Man's 341 day charity marathon visits the Beef Capital
MELBOURNE man Andre Jones gives a wry smile when asked whether the famous line 'Run Forrest Run' is ever bellowed at him as he runs and walks his buggy, the Intrepid II, around the country.
"I've heard that quite a bit,” he said.
But for the 57-year-old retired Royal Australian Navy veteran, his ambitious trek across Australia, Run for Australia, isn't about pushing himself, it's embracing the journey.
"This is my first year of retirement so I thought I'd give the wife a break,” he laughed.
"When I was very young, I heard about Tony Rafferty running across Australia. He wasn't the first or the last to do it, but as a kid I thought it seemed really cool.
"I've always had it in the back of my mind.”
Despite not being an "avid runner” or an official marathoner or competitive runner, Mr Jones took the leap and threw himself into a sink or swim mission of a lifetime.
"I was crazy two years ago and did a solo run from Melborune to Darwin, which was 94 days and 3700kms,” he said.
"That was my warm up.
"It was successful so I thought I'd do something bigger, and now I'm retired I thought I've give a big one a go.
"Nobody has done it successfully solo yet so I thought I better get to it.”
Since March 10 this year, Mr Jones has run and walked around 50km every day, and on day 68 today, he wheeled his buggy towards the giant bull guarding the entry to Rockhampton.
First and foremost, this is a run for charity.
Mr Jones selected four charities for his monumental journey, Beyond Blue, Go Foundation, The Smith Family and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
He is hoping to raise $60,000 and has so far raised over $13,118.
Being a child of divorce and seeing the financial and emotional toll on his mother inspired his Smith Family selection.
He chose Beyond Blue due to history of depression and anxiety within his family and wanting to give back.
Go Foundation, founded by Adam Goodes and Michael O'Loughlin (from his wife's favourite team, the Sydney Swans) was chosen due to their focus on encouraging Indigenous youth to stay in school and receive scholarships to university.
"The Royal Flying Doctors Service, apart from the great work they do, I want them to know where I am so they can come help me out,” Mr Jones joked.
Determined, conscious of his limitations, and with a healthy dose of humour to boot, the solo traveller is taking on a feat none have done before him.
Mr Jones is aiming to become the first person to run around the country without an assistance vehicle.
The only help he has is a buggy full of water, food and equipment, a GPS tracker, and an iPhone full of his favourite songs, with a portable Bluetooth speaker to fill the gaps between roaring traffic and silence.
The round trip will take Mr Jones across 15,134km of Australian land, and he still has over 12,000km to go.
"I'll go as far up as Palm Cove, then across the Normanton, Cloncurry, Mt Isa, Camooweal to Tannum Creek, up to Katherine, across to Broome, down to Perth and across. It makes it sound easy,” he said.
Assuming "reasonable weather and manageable injuries”, Mr Jones is aiming for a romantic return to his home on February 14, 2020.
Despite consuming 3,500 calories, he is burning up to 5,000 calories a day and finding it hard to keep on the weight.
The trek from Melbourne to Maryborough alone saw the already trim man drop from 98kg to 89kg.
"I don't spend enough time in enough places or eat enough food to put it on,” he said.
"If I had a week off I could just eat pastries and pastas the whole time, sure, but I wouldn't be in the mood to do anything then.”
Mr Jones will use 15 pairs of use, rotating three pairs of shoes at a time. He has became an ambassador for sportswear company, Mizuno Corporation.
As estimated elevation gain over the run is the equivalent of five Mount Everest climbs (45,112m)
The run is equivalent to 358 marathons.
Mr Jones is expected to run 15,134km.
Mr Jones will spend 341 days on the road, visit six states and stay in 219 different towns.
The longest trek will be William Bay to Albany in WA (68.3km) on November 14.