encourage everyone to read his book “The Boy Who Runs”, he is the most amazingly resilient and kind hearted human being we have ever met. Kate and I are definitely keen on returning to Uganda, with the Love Mercy Foundation, in the future one day.
You embarked on a modified 1000 Miles to Light run. Ordinarily from Broken Hill to Byron Bay, but thanks to COVID there was a last minute change. What did you look forward to the most over the 10 days?
Yes, unfortunately the format of this event really changed, but rightly so given the situation in NSW. Firstly, our location was changed to Federal land, at the Singleton Military Area where we were hosted by the Australian Army. The plan was to run 10 different 5km courses each day with two teams of four runners, Australia vs the United States, running the course in a relay format until each team has completed 160km for the day. This challenge means running 40kms per day for 10 days and is by far the most running I have ever done, and I’ve spent the last few weeks before we left quite anxious about whether or not I could achieve this.
However, my coaches over at RunAsOne, Riley and Jacob Cocks, believe that my last four years prepared me well and I had enough accumulated kms in the legs to be successful at this event. I do love a challenge and will take on anything because I’m never afraid to fail, more often I’m afraid of not trying. So most of all I was looking forward to taking this challenge head on, with my good friend Pat Farmer. I was also excited and hopeful to meet other like-minded individuals that I will forever be able to call friends, at the completion of the journey.
In the 1000 Miles to Light run, you will be running with one of the greatest ultra runners the world has seen in Dean Karnazes, how did you approach getting to know him?
Well, yes and no. He is clearly one of the greatest, and so when meeting someone of Dean’s stature I am very conscious that they are often bombarded with questions and requests. So keeping that in mind, initially I just introduced myself, shook his hand and gave him space because I had ten days with him and plenty of time for interaction. I deliberately didn’t go out to buy and read Dean’s new book “A Runners High” because I didn’t want to learn about him through the pages of a book, but rather find out who he was by spending time with and around him, outside of interviews and books. I took this same approach when meeting Pat Farmer, and let me tell you he is an absolute top bloke and someone you can’t truely know just by reading about him in some book.
You’ve been a great supporter and customer of PREPD for a long time now, how does PREPD help given you run a minimum run 5km per day?
At the risk of sounding arrogant for both Kate and I, we have been running 5km a day for over 4 and a half years. This is no longer a real challenge when we are healthy and has become a way of life. Since joining the RUNasONE team of runners, we have been training more efficiently and effectively focusing on a range of different paces from things like speed work to long runs and longer long runs, really pushing our bodies in the build up to events. This is where PREPD has become absolutely necessary.
I am very sceptical on almost all products out there on the market because there are plenty. Neither Kate or I use gels unless we really need to as we both look to fuel with real foods for energy. However, the science behind PREPD intrigued be from the beginning, a product that assists you in holding on to your fluids is genius. It’s obviously better to prevent a problem or injury rather than try and fix one, which PREPD has really allowed us to do. PREPD has enabled us to keep hydrated and recover from many training sessions and events. Whilst running 40km a day, PREPD was my secret weapon to give me an edge. One unexpected side effect of drinking PREPD, believe it or not, has been my improved sleeping time and quality, as I used to wake during the night thirsty and dry in the mouth but this is no longer the case. I truly do recommend drinking PREPD because it has dramatically changed our running and our confidence. To prove it, get onto Kayo and watch me go run rings around Dean Karnazes…..
Justin taking the baton for his first 5km leg of the day.
Justin “running rings” around ultra marathon legend Dean Karnazes!
Make sure you tune into the 1000 Miles to Light on Kayo Sports!