For most Canberrans, a marathon during the pandemic meant Friends, Seinfield and Tiger King, but Jess Peil took the idea of a ‘pandemic marathon’ literally.
By tomorrow, Jess will have run the equivalent of a trip from Canberra to Sydney – or 294 km – as a part of the Bravehearts 777 marathon. The traditional marathon medley would have taken place across seven states and territories over seven days but because of COVID-19, this year has been a little different.
Instead of traversing Australia, Jess is running seven marathons in seven days across Canberra. A marathon is officially 42.2 km.
She started at Blundells Cottage at Lake Burley Griffin on Monday (29 June) and will conclude her feat with a marathon around the full West Basin loop and Parliament House on Sunday.
It is all about making a difference to children and adults who have experienced child sexual assault, Jess said. Yesterday (3 July), that difference equated to almost $25,000 worth of donations, smashing her target for this year’s fundraiser.
The money raised will go to Bravehearts, a child protection organisation which works to prevent child sexual assault and exploitation.
“Bravehearts means the world to me. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and are fighting a battle that no one else wants to even talk about,” Jess says.
“I will stand by them and run for them for the rest of my life. Not only are we helping children but also adults. The stories we heard in 2019 and the strength of survivors makes me so grateful to be a part of this.”
By Wednesday, exhaustion had set in and her legs were weary, but she says thinking of the cause got her through the last 10 km of her third marathon.
“Today was a day to dig deep towards the end. It was really tough but the kids we are helping pushed me along,” Jess said.
By Thursday, she had lost track of days.
“Day 4 of 7 marathons for Bravehearts this week. After waking up this morning thinking it was day 5 we were a little late to getting to Tuggeranong Lake,” she wrote on social media.
“It was such a great day out, again the company was so fantastic, lots of laughs, fun photos, amazing people.”
However, she is currently faring a lot better than last year, with the added relief of an ice bath after each marathon instead of a flight to another state.
“On the last day last year her feet had swollen and I had no idea how she was going to run the last marathon, but somehow she still did it,” her husband said.
Jess is one of the few people who seems to be both a morning person and a night owl (“even after a few gins”, her husband adds), you would be hard-pressed to find a cheerier person at 7:00 am preparing to run yet another 42 km.
Surrounded by a running group of around a dozen people every morning, a variety of Jess’s friends continue to show up day in and day out to help support her.
And it is not too late for you to join in as well if you would like to participate – at least partly – in the final marathon on Sunday morning for the full loop around Lake Burley Griffin and up to Parliament House.
Jess and the running group will be at the flags along Lake Burley Griffin at 7:00 am.
You can also donate to Bravehearts to help survivors of child sexual abuse here.