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Gunai Gunditjmara man Andrew ‘Googz’ Thorpe has achieved truly inspirational things in his running career, notably completing the Indigenous Marathon Project in 2020 after running a solo marathon in Melbourne, running a 100km ultra marathon to raise mental health awareness and funds for Dardi Munwurro’s community program, and conquering the 777 Bravehearts Challenge running seven marathons, in seven states in sevens day last year. 

But awaiting him is his greatest physical challenge yet. In February 2024, Googz will become the first Indigenous Australian to take on the Great World Race, running seven marathons in seven continents around the world in seven consecutive days. 

When reflecting on the challenge ahead, Googz draws comparisons between the efforts of running and balancing your mental health, sharing that “you’re going to have ups and downs but just keep putting one foot in front of the other and lean on the support around you.” 

We sat down with the Black Dog Institute Ambassador and mental health advocate to discuss the powerful impacts of running on mental health, how to support others, and his purpose in signing up for the Great World Race. 

How does running impact your mental health? 

“I like to go for a run to clear my head and make the rest of the world disappear at times. It’s how I cope when I’m going through hard times with my mental health. Running helps me keep motivated and gives me the energy to take on challenges I am faced with that cause me mental health issues.” 

In your experience, how can we ask someone if they are ‘OK’? 

“Some ways that I find easy and beneficial to help other people in community is if you notice there may be something wrong, ask them directly “how are you feeling? Are you ok?” It’s simple and seems like a cliché, but it does help in times when someone is feeling down. They may not realise it is noticeable to others and they could be trying to hide it. By asking the question, you’re making it known that you care about how they are feeling. It goes a long way. 

You might not get an answer the first- or second time round, but if you continually ask someone how they are going, they’re going to understand that you do respect and care for them and they’re going to open up eventually.” 

What are some other ways you can ask if someone is ‘OK?’  

“Other ways you can go about it is making safe spaces to just be. If you notice someone going through a hard time, offer that safe space whether it’s a cup of tea at home or going to a café. Do something you both enjoy, that way it doesn’t make it a challenge or a task for yourself. Just making sure you’re there for someone goes along way when someone is having a hard time. 

Asking ‘R U OK?’ can sound different to many people. Someone may instead say to me “do you want to go for a run?” That means they recognise that if I’m in a hard place, running is something that gets me out of it, and I’m more likely to open up after that run or during the run. 

It might be having a cup of tea, or if someone is into gardening, just go out to sit out with them and help them plant some seeds. The different ways of asking can be challenging and sometimes time can be limited. I’m in construction, so I might pull someone away on a hot day to have a drink of water; that’s time I can ask if they’re ok. Remember that asking if someone is ‘OK’ will sound different to everyone.” 

Do you have any other advice about managing mental health? 

“Having a positive mindset about the outlook of things is always challenging when you are experiencing mental health issues. But the best thing to do is try and focus on the positive, pick one positive out of your day focus on that rather than the negative. It’s very easy to go down the path of negativity if something happens. But if you change your mindset and have a positive outlook on certain things, it can change your whole day. Don’t let five minutes of anger or frustration ruin the 24 hours in that day. Make sure you allow yourself space to clear your mind, but whatever it is, the best thing is to have a positive outlook on it, because it will grow to be a positive day, a positive week, even a positive year. People will see that positivity and will want to take some of it.” 

Tell us a bit about your upcoming Great World Run and your purpose surrounding this? 

“I’m going to be running seven marathons in seven consecutive days across seven continents in February 2024. I’ll be starting in Antarctica on February 6, then we move to Cape Town and off to Perth. Next, we are straight on a plane to Istanbul which covers over two continents Europe and Asia. Then we head to Cartagena in Columbia and finish up on the seventh day in Miami running the seventh marathon. 

It’s going to be a very tough time and as someone who has run many marathons now, I know they all have their own challenges, just like life. Lots of people are juggling and spinning different plates, whether you’re Mum, Dad, Aunty or Uncle, or balancing work life and home life; there is so much going on. 

To not only be travelling the world in a plane but running a marathon in each continent but dealing with all the niggles that’s going to come with seven marathons and hitting the wall seven times in a week is going to be very challenging. But I always honour my ‘why’ very seriously. My ‘why’ is to better myself and prove to myself that nothing is impossible, and to show my community and family that everything is possible if you just set your mind to it. I’m going to be raising money as sponsorship to participate in the event, and any money outside of that will be donated to the Black Dog Institute. 

Mental health isn’t a one day thing, it’s a lifestyle. When you have mental health battles and issues it doesn’t just go away. But it’s manageable. It’s like a run. You’re going to have ups and downs, boring times, and hard times, but at the end of the day as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other its manageable. Having a support crew around you to help you get there is how you get through a marathon, but also how you get through life. Lean on each other.”  

To support Googz on his fundraising journey, click here. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, there is discrete support available. 

13YARN – 13 92 76 

Brother To Brother Crisis Line for Aboriginal men – 1800 435 799 

Lifeline – 13 11 14