Running in the Rough

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If you’ve ever thought about stepping outside your comfort zone… there’s no better time than NOW! Andrew Purkiss has faced more challenges than most of us, and he’s a keen fan of the Duval Dam Buster event. 

He says if he can have a shot at the event, so can you… and with distances starting at just 3 km, why not walk, jog, or run your way to triumph!

Hi Andrew. What’s your connection with the New England area?

I was born in Armidale in the 1960s and spent my entire childhood there, right up to completion of the Higher School Certificate at The Armidale School (TAS). It was a great place to grow up. I still have a number of friends and relatives in the area.

Whereabouts do you call home these days?

At the age of 18, I moved to the “big smoke” to go to UTS (University of Technology, Sydney). I’ve been in Sydney ever since, but come back to Armidale regularly. It’s good to get the kids out into the country to see what else Australia is all about, and to also show them where I spent my childhood.

Why did you first begin running?

I’ve been running on and off since Little Athletics days – nothing serious or particularly adventurous. The longest I’d run until recently was the City to Surf in Sydney (14 km with a couple of reasonable inclines, for those unfamiliar with it). 

In 2016 I was persuaded/encouraged to do my first half marathon. There were a few people from Armidale amongst the group who went to the Gold Coast in July that year. It was a stretch, but it did inspire me to do another two half marathons in the following four months, each a bit faster than the one before.

You’ve had to fight through a few serious health issues over the past year or so. Could you tell us a little about this?

I was preparing to get back into training for more events in 2017 when I was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. That started a year-long treatment/surgery regime, consisting of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and serval operations of varying types. 

I continued to run whenever I felt up to it. My oncologist and surgeon both said my fitness coming into it, and efforts throughout really made a difference to my recovery and longer-term health prospects.

What’s your health status now?

I had my last operation in February 2018. I’m now in remission and being monitored closely. So far, everything’s going to plan, with no signs of cancer reappearing.

You’re no stranger to the Duval Dam Buster event – you’ve taken part in it before! How tough was your last run there?

I did! I was actually the first to register for the event, so I ended up with the number one race bib! 

I worked my way up to it with a few events in the preceding months. I ran the 22 km Ultra-Trail Australia (UTA) event in the Blue Mountains in May, followed by the half marathon on the Gold Coast in July, then the City to Surf in Sydney in August. I wasn’t sure if I could manage running non-stop for 30 km, so I was interested to see how I went. 

Apart from walking up the steepest inclines, I did make it the whole way at a reasonable pace. You really don’t know what you’re capable of until you give it a shot.

You’ll also be coming to compete at this year’s event on September 22nd. What distance will you be running – and how much are you looking forward to it?

I’ve registered for the 30 km again this year. I have to say; of all the events I’ve done, the Duval Dam Buster is the one I’ve enjoyed the most. The terrain is varied, and the outlook quite spectacular in places. 

I like the fact that you can recover from the climb up Mount Duval with the downhill and flatter parts around the dam, before giving it another go in the second loop. 

It’s far less brutal than the unrelenting uphills/steps in the UTA 22. I also like the people and the atmosphere – for a relatively small event, it really has a great vibe.

What do you hope to achieve at this year’s event – do you have a time/goal in mind?

I’d be happy with anything around last year’s time. If I creep under three and a half hours, that would be even better. I’ll just give it my best shot and see what happens.

A lot of people may be thinking about events like the “Buster”, convinced they wouldn’t be able to do them. What would your advice to these people be?

Coming into 2016, I’d only attempted a 14 km distance – and felt that was a stretch. The half marathon seemed insurmountable. Before I knew it, I’d run three in four months. There’s a great sense of achievement there. 

In that first half marathon on the Gold Coast, a spectator around the 18 km mark yelled out to the runners, “You can do it! You’re stronger than you think you are!” I’ve reflected on that spectator’s encouragement in events ever since. 

Set your sights on something, get some training under your belt, and give it a go. Walk, jog, run, whatever – there’s satisfaction in just getting out there. The DDB is a good choice, given its variety of distances and terrain – there’s something for everyone and what better place than the great New England tablelands!

Thanks, Andrew.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

You, too, can enter the Duval Dam Buster on September 22nd.

With events starting from 3 km and stretching right through to 30 km, why not give it a shot?

To register and for further info, visit

Event proudly supported by Armidale Athletics Club, New England Locksmiths and the NSW Government.

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