Running a legacy

12 days, 16 runners, 1000 kilometres. JCU Medical students are continuing a legacy started by past undergraduates in 2012 with the Run to Better Days. Aimed at eradicating global poverty one step at a time, the annual event has so far raised $115,000 for charities that make a difference to the world’s poorest people.

In 2019 that charity is the Against Malaria Foundation, and third-year JCU Medical student Hailey Smith is working as the Head of Logistics for the run.

For Hailey, participating in such a worthwhile cause is made that much sweeter by the fact the fundraiser was founded by her predecessors in JCU’s Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery course - Daniel Charles, Brenton Mayer and Laura Koefler.

“I think it’s a very cool thing that they did, and if you look at all the figures over the years of the money that they’ve raised they’ve made quite a significant contribution to the Against Malaria Foundation and the other charities that they’ve previously raised money for,” Hailey said.

The origin of the run lies in pragmatic thinking, and a strong desire to make a positive difference to the world.

“As medical students they recognised we can’t do heaps to make a huge difference in global poverty,” she said.

“The Against Malaria Foundation is one of the most cost-effective charities, so for every dollar that we raise it actually goes towards buying and distributing mosquito nets.”

An aerial view of three runners in high vis vests run down a dirt road flanked by green pine trees. A blue sky touching the horizon stretches out in front of them.

The Run to Better Days raises money for the most cost-effective charities, this year their funds will go towards the Against Malaria Foundation. Image courtesy of Hailey Smith

The 1000 kilometres is a ribbon of the Bruce Highway between Mackay and Coolangatta, with the occasional detour down a smaller road if there's more space. The team of 16 will be taking it in turns to do the hard yards.

“We have one runner who gets out, they run their distance, usually about five to 10 kilometres,” Hailey said.

“Then another runner will get out and swap with them, so it’s a relay in that format running down the coast.”

Education and awareness is also a key part of the Run to Better Days, and Hailey and her peers will be stopping in at schools to educate young kids on the importance of charity organisations.

“It’s just generally helping children to recognise that in Australia most of us are really well-off,” the JCU student said.

“We’re very fortunate compared to other people and we want to help them recognise that.”

“If you’re happy to spend $20 on a brunch every month, maybe just once a year donate $20 to charity.

“As people in such an affluent society, it’s something we should feel happy to do.”

Grace Gough, also a third-year medical student, is in charge of sponsorships and local organisations play a big part in the group’s success.

“We raise money for costs of travelling, the cars and the food and everything that’s required for us to run and also raise money for the Against Malaria Foundation,” Grace said.

“That involves contacting our major sponsors, getting the word out, posting on the Facebook page and organising the social media contributions.”

A runner in a high vis vest on the side of a road at sunset. In front of her is a sign indicating Agnes Water and Seventeen Seventy are the nearest towns.

The students also stop into schools during their journey to teach kids about the importance of charities. Image courtesy of Hailey Smith.

Just like Hailey, Grace is taking pride in building on a legacy left by a few altruistic medical students at JCU in 2012.

“It’s a lot of pressure. It’s been a little bit stressful but it’s been so incredibly worth it and it really is an honour to continue something like this,” she said.

You can learn more about the Run to Better Days on Facebook, and if you want to donate, head to their website.

If you want to make a positive difference to the health of underprivileged communities, consider JCU Medicine.