EMERGING from The Long Night, Gus Martin says the heavy physical and emotional toll "couldn't have been more perfect" in what they were trying to achieve.
Martin and close mates Dean Ollerenshaw and Josh Kors ran from Federation Square in Melbourne home to a gym in Canadian overnight, from Friday evening into Saturday morning.
About 20 kilometres from Ballarat, Martin's ankles blew up, Ollerenshaw was throwing up and Kors had a likely touch of hypothermia. From Bacchus Marsh to Ballarat they ran through sideways, misty rain and the sudden drop in temperature that kicks in when you reach the the wider Ballarat region.
When they had reached Bacchus Marsh, sometime about 2am, a hyped-up group of gym friends met them with glow sticks and music pumping in a bid to lift their spirits and adrenaline.
The trios efforts were to raise money and awareness for youth mental health organisation Headspace. For Martin, this mission was sparked by the loss of his mate James "Peach" Petrie, a beloved teacher and community sportsman who died by suicide in February 2022.
This run was based on metaphors: the uphill climb to Ballarat; finding light after the darkness; and, all loved ones and supporters helping them along the way and catching them as "blubbering messes" at the finish.
"We wanted to experience the biggest challenge we could," Martin said. "...That whole way we were constantly checking in with each other and that's exactly what we wanted it to be in the end."
The Long Night comes three weeks after the inaugural Peach's Run, held by friends and family to honour Petrie with laps of Lake Wendouree.
Petrie's family met them when they arrived in Ballarat.
Martin said Ollerenshaw and Kors had their own personal reasons and mental health struggles for also undertaking the run.
He said they had arrived in Ballarat later than expected because after "unexpected things" had caught them out, but the community support had been incredible.
One person came out early in Warrenheip to offer them money on the road. A couple of cafes and restaurants are donating a portion of their takings from Saturday to help the cause.
Martin said the full extent of what they had achieved would take a while to measure.
But getting home, and knowing they had made it through the night to reached loved ones had been "really special".
To support the trio and to follow their progress, visit: gofundme.com.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Headspace Ballarat works with young people aged 12 to 25, and offers parental support: 5304 4777.