IT WAS only by chance Harry Woolley decided to take up running last year.
When work commitments meant he couldn’t join a soccer club like he had done for most of his adult life, he hit the pavement instead. Luckily so too as it turns out.
After a series of life-changing events since then, including his brother’s cancer diagnosis and unexpected death of his grandfather, it’s been the perfect tonic.
“Running has been the one thing I have relied on to be free from life’s stresses this year. It has been incredibly grounding, allowed me to think through some very challenging times and has been fantastic for my social health,” he said.
Harry’s self-proclaimed “post-traumatic growth” journey hasn’t stopped there though, as he recently embarked on what most would consider mission impossible – running 100 half marathons in 100 days.
But he isn’t doing it for personal reasons alone. ‘Haz’, as he’s nicknamed by his mates, is giving back to community by raising funds and awareness for a cause close to his heart.
“Cancer has affected so many people in my family and friendship group in one way or another. I am tired of hearing 'so-and-so has cancer'," Harry, 28, said.
“I want to raise money to contribute to the improved quality of research and treatments Peter Mac (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) provides hopefully contributing to a simple solution to a cancer diagnosis.”
Along the way he hopes to inspire others to speak up about their own battles.
“I want to promote having difficult conversations, to get people to talk about their own challenges, to find a positive in negative situations and to always work on improving ourselves,” he said.
In an attempt to replicate the unpreparedness one faces when life throws you curveballs, Harry took a minimalist approach in gearing up for the gruelling task, only putting in a month’s worth of training.
The scare of a potential stress fracture in his hip that hindered his ability to walk, let alone run, saw him resigned to his bike for one week of the challenge to allow time for his body to recover. Despite the setback, Harry says he has no doubts about finishing on 21 December.
“I really hope my body holds together so I can run it. But if I can’t run, I will walk. If I can’t walk, I will ride. I have too much to prove to myself to give up,” he said on day 43.
His recovery routine is chalk and cheese since day one. It now includes a combination of ice baths, stretching, strengthening exercises, yoga, self-massaging, professional massages, massage guns, lots of food and water, light walking; the list goes on.
“I had no idea how to recovery properly before I started and all I really did was an ice bath. It’s a full-time job trying to keep my body together at the moment,” Harry said.
“I am far more resilient and mentally strong than I thought I was. No matter how sore and tired I’ve felt, how windy, rainy and cold it’s been or how much I simply can’t be bothered running a half marathon, I can always dig a little deeper to find something to get me out running.”
His loved ones are also keeping him going.
“People that can run, do, some cook food for me, some send me a message every week asking me how my body is feeling. Everyone has found their little way of helping me one way or another. I have been very, very supported and lucky,” he added.
Harry grew up in Hobart before he left Tassie shores in 2016 to pursue his nursing career. He now resides in Yarraville, Melbourne’s inner-west, with friends Connor and Reuben.
But it wasn’t until he was home for six months during 2022 and experienced the social aspect of running through Knockoffs that he really found it enjoyable.
“Knockoffs made me enjoy running, seeing it as more than just exercise. It has also made me much more comfortable running with new people,” he said.
In October, Harry was named the inaugural Knockoffs Community Legend; an initiative to celebrate and promote members doing good things in the community.
He says it was incredible to be selected out of a host of members undertaking amazing initiatives.
“I can’t thank KORC enough for putting their support behind me. I hope I can live up to the expectations and most of all hope that I can inspire a future KORC community legend to do something special,” Harry, who is currently on long service leave, said.
“I absolutely love the hat I received and wear it just about every day. I have had a number of fellow Knockoffs members run with me in Melbourne, some awaiting to run with me in Hobart and hopefully meet some new ones in the next couple of runs I attend.”
With the finish line in sight, Harry is looking forward to sleeping in and waking up with no plans prior to Christmas. But he won’t be sitting still for long and is already scheming what crazy feat is next.
“I want to really test my body and more importantly my mind. Can I run a 100-kilometre race? 100-miler? How far can I run in the Knockoffs Ultra next year? How far could I run in a 24-hour race?” he said.
“It will be something that makes me feel a little uncomfortable that’s for sure.”
Follow Harry’s journey on Instagram at @harryontherun100 or shoot him a message to join him for a run!