Taking on all comers
BRAD GREENSHIELDS: So the challenge between you and ironman Ky Hurst in a race around Bonville seems set. When is it going to happen?
KURT FEARNLEY: I’m not sure exactly when it is going to happen but I was having a talk to Peter Montgomery here at Bonville and he was thinking that he wanted to see me and Ky go head-to-head around his course.
I immediately said to him that if it’s about 10km, I’d give Ky about a 10 or 15 minute head start but after seeing the course Ky is going to give me a 10 or 15 minute start.
This is an incredible course and bloody hard.
BG: There’s a lot of big hills around the course isn’t there?
KF: I grew up around Bathurst and then I went back to Bathurst when I was at uni and I trained at Mount Panorama once a month.
I’d say, ‘Righto, I’m going to smash it up Mount Panorama’ as it told me where I was at with my training.
This (Bonville) makes Mount Panorama look like a driveway. This is hard.
I did half of the course this morning and then I went out and I pushed into Coffs as there’s a little bike path along the highway and I thought I would go and check it out.
I like when I get to rock up to places with my chair for talks to have a look and the best way I can understand where I’m at is to get in the chair and go for a roll.
Here though the two things that stand out for me is how buggered I was when I was done and when I was about on the sixth hole, I was pushing along and I hear this massive growling and screaming. It was a big koala on the ground about five metres from me screaming as I went by.
You don’t get that too many times.
At some point though we’re going to set down a race, figure out a handicap and see who comes out best.
BG: Ky Hurst is keen for the challenge?
KF: I think so.
Peter had a yarn to him and it’s just a matter of finding out when.
I think he ran the course in 38 minutes. If we put a handicap in now I’d be getting a 20-minute run at him I think but I’m sure when we set a date it will happen.
BG: It will still be a walk in the park compared to crawling the Kokoda Trail like you did.
KF: The next 60 years will be a walk in the park compared to Kokoda.
It was such a unique two weeks that never, ever, ever, ever will I want to put myself in that kind of situation again. Not with that much discomfort. I think it was that hard.
I’ve got about 200 hours of footage from that trek that was going to go into a doco but we ditched it after it was so well-known, but it’s all sitting in my little cupboard.
If I ever need to patch things together I think I’ll be crawling through the furthest hole out there on the 13th because if you wanted the highlands of Kokoda, it’s a jungle out the back there. It just has beautiful fairways in the middle.
If ever I could recreate it this is about as close as I could come.
BG: What was the worst part when you were doing the track?
KF: Going to bed.
KF: Yeah. Going to bed because you’re absolutely destroyed. You’re lying there thinking it all happens again tomorrow and you’re feeling like your body has just been torn to shreds and you think 12 hours sleep can’t heal me that much.
They were just the little sneaky thoughts that get into your head when you’re lying in a tent all by yourself in the middle of the jungle but the next morning the lights went up and you started crawling and you made it through a day and then it all happens again.
BG: I believe you got pretty crook during the 11 days you spent crawling through Paua New Guinea.
KF: I don’t know about crook, I had fevers every afternoon. I didn’t have any illness per se but there is a funny story.
It was probably day three when one of the guys in the group got crook and he couldn’t keep anything in and he had bad runs.
I went straight for the Imodium and I pumped about six of them into me because I thought ‘this is going to be a long way but it’s going to be a lot longer with shit in my pants’.
I was just thinking that I cannot get that crook while I’m crawling along the track.
BG: With the training that you’re doing are you already looking toward London in 2012?
KF: Ever since Beijing Olympics when I got my two consecutive marathons there after winning in Athens and I was able to defend my title in Beijing, everything that I was doing even from the day after, my coach and I agreed that that race only happened to give me a chance to do it again in four years time.
I always love sportsmen who are able to become the best in their field and there aren’t many sportsmen who’ve been able to do it in three consecutive Olympics or Paralympics.
I watched Thorpie try to do it in the 200 where he tried to do the three consecutive. I watched Grant Hackett try to do it in the 1500.
It feels like the last one in Beijing only happened so I could have this chance. It doesn’t come around too often so it hasn’t really left the head since then.
BG: Is it harder this time around or easier because that carrot is being dangled in front of you?
KF: I can’t really remember last time.
I know that for Athens I probably went through more pain than anything in the 12 months leading up to it. I was so young and I hadn’t done that sort of training before, I was fresh and you just didn’t even think about it.
I know that Beijing was such a crazy year but I was really at my peak then and I was just finessing I guess.
This time I’m going to make sure I enjoy it. I know I’m going to put myself in a lot of pain but it’s not going come close to Kokoda or anything like that.
I know it’s going to be an uncomfortable couple of years to get back to the stage where when you’re with 60 guys in a marathon, the most competitive wheelchair marathon there is and to try and be the one that stands out, it’s bloody hard work.
This time I want to try and do it and I want to try and make sure that I take note of what’s going on and I enjoy it out there.
BG: What sort of demons do you go through in a marathon?
KF: All your own.
And a few demons wearing a Great British uniform and a Mexican uniform, a few of those demons. Most of all it’s little niggles inside your head.
Last weekend I went over to defend my title in New York and that was going for five straight.
You don’t really get upset about wins or losses. I’ve lost so many races that you don’t care about losses anymore.
Even if you can get on a streak where you win 10 straight or something like that and everyone’s thinking ‘wow, you can’t lose’, I still remember the 20 losses that I had before that.
So I don’t really get upset with the losses but 25 kms into the race when you’re pushing, you try and yell at your body to tell it do something and it says ‘no’ and you can’t go any faster and you can’t go any harder, that’s the things that disappoint me and that’s what I say would be a demon during a race. When you’re screaming at yourself and telling yourself to keep going and everything just starts screaming back at you, that would be it.
BG: Where does the determination to do marathons, do Kokoda and smash Ky Hurst come from?
KF: I don’t really know.
I guess when you grow up crawling around the bush and you grow up crawling and climbing over barbed wire fences and through blackberries and over rivers and chasing your brothers and wrestling dogs, when you grow up doing that sort of stuff you get used to challenging yourself and the more you challenge yourself, the more you get through that.
The further you put that challenge out there, the more you get through it and it just becomes part of how you do it and who you are and what you do.
I think that over the last few years putting those challenges out there and doing it just for fun.
BG: Well I look forward to seeing your next challenge here at Bonville. Thanks for your time, Kurt.
KF: No worries.
Kurt Fearnley OAM
Date of Birth: May 23, 1981
Paralympic gold medals:
2004 Athens 5000m T54
2004 Athens Marathon T54
2008 Beijing Marathon T54