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Why I do Banish the Black Dog…

It’s nearly that time of year again when the likes of the Blue Heelers, Dalmatians, Labradors, Whippets and Pig Dogs go bounding towards Ayr, where they pull-up for the night and have a howling-good time (and potentially end up in the dog house… hair of the dog anyone?). It’s all a lot of fun, but there is a serious side to this charity road ride – Banish the Black Dog is all about raising awareness and funds for mental health – something the annual event has done remarkably well, fetching more than $300,000 since its inception in 2009 and forging life-long companionships.

We caught up with some regulars and first-timers to find out more about the experience and what hope to get out of the ride this year.

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Wayne Giese – ride coordinator

Wayne has been doing this ride since it started seven years ago. He usually sweeps the rear of the bunch while his daughter Jana drives one of the support vehicles, but this is the first year she won’t be involved after having a baby last year. “There are lots of families who get involved – mums and daughters, grandkids and grandparents, and family members have even done it on tandems,” Wayne says. “You make a lot of good friendships out of it and there’s that camaraderie with the other riders – we all work together to get there: No one is dropped or left behind to change their own tyre.”

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Janet Curran gives a friendly wave.

Janet Curran – committee

Janet has also been doing the Black Dog ride since the beginning, but this year she’ll miss out as she and husband John are taking off on a trip around north western Australia on Sunday and will be gone indefinitely. Despite her excitement at her imminent adventure, she says she’s genuinely disappointed to forgo the Black Dog action. “I’ve been on the committee every year, so it will be strange not doing it,” Janet tells. “I love the camaraderie between everyone and the Saturday night band and catch-up – it’s just a really good social event.”

Janet says people will travel from as far as Cairns, Sunshine Coast, Victoria, Darwin, and even Perth for the ride, with many locals using the event as a training ride for the Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride. “It’s definitely worth getting on board and it doesn’t matter what sort of riding skills you’ve got; there’s always someone there to help you and encourage you – it’s all about having a good time and raising funds – it’s just fabulous,” she says. “Plus it helps the riders’ mental health too – when you get out there and do something that’s physical and social, it’s a boost for everyone.”

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Mick Roache and Paul Wood are doing the ride on a tandem bike.

Paul Wood and Mick Roache – Townsville Tandems

Paul and Mick are both Black Dog first-timers, but their maiden voyage is made even more special by the fact that Mick has a peripheral vision impairment following a stroke. By being on a tandem bike, Paul – the coordinator of Townsville Tandems – can be Mick’s eyes while they both pedal.

Townsville Tandems was formed last year to give people with a disability the opportunity to enjoy all that cycling has to offer. With the support of Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association, the club was able to acquire two tandem bikes and it’s been full speed ahead since then. When Mick approached Paul about doing some more challenging rides, Paul suggested Banish the Black Dog and Mick jumped at the chance. “The idea of supporting mental illness and depression particularly appealed to me, as it’s something close to my heart,” Mick explains. “I was pretty determined to go back to work after my stroke and surgery, and when I realised that it wasn’t going to work out, it was a lot to cope with. My specialist told me I needed to keep fit to help me mentally and physically.”

And that’s exactly what Mick did, initially getting into swimming to help with his back spasms then going on to complete the swim leg of his first triathlon, then embracing running, and now cycling. “I guess I’m a bit obsessed with fitness and this ride is my next challenge,” he says with a grin.

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Banish the Black Dog in a nutshell

What: A road ride promoted by the Rotary Club of Townsville Central to raise funds and awareness for mental health on Saturday, May 23 to Sunday, May 24.
Where: Starts at the Riverview Tavern at 7am and ends up at the Ayr Showgrounds. And back again the next day.
Distance: 260km (130km a day).
Speed: There are different groups to cater to all levels: 20km/h, 25km/h, 30km/h and 35km/h.

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Get involved

Registrations are open until Sunday, May 3 for Banish the Black Dog 2015 and you can sign-up online. It’s $195 for the ride (which covers all the logistics and food) and you need to raise a minimum of $200 for Australian Rotary Health – the largest non-government mental health research funding organisation in the country. There are free weekly training rides in the lead-up to get you ready. These leave from Top Brand Cycles every Saturday at 5.30am, with the route and distances changing. Please note: This week’s training ride will be on Sunday, April 26 this week due to ANZAC Day. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Banish-the-Black-Dog

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Note from the Editor

Yes, Goers – I too have been inspired to bite the bullet for this great cause. After getting on the road bike for the first time in January, I’m really enjoying it after conquering the fear of cleats, getting more comfortable with riding in a bunch and and doing my new longest distance of 90km a couple of weeks ago. I still need to get those kilometres up a bit, but I’m really looking forward to the ride – sounds like a LOT of fun. This is a cause that’s particularly close to my heart as I strongly believe there’s a link between mental health and exercise – keeping active has certainly helped me through difficult times in the past. Plus there’s the social side: I’ve met some awesome people already through BTBD and look forward to meeting many more. If you can’t join the ride yourself, please feel free to donate any amount you can – anything is much appreciated. Will of course report back from the battle line on how the bum is holding up and post lots of pics!

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Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz is combining two of her great loves — writing and getting active. Previously working as a journalist, sub-editor, and editor in newspapers and magazines; she is editor and co-founder of TheGo Townsville. She stays active with the staples of road cycling and yoga, but has recently discovered triathlon. And become addicted (apart from the swimming part). She also has a Cert III in Fitness and is passionate about improving mental health through physical activity.

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