Team POGO Gold Coast Marathon 2018
Team POGO will welcome many first-timers to the fold for this year’s Gold Coast Marathon weekend, among them Mellony Utz from Gatton in the Lockyer Valley.
Mellony made the momentous decision earlier this year to tackle her first half-marathon and close friend since high school Christie McKay, who just happens to be POGO’s team co-ordinator, insisted she become a member of the team.
“When Christie said ‘you have to come along and join us’, I didn’t really think that was for me. She’s an elite runner now. I said: ‘You don’t want me in that team, but she was adamant that ‘absolutely we do’,” Mellony said.
“I’d been running regularly at parkrun with my daughters Tahlia and Hayley and decided about two months ago to do the half-marathon. It was a case of now or never, and I decided now.”
While not a POGO client, Mellony will be among the 100 runners who will tackle their chosen event in the POGO singlets across the two days of the Gold Coast Marathon weekend on June 30-July 1.
The team is from all over the country … a mix of clients, social media followers of POGO founder Brad Beer and others. Among them are marathoners and half-marathoners, both elite and non-competitive runners, as well as those competing in the 10km race and shorter distances, and even a handful of kids.
Mellony’s decision to tackle a half-marathon is a celebration of her new life, of the fact she has not had an epileptic seizure in the five years since she made the decision to have life-changing brain surgery.
“I’ve not long celebrated my five-year post-surgery and five years of being seizure-free,” the 36-year-old explains.
The procedure – a temporal lobe resection – is the same that rugby league legend Wally Lewis had in 2007 to rid him of the epilepsy which had secretly plagued his life for 20-odd years before revealing itself in very public fashion on air during a news broadcast in late 2006.
“(The surgery was) Very much the same surgery that Wally Lewis had, just opposite sides of the brain,” Mellony says.
“It was nine years before the surgery … eight-plus seizures a day. As you can imagine my life is very different now, polar opposite to what it was prior to that surgery.
“I’m a fulltime teacher aide at our local Catholic primary school, Our Lady of Counsel, and I coach netball.
“Epilepsy is not something I had when I was a kid. It came along during my first pregnancy.
“I had been playing three games of touch football a week, doing all the normal things that a sport lover does and then had my first baby and pretty much it was all over.”
On her long road to recovery her neurologist suggested some regular exercise would be beneficial “to get my brain functions going again” and that is where parkrun in Gatton played a huge role.
“Prior to that I was a bit scared to start pushing things again for the fear of making the surgery unsuccessful,” Mellony says.
“I asked the girls to come along to parkrun with mum and that first 5km I thought ‘what am I doing’, the legs were burning after a kilometre and I thought ‘I can’t do this’, but I persisted, then you crack a PB … and then another one.
“And here I am on the verge of doing a half-marathon.”
Christie’s role in pulling together the team for POGO is a labour of love, albeit one that gets pretty hectic in the weeks leading up to the event itself.
The Queensland half-marathon open women’s team member balances her own race preparations with what’s required for the POGO team, keeping everyone informed, letting them know how to find the POGO marquee along the finish chute, sourcing uniforms and race packs and getting them sent out to those team members who don’t live locally.
She’s also thankful to all the POGO staff who have been “generous with their time” and will be on hand at various times to offer pre- and post-race massages and strapping that may be required, not to mention provide support and encouragement to the runners.
“We reached 100 pretty early on last year and we have again this year,” Christie says. “We capped it at 100 because we want to make sure it’s a team-building experience and doesn’t get too far out of hand.
“We want it to be something people have pride in being a part of, part of a team.
“It’s not an elite team by any stretch. It’s for people who have goals for different reasons, it might be their first race, or they’re coming back from injury so they’ve set themselves a goal.
“The vibe was so good last year, people made friends. Everyone stayed behind in the tent to cheer on other team members all day because we’re right on that finish chute.
“We want this to be the most positive experience it can be.
“I get a buzz when emails come back from people saying just how excited they are. And we’re asking people to send us training pics to #teampogo so we can share them with the other team members.”
Two Team POGO members, Kel Walker and Sally Poole, were among the first to sign up after memorable experiences as part of last year’s team.
Kel lives in Sydney, ran his first marathon on the Gold Coast in 2015, is returning for a third time to the Gold Coast Marathon to compete in his fifth overall – he’s now done the Sydney race twice as well – and will run the New York Marathon later this year to cap his 50th birthday celebrations.
“I’d listened to Brad’s podcast a few times and decided to get on board with Team POGO. It is a really great weekend,” Kel says.
“You turn up and meet everybody. Everyone has the same sort of running goals. And they really look after you.
“I’ve been following Brad ever since. I just like what he does, love the podcast, love the team, and I really love the idea of POGO Physio in the sense that they don’t just treat the injury they really look at how they can get you back on track.
“The whole team at POGO really welcome you with open arms and treat you very special which is one of the good things about the practice he has there.”
Sally, who lives on a rural property about 80km south of Goondiwindi with partner Paul, is another out-of-towner who now considers herself part of the POGO family.
“I discovered Brad on Instagram and found his content really interesting. He is very generous with the information he shares with the general public,” Sally says.
“I saw he was advertising his Run 101 workshops last year … Paul and I really enjoy running but also my mum took up running at the age of 63 and was really enjoying it but was just struggling a little bit with a few niggles … so we decided we’d take her to the Run 101 workshop for her birthday.
“That’s how we met Brad. We all got so much out of it and really enjoyed the workshop, as well just getting to meet the POGO team and feeling like part of their family.
“We were already planning to go to the Gold Coast Marathon weekend and they encouraged us to sign up for Team POGO which we did. We had a fabulous time and it was nice to feel like part of a team because we come from a rural area it’s always nice to have some other people there who you can relate to and meet new people.
“We had such a great time last year with it we decided to do it again.”
Paul and Barbara are planning to chase PBs in the 10km race while Sally, who was preparing to do the marathon again this year, has had to re-evaluate her plans after a health scare.
“I did the marathon last year and was planning to do it again but I’ve actually had to have a stage 1 melanoma cut out of my thigh so with the amount of stitches I had Brad suggested running (for a time) was probably not the greatest idea.
“So I’ll just run the half and maybe do another marathon later in the year when everything has had a chance to heal up properly,” she said.