Image Credit: Burley Man Initiative
Last year, in late October, Joshua Dundas made a decision that would shape the next five months of his life. Starting off, he set up an innocuous Gofundme campaign entitled ‘Burley Man Initiative’, before creating both a Facebook page and an Instagram account in quick succession. Within the next six days, he had reached out to two charities – Cancer Council and Bravehearts – and was ready to go.
What was Dundas’ plan? He wanted to run. A lot.
The target was 2500km: that equated to around 15 km of running per day, or, when Dundas’ $5000 fundraising goal was taken into account, $2 per kilometre. He would update his social media pages with details on his progress. Alongside the running updates, he would promote the importance of both getting your skin checked and being aware of child protection issues. And he would also grow a beard – something that Dundas, who despised facial hair, could not look forward to less.
I texted Dundas to see whether he was ready to chat about his work and his experiences, but he told me to hold on. Five months after he had started it, he was just closing up the ‘Burley Man Initiative’ Gofundme page, and we agreed to meet following the finalisation of his fundraising efforts.
What followed was a chat with a man who is realistic with the troubles that face his community, but also beyond hopeful in its capacity to overcome them. Dundas is the everyman: chirpy, perpetually ‘stoked’, always kind, but with a keen streak of determination that sets him aside from others.
That determination has turned people’s heads. Not just the hundreds that donated to his initiative, but to the thousands in the ANU community who saw what he was doing and were influenced by it.
For Dundas, the first few weeks of the initiative were lonely and tough. Having not run long distances since his football days, Dundas gave it his all and ran 22 km on his first run. But that mentality wore him down. Just two weeks in, cracks started showing. After a particularly tough 10pm run from his home in Braddon up past Mt Ainslie and beyond, Dundas stopped, breathless and tired, and broke down crying. He was ‘so broken, so sore’, and felt like he could barely walk.
Dundas learned. He recognised that his physical threshold was probably not much more than 13 km of running at one time, and so he split up his single run a day into three. After six weeks, he realised that getting people to come on runs with him proved motivational, and spread his message even more. It became Dundas’ all-in-one ‘socialising and meditation’ solution.
And, after one life changing chunder, Dundas learned never to drink one and a half litres of choccy milk right after running.
Slowly, the worth of Dundas’ running became concrete. Within two months, he had raised $2000 online. His beard was filling in. And people were getting their skin checked. ‘I had a mate close to me tell me he was going in and getting a skin check, and now he is having a mole removed next week,’ Dundas said. In fact, he pinned the number at around 20 people who had told him that they were getting their skin checked thanks to his advocacy.
Dundas was reflective when I spoke to him. Despite the initiative officially closing up less than an hour before, he seemed nostalgic about it already. This was perhaps due to his tough run-in with injury in recent months. In mid-February, Dundas tore his left quad, which took him out of action for two weeks. Just as he was recovering, he ‘picked up peroneal tendonitis’, which made running long distances grating and painful. Despite his best efforts, Dundas ended up just 350km short of his 2500km goal, resorting to walking hundreds of kilometres to try and complete that final stretch.
But even while he wasn’t running, the donations kept piling in. Photos of a full-bearded Dundas filled the initiative’s social media pages, and events like the hilarious Budgie Run – in which 32 of Dundas’ mates ran 10km in budgie smugglers – raised the profile of the Burley Man Initiative to new heights.
There was no doubt as to why Dundas was so chuffed when we chatted; he had just potted $9,700 – almost double his original goal – into the coffers of Braveheart and Cancer Council.
When asked why he was doing all this, Dundas got serious: it wasn’t just a test of character for himself, but it was also a call to arms for all other everymen out there. Dundas was able to show, through the Burley Man Initiative, that ‘everyone else can do it as well’.
Dundas has stopped running – for now. But rest assured he’ll be back, beard or no beard, and armed with his relentless determination and cheer. In these past five months, Dundas has not just raised money for charity, but has achieved something far more momentous.
He has challenged all of us to not cheer from the sidelines while others run past.