Stuart Thompson-Coleman, Maudsland resident and Manager of the Emergency Department at the Gold Coast Private Hospital, is preparing to take on The Kokoda Challenge for the 8th time this Saturday. At age 47, Stuart has completed the gruelling 96km trek through the Gold Coast Hinterland nearly every year since 2013 and is aiming to complete the 96km challenge 10 times before he turns 50.
The Kokoda Challenge is Australia's toughest endurance event that honours Australian Diggers who fought along the Kokoda Track in New Guinea in 1942 and raises funds for Kokoda Youth Foundation that supports local kids through experiential youth programs.
"Can I still do it?" Stuart asks. "That's what I keep asking myself every year. But the challenge helps keep you feeling alive, and it takes mental determination to get over the line."
Stuart entered his first Kokoda Challenge in 2013 and had only two weeks' notice before the event, as he was filling in for someone who could no longer participate. "I had no idea what I was getting myself into," he said. Years later in 2021, Stuart and his team were the 8th team to cross the finish line with a time of just 18 hours, scraping a staggering 6 hours off the average finish time.
This weekend, Stuart will be hiking with three colleagues from work, including a nurse and two paramedics. "It's a challenge that not everyone can do," Stuart says. "But, with a great team and sheer belief and resilience, you can reach goals you never thought possible." Working in the emergency department, Stuart says that he and his teammates need to have mental resilience to do the work that they do.
Stuart worked at the hospital when Doug Henderson, Vietnam Veteran and Founder of the Kokoda Youth Foundation, was receiving treatment for stage 4 melanoma. He says that during Doug’s visits, Stuart learned a lot about the foundation and was inspired by Doug’s story to give back to the foundation by taking part in The Kokoda Challenge. That year, Stuart and his teammates wore ribbons around their arm on the track in honour of Doug’s successful journey in overcoming his battle. "Stuart's support for KYF during my treatment was incredibly meaningful, as it helped me connect with our charity's mission while I was battling a difficult time," said Doug.
Stuart will set off from the 96km Kokoda Challenge start line this Saturday at 7:00 am from Mudgeeraba Bowls Club on Somerset Drive. Alongside his team, he will venture well into the night before making it to the finish line at Nerang Velodrome before the 39-hour cut-off on Sunday. Stuart’s team has raised over $2,000 for Kokoda Youth Foundation.
The Kokoda Challenge Gold Coast
Event start date: Saturday 15th of July, 2023
Distances: 30km, 48km and 96km
Start time: from 7:00 am
Location: Mudgeeraba Bowls Club, Somerset Drive, Mudgeeraba
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