1 December 2023

Mark Upton aiming beyond seven marathons in seven states in seven days – to do 30 in 30

| Kellie O'Brien
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Bravehearts 777 Marathons

Wollongong’s Mark Upton and his 71-year-old father Brian will be participating in their second Bravehearts 777 Marathon next year. Photos: Paul Manning.

Wollongong’s Mark Upton is stretching himself to go beyond the already challenging Bravehearts 777 of seven marathons in seven consecutive days across seven states – and aiming for 30 marathons in 30 days.

Fron 1 July next year, Bravehearts 777 Marathon will see the national team run a marathon a day for seven consecutive days in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Launceston, Sydney, Canberra and the Gold Coast.

To up the ante, the 23 days prior to Bravehearts 777, Mark will run a marathon each day in Wollongong – to result in 30 marathons in 30 consecutive days.

The mammoth goal will also mean increasing the $52,000 raised from participating in Bravehearts 777 this year to $100,000 across the 30-day challenge for Australian child protection charity, Bravehearts.

Affectionately known as Uppy Junior, Mark said next year’s event would be the second year participating in Bravehearts 777 with his 71-year-old father Brian, known as Uppy Senior, from the Gold Coast.

“The average day is that we usually arrive in the state around 10 or 11 o’clock at night, hit the bed and wake up about 5 to 5:30 in the morning, and then we’re off running by about seven o’clock in the morning and hopefully done by around 11:30 to 12 o’clock,” he said.

“We grab a bite to eat, go back to the hotel, shower, back in the foyer by roughly two o’clock in the afternoon and we’re off to the airport for our next flight.

“It’s back-to-back and it’s probably tougher on the mind than the body to be honest, but you know you’re doing it for the purpose of what Bravehearts do for the kids, so the pain’s pretty low.”

Mark said it helped that he’d been in training for the past few years for his other passion, Ironman triathlons and doing “big challenges with purpose” with his dad, including events for the Cancer Council.

He said doing it with his father made it extra special, having been the oldest to ever have done it.

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“His story for me is pretty special because five years ago he went through prostate cancer and survived,” he said.

“He has always made sure that he has massive goals to hit.

“He started off back in the early 70s as a professional barefoot skier – he was one of the best in Australia and was renowned for his tricks and stupidity on the skis,” he said, laughing.

“There was a dare that he could race the first Coolangatta Gold back in ’83.

“He did it, competed and finished and then someone said, ‘Why don’t you do a triathlon’ and he did it and he was lucky enough to do quite well for Australia and raced professionally for the national team over several years and competed over in Hawaii, which is the pinnacle of Ironman races.”

Brian qualified and competed in three Olympic distance World Championship events and qualified five times for the World Ironman Triathlon championships in Kona, Hawaii.

“He then continued to race for Australia in his age group all the way up to the year of his cancer treatment,” Mark said.

“He qualified and raced (for the World Championships) only six weeks after his last cancer treatment.

“I’ve been lucky to have Dad as a mentor and someone to look up to and I understand the requirements to have that mental awareness and mental toughness no matter what.”

He said his taste for triathlons started early, when the family would be dragged out of bed at 4 am for events.

“As a teenager, I was on the BMX bike with a water bottle basket at the front while these pro athletes were training on the Gold Coast, or multiple World Champions either side of me giving them water bottles on the kneeboard while they swam,” he said.

“I was heavily influenced by what these guys had achieved and Dad still competing throughout the ’90s as well.

“I stopped racing for 15-odd years. I then did the Great Ocean Road Marathon about 10 years ago and quite enjoyed it and convinced Dad to come out of semi-retirement.”

He said they did their first Ironman together in Port Macquarie in 2016 and now, at age 44, he can see himself still competing when he’s reached his father’s age.

“Like Dad, you should never be limited by your age,” he said.

“I’ve got three kids myself and hopefully they can see some of the things that their granddad is doing and myself and know that once they put their minds to it, they can really achieve anything.”

That mental toughness will be required when Mark attempts the 30 marathons in 30 days.

He said the first 23 marathons would be run in Wollongong and he encouraged individuals and sporting groups to join and do 1 km, 5 km, or 42 km with him.

He will then fly out on 1 July for 777.

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“It’s a bit of a mammoth task, but mentally I know I can do it,” he said.

“If you mentally know you can do it, physically you should be able to get it across the line.”

He said the main goal was raising awareness and funds for Bravehearts, with statistics revealing one in four children having experienced child sexual abuse.

“The scary stats within that is that 75 per cent of those kids that are abused are abused by family members or friends,” he said.

Mark said Bravehearts already did a schools education program to empower kids to be able to report or speak up.

“At the end of the day, educating, empowering and protecting them is the key,” he said.

Mark is seeking sponsorship support and will be organising fundraising events, including a golf day and gala dinner.

You can support and follow the fundraising events and marathons on their Facebook page and Bravehearts 777 website.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732, or call Lifeline: 13 11 14. In an emergency call triple zero.

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