UNPREDICTABLE terrain and a mentally gruelling, non-stop out-and-back course through the Lerderderg and Wombat State Forests awaits Glen Wilkins.
Six years ago the Lethbridge dad did not run, nor exercise much at all really. He is preparing to tackle his toughest challenge yet, the 217-kilometre Down Under 135, in May.
Wilkins is stepping up his visits to the region's forests in lengthy training drills this summer.
WATCH a taste of Down Under 135 below
The training has a big impact on his family life and, to make the effort count, Wilkins is rallying awareness and funds for Diabetes Victoria in tribute to his wife, Ainsley, who was diagnosed with type one diabetes as a child.
Wilkins said he had been staring at the possibility of developing type two diabetes heading into his 40s. Overweight and unhealthy, Wilkins looked in the mirror one day and decided to change course.
He started bike riding until he one day saw a poster for a running program for charity River's Gift, which focuses on research into sudden infant death syndrome.
I thought, 'how hard could it be?' but this from a bloke who could not run to his letterbox.Glen Wilkins
"I signed up for the 14K run on the Great Ocean Road. I thought, 'how hard could it be?' but this from a bloke who could not run to his letterbox," Wilkins said. "At the time I thought while I do, why not do it to help others."
Within 18 months, Glen ran his first half-marathon (21.1 kilometres) at Run Melbourne, his first marathon (42.2km) in the Melbourne Marathon festival and his first ultra with 100km in the Surf Coast Century.
Friendship and camaraderie keeps spurring Wilkins along, particularly on the trails.
For the Down Under 135 Wilkins must piece together a support crew with pacers who will run stretches through the bush with him. He needs to be confident they can both look after themselves and him out there.
What has mattered most to Wilkins is the support he gets on the days when he does not feel much like going for a run. He can flick his mates a message any time and they are there for him.
When The Courier spoke to Wilkins, he had started a marathon distance training run at 4am to ensure he was back home to look after the children when his wife went to work.
Wilkins took the plunge into Down Under 135 in June after a coffee with his coach. He was one of 35 runners accepted in October and said the feeling was both exhilarating and daunting.
But it was a little like taking those first steps to moving more.
Wilkins said every distance counts and for those thinking about running to just get out and do it.
"You've got to want to make changes," Wilkins said.
"Join a running group. No-one judges you, they don't care how big you are, or how fast you are. You're in it together.
"I only started running when I was 40. I never thought it would lead to this."
For those wanting to follow or support Wilkins' efforts, visit his Facebook page here.
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