Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Marathon Journey

Marathon journeyBy GILL VOWLES14may06ULTRA-MARATHON man Vlastik Skvaril only took up running at age 57 but already he has raised more than $35,000 by clocking up almost 3000 kilometres for charity.Next month Mr Skvaril, now 66, will take on his biggest challenge yet when he runs 5500km from the southern-most point of Tasmania to the northern-most point of Australia to raise money for Camp Quality.
He expects it will take him 100 days to cover the distance, the equivalent of 130 marathons, and in the process he'll wear out at least five pairs of shoes.
But Mr Skvaril says it will be worth it if he can raise $50,000 to help establish a children's cancer ward at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
"At the moment children are being sent to Melbourne for diagnosis and treatment," Mr Skvaril said.
"If we can get this ward children can be assessed in Hobart, so it's a very worthwhile project."
And if anyone can do it, it's Mr Skvaril.
Since 2001 he has clocked up more than 2800km for charity and along the way raised more than $35,000 for Camp Quality and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Not a bad effort from a retired cheesemaker who used to think running was stupid.
"I used to think running was a sport without purpose, a stupid thing to do, but once you get involved you realise it is pure enjoyment," he said.
"I never feel as free as I do when I'm running and I'm always sorry when I stop.
"You see lots of marathon runners crossing the finish line and being thrilled it is over. I never feel like that, I'm always sad that it's over.
"I don't run for fitness or to win, I run for fun."
Mr Skvaril, who now runs seven days a week and averages 30km a day, started running in 1996 at age 57.
"I was always a keen bushwalker and after I completed the Overland Track for the 10th time I started wondering if I could do it in a day," he said.
"I went back, ran the track in 17 hours and discovered I had developed a love for running."
Shortly after his Overland Track feat, Mr Skvaril saw a television documentary on the Spartathlon -- a 246km race from Athens to Spartica in Greece.
"I thought I would love to do it and in 2000, just after my 60th birthday, I completed the race," he said.
"I loved it so much I wanted to do another marathon, but I got to thinking it would be better to run a marathon for a purpose so I came up with the idea of a charity run."
In 2001, Mr Skvaril became the first man to run non-stop between Burnie and Hobart and raised $10,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The following year, 2002, he ran the 538km from Port Arthur to Woolnorth, outside Smithton, in 4 1/2 days.
That run, which he was accompanied on by his now retired german shepherd Asta, netted $15,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
In 2004, Mr Skvaril became the first man to run across Bass Strait when he installed a treadmill on the Spirit of Tasmania and spent the crossing to Melbourne running.
He did it again last year as part of a charity run from Devonport to Sydney.
Now he is aiming to become the first person to run from south to north in Australia.
He will begin the marathon at South East Cape, the southern-most point of Tasmania, on May 24 and is aiming to arrive at the top of Cape York, the northernmost point of Australia, 100 days later.
The marathon will take him through Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns.
If all goes to plan Mr Skvaril will celebrate his 67th birthday by finishing the marathon in Cape York. Mr Skvaril's wife, Jo, says she already knows he won't be retiring after this epic adventure.
"The problem is that while he's running he's all the time thinking and coming up with new ideas to raise money by running," Mrs Skvaril said.
"By the time he's finished this marathon he'll have dreamt up the next one."
Mr Skvaril said he'd like to do an even bigger run next time.
"You have to come up with different ideas each time to capture the community's interest. I'm not sure how I'll do that next time but while I was running yesterday I was thinking that no one had done the trip from Burnie to Hobart on a scooter.
"We'll see what happens, but I do know that I want to keep running and fundraising for a long time yet.
"I know people in their 80s who are still running and I hope I can too.
"I've been finding that the more I run the less I feel the effects of old age, so I'm going to keep going as long as I can."

1 comment:

arbit said...

Nice post. Its an inspiration that you take up running at that old an age and do a lot of good stuff.