You could say retired grandmother Janet Curran has been doing a few kilometres in the saddle of late. Not only does she have the two-day 260km Banish the Black Dog Ride later this month from Townsville to Ayr to raise funds and awareness for mental health; but just a week later she is heading to Adelaide to ride the gruelling nine-day 1700km to Uluru in her third Smiling for Smiddy charity ride. Just to take part you need to have raised $5,000 for cancer care and research, not to mention dedicated hours to training. We caught up with Janet to find out about the road ahead and her journey so far.
“It doesn’t matter what you are doing to get active, but you just need to start and you’ll start feeling better physically and mentally”
How many Smiddy rides have you done and where? Two — the Smiddy Challenge, which is from Brisbane to Townsville, mainly up the centre on the development road, and the last of Sharky’s Oz ‘7 in 7’ [ride around Australia], which was 2,530km from Melbourne to Brisbane via Canberra and Sydney.
What do you love about the rides? Smiddy is about teamwork, spirit and mateship. Each day someone tells their story of why they are riding and there’s usually not a dry eye in the place! The challenge is to push the body and mind to achieve things that you thought impossible. The Brisbane to Townsville ride was very hard and extremely hot in the high 40s, but we were doing it with a group of friends from Townsville for a very special friend, Alan, who we lost to cancer. The Melbourne to Brisbane was much more enjoyable as I was more prepared for it. The countryside was very different — there was a lot more climbing, plus freezing, wet and windy conditions. I was again doing it with friends from Townsville and some every inspiring people from all over Australia; and of course my darling hubby Johnno who was lead car driver. He’s doing it again on the Adelaide to Uluru ride — he’s a real gem and I couldn’t do it without him!
How are you feeling ahead of this ride? Apprehensive, nervous, and wondering if I’ve done enough! Pretty much all the normal fears ahead of a big challenge.
Closer to home, you’re also doing the Banish the Black Dog Charity ride — 260km from Townsville to Ayr in late May. How did you get involved in that? The Banish the Black Dog Ride come about over many a red wines with a group of friends as an alternative/support to the Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride that didn’t mean taking time off work [it’s over the weekend of May 28-29]. I have been involved with it from the beginning. We wanted to support local mental heath initiatives and Rotary Health research. Our rationale was that the more we got involved with mental health and talked about the issues, it would come easier for people to feel it’s OK to get help. It’s a huge problem.
Is Black Dog a challenge that most people can aspire to with some regular training rides? Most defiantly! Anyone can do the ride. I was not a bike rider and I didn’t own a bike until I was challenged to do the Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride many years ago. You don’t need an expensive bike, but make sure you get it regularly serviced. Get good knicks [padded cycling pants] — everyone has their own preference, but quality knicks will make things better – honest! The key to enjoying the ride is training and training smart. There are some wonderful people in Townsville who are only too happy help, which is an invaluable resource. The Black Dog has training rides each weekend to get you ready.
Do you have any other post-Smiddy goals? Yes, but I had better keep that one to myself for now. But, really, I have still a lot of activities that I want to do: more cycle travel in Australia and overseas. I would love to volunteer in School of St Judes in Tanzania. I think I will need to live until I’m 120 to fit it all in.
Other things about Janet…
What active things do you do outside of riding? I love the water, so spending the day out on the boat snorkelling, paddling, swimming and just having a great time with family and friends.
What’s your greatest fitness achievement? Still to come I hope!
What’s your day job? Well my day job now is the best job that I’ve had: it’s retirement! Before that I worked in my husband’s practice and was a teacher for many, many years, which I loved.
You recently took some time away to travel around the top end — what was the highlight of that for you? Really too many great times, but camping under the stars on the red cliffs of Cape Leveque with the white sand, crystal clear water, watching the whales play, then catching fish/mudcrabs for dinner enjoying and them with a nice wine — that was a “life’s pretty good!” moment.
What’s your favourite thing to do on a weekend in Townsville? Oh… did I mention I had a grandson?! Well, I just love spending time with my family — they are the best! Friends — I have the best friends ever. There is so much to do in Townsville — there’s always something happening and it doesn’t take long to go places. You can watch the sunrise on The Strand and have brekkie there or dinner, or go to the river for picnics and a paddle. Just look at TheGo — there’s always something happening!
What activity have you always wanted to try (and what’s holding you back)? Triathlon. Let’s just say I’m not a swimmer or runner. The only thing holding me back is me!
Last words? Just get out and start achieving because the little steps lead to big leaps. It doesn’t matter what you are doing to get active, but you just need to start and you’ll start feeling better physically and mentally.
Also thanks to my fellow riders, fitness companions and many friends who have inspired me and cycled with over the years and more recently. There have been so many inspirational people whose own illnesses and tragedies have never stopped them from achieving their fitness goals. The cancer survivors I have ridden with, and people with mental, visual and physical impairments participating in charity rides because it’s a cause they believe in. It’s not about how fast they go or how good they look (Lycra isn’t a great look on many but who cares!) — it’s about their own journey and how they get there. Do I wish I had started cycling in my younger years? Of course I do, but what’s the point of looking back, we’re not going that way. Just do it! GO!!
Show your support for Janet and the other Townsville riders tackling Black Dog and Smiddy by donating to the fundraising pages. Janet’s Smiddy page is here and Black Dog is here. Keep an eye out for the fundraising events that are being hosted in the lead-up.
It’s not too late to sign-up for Black Dog yourself — find out more here. Remember, just do it!