Last weekend Emma Nicholson packed her bags and five extras and made the long trip to our Doomadgee parkrun launch.
It was a late Friday night while scrolling idly through my Facebook feed, that the post caught my eye. My friend Mel has posted an offer to drive from Mt Isa to Doomadgee for the Doomadgee parkrun launch on 28th July, and then a trip out to Cairns.
The offer was too good to refuse. As an avid chaser of new experiences and challenges, I rapidly made some calculations and checked Google Maps to find out exactly where Doomadgee was located.
That was the easy bit – I still had to broach the subject of time away from our three young children with my husband Murray.
“Hey darl, can I go away for a weekend in July?” I asked tentatively.
“Where are you going?” he replied.
After some fast negotiation and a concession that my leave pass would be his present to me for my 40th birthday, I managed to change Murray’s mind.
During the next few weeks, I told others that I was heading to Doomadgee. I started gathering donated second-hand shoes from some fellow runners. I put it out to the Brissie Running Women, expecting to gather a few pairs here and there. I underestimated the generosity of the Brisbane, Gold Coast and Lockyer Valley running communities – I had five full bags of shoes donated.
Panic mode set in – how the hell was I going to afford the excess baggage?
After a stressful week of phone calls and emails, my pleas for assistance were finally answered. The night before I was due to fly out, Jacquie from Qantas rang to tell me that they’d cover the cost of the baggage. I can’t thank Qantas enough for allowing me to share the goodwill from our runners.
To fathom exactly how remote Doomadgee is, consider a night out – For most of us, there’s a range of restaurants and clubs a short drive from home. A night out from Doomadgee involves an hour’s drive to either Bourketown or Hell’s Gate Road Roadhouse. Doomadgee is closer to the Northern Territory border than it is to the nearest major city of Mount Isa.
Doomadgee parkrun starts at 9am. For those in Queensland who are used to a 7am start, this late commencement is unsettling. But as explained to me by several local runners, once the sun comes up, it’s hot. It’s just as hot at 9am as it is at 7am. Also, the locals aren’t in a hurry to get out of bed early. Considering it’s still very dark at 7am, it’s understandable.
The course is two laps of an out and back course alongside the Nicholson River. It’s all red dirt and gravel, leaving its mark on your running shoes.
Once I started running, any plans I had for a fast pace were quickly dropped. The heat was certainly a good reason to take it easy, but it was the big smiles and high fives from the local Doomadgee children that made me stop and consider the experience I was embracing. At about 1.5km, a young girl strolled casually over and start walking alongside me. I chatted with her and she stayed with me, running and walking with me. When we got to a rocky part of the path, she told me she couldn’t run because her feet were hurting. That’s when I noticed she’d been running barefoot on this hard, dusty path.
“Grab a pair of shoes near the start line!” I told her. Off she went, coming back with a bright pair of pink shoes.
“Let’s race, Miss Em! Let’s run!”, she beamed broadly, wanting to show off her new acquisition.
It’s this memory, and the big smiles and high fives from the other local kids, that made my experience of Doomadgee parkrun one that I will never forget. I would suggest to other venturing parkrunners that they should forget having a fast run at Doomadgee. Engaging with the community, especially the children, is far more valuable and rewarding than any PB or fast time.
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