Lying at the base of a tree in a small country town, her legs swollen and painful as the sun starts to set, Kirrily Dear knows she still has 35 kilometres to travel by foot that day.
Anyone could be forgiven for throwing in the towel under similar circumstances – but the ultramarathon runner set herself a goal and got to work.
From Broken Hill to Sydney, Ms Dear recently completed an incredible journey to raise awareness of family violence.
She stopped in Blacktown on September 16 during the home stretch of her 19-day, 1300-kilometre journey across NSW by foot.
The idea started in 2014 with an 860-kilometre run through regional NSW for the White Ribbon organisation.
Ms Dear said rather than make a traditional contribution of money to the organisation, she offered to donate running. Coordinators took her up on the offer and encouraged her to take the message rural.
“I got off the couch about eight years ago. So in running terms it’s been a fairly rapid ramp-up, but it’s the ultramarathon that caught my imagination and is where I’ve got the skill,” she said.
“I’m very slow but I can go a long way.”
After her first run, which was 600 kilometres further than her previous best distance, Ms Dear sat down with two friends and Run Against Violence was born.
“We decided we wanted to do more, and we found that running was just a really good way to positively engage the broader community in discussions about family and domestic violence,” she said.
After producing and screening a documentary about the first run, this was her second major distance.
The epic journey was not without its setbacks. At the start of her trek, Ms Dear was covering an average daily distance of 80km in 10-12 hours.
But around day 10 both her legs were so inflamed it became too painful to run.
Determined to finish what she started, the Sydney woman continued meeting her daily targets at walking pace until she was finally able to run again on the final three days.
“They became very long days. I think my longest day was 18 hours to get through the distance,” Ms Dear said.
“There were some very, very long and difficult and painful days there, for sure.”
“There was a time, I was laying in a little town between Forbes and Canowindra with my legs up a tree trying to get the swelling down. It was five o’clock in the afternoon, getting dark at 6.30, and I’ve still got 35 kilometres to go. I was exhausted but I just thought, right, we’ve gotta get it done.”
Ms Dear said in that instance she needed to reframe the obstacle into something comfortably achievable, so she told herself it was just a double shift.
She ended up beating her time goal by 15 minutes, then got up again at 4am the next day to do it all over again.
Towards the end of her incredible journey, Ms Dear stopped in Blacktown where she was greeted by police, community members and Blacktown Council representatives.
“It’s absolutely amazing for somebody to run all that distance for this particular cause. She’s very inspiring,” Cr Brad Bunting said.
The councillor said individual efforts like Ms Dear’s were important to keep up the conversation around domestic violence.
“It’s something that can’t be forgotten. Day to day, week to week, we’ve just got to keep talking about it,” he said.
“We need to keep pushing the point that we can’t stand for it. Everyone’s got to stand up and talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more we say society’s not going to put up with it, the better chance we have of reducing it.”
Ms Dear said she hoped her run would inspire important conversations across Australia.
More than 2000 people joined her on foot via a virtual challenge, another documentary is being made, and the team is working on a coffee table resource book including moving stories people shared throughout the journey.
“The really important thing is for people to start talking about domestic and family violence, to actually break the silence,” Ms Dear said.
“That could be about this crazy old chook who just ran across the countryside, or it could be about getting on our Facebook page and sharing some of the stories. We’ve found when we start those conversations and break the silence, it helps remove some of the stigma and social barriers people experience in trying to reach out and ask for help.”