Bree and Sam’s reason for running the Melbourne Marathon

Bree and Sam Wollany's Run4aReason campaign. Image: Run4aReason

Bree and Sam Wollany’s Run4aReason campaign. Image: Run4aReason


7.40am Saturday November 16 2015

by Ed Kennedy

Bree and Sam mean business. Two young and dynamic girls who are having a go all across their work and wider life as they speed through their twenties. Nursing, working in airline cabin crew, serving in the Australian Defence Forces Reserves – and oh yeah a bit of running – colours their life and day-to-day. These girls are fun, good natured and normal. This is why the story of their past year is so compelling.

When their father Richard fell ill with PSP the family didn’t run from the diagnosis. For those yet to hear of it – and it’s indeed true this is a illness many have but many more are yet to have of – may the following bring you up to speed.

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy is a rare neurological condition affecting the parts of the brain that control walking, eye movements, balance, speech and swallowing.

Challenging‚ confronting and all at once overwhelming‚ the Wolany clan looked to come together and emerge stronger as a result. Many would feel tempted to run at such a difficult moment – Bree and Sam decided to run for it, and sign up to take part in the Melbourne Marathon this Sunday.

The Melbourne Marathon is a 42km run that ever the greatest and most gifted athletes find themselves tested by. As anyone who has ran it shall indicate, it is not just the event itself, but the journey towards it – and especially the mental and emotional strains alongside the rigors of training – that can prove so testing to a participant.

Bree and Sam resolved to undertake the Marathon and to take up this journey with the courage of Richard inspiring them; and accordingly looked for a way to document the road leading up to this Sunday morning.

Run4aReason was founded with this aim. Bree a Brighton resident setup an Instagram account – found sponsorship from local businesses like Red Door in Brighton, Brighton Osteo and One Fitness – and then saw broader community and wider online support soon follow.

Since its establishment in April this year, Bree and Sam have upload and peppered the account with a wide variety of fun, funny – and sweet and tender posts showing the preparations and run up to the Marathon this week.

One of Bree and Sam's Marathon-prep posts. Image: Run4aReason
One of Bree and Sam’s Marathon-prep posts. Image: Run4aReason

Raising awareness and contributions is not new. We see this with tin rattling‚ telethons and numerous other means. Yet‚ in the day and age of social media we are seeing new campaigns being done in ways. Self-ran‚ wholly unique and – as Bree and Sam have well shown – fun alongside heartfelt.

Only 1500 Australians are living with PSP. Only 22 percent of people with PSP are given the correct diagnosis in the first two years, with many receiving an initial diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

This means the campaign by Bree and Sam has been at once deeply personal – and busy being maintained alongside Bree’s paramedic university studies and work for an events company, and Sam’s employment as a Cabin Crew officer with Emirates Airlines – and communal.

Picking the marathon as a symbol of the end goal for this campaign is at once something also unique to the Wolanys, yet also something many feel are drawn towards across wider Melbourne.

“Many people are drawn to the Melbourne Marathon for many reasons. Fitness and health goals of course factor in, but also its true many see a marathon as a mountain summit and a show of strength for challenges in life they face. We wish Wolany family well in their marathon and family life beyond, this and do so to all involved in the October 18 event” said Greg Hooton, Event Director of the Melbourne Marathon.

This joining of a effort in endurance with a wider goal is something that has won the Wolany’s best wishes from both leaders across the local and wider Victorian community.

“It’s a great focus for a community to work together and respond to the contemporary challenges we face and try to make a positive difference”, said Murray Thompson, MP for Sandringham.

“I am sure all Bayside residents wish the Wolany family well both in the Melbourne Marathon ahead and their endeavour to support research into finding a cure for PSP”, said Mr Thompson.

“To run 42 kilometres is an incredible achievement in its own right. To combine this with the goal of raising $25,000 to help fund a Research Fellowship and show their support for their dad is inspiring,” says Emma Collin, Parkinson’s Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer.

A Childhood pic of Bree and Sam with dad Richard Image: Run4aReason
A Childhood pic of Bree and Sam with dad Richard. Image: Run4aReason

Bree and Sam’s story has also been one that’s undoubtedly testament to the strength of the local communities and the groups within it – and though at times people may be a bit glum and wish to express otherwise – so many individuals and groups are ready to be ‘activated’ and throw their support behind a worth cause.

This is perhaps especially true in the fitness and sports communities, which traditionally enjoy a sizeable memberships and long associations.

An insight into this is offered by Christopher Dalh of the Melbourne based Gun Runners running group.

“Although running is a solo experience, the running fraternity is supportive of all participants and many runners are quite happy to exchange stories and tips for newcomers.”

“Many newcomers to the sport may struggle to run 5kms, however with the right encouragement and guidance numerous members of our club have achieved personal success, from completing 5km without stopping to Marathons and beyond.”

“I encourage people from all walks of life to give it a go and enjoy a run with your local club and make new friends.”

Bree, Sam and Richard in 2015
Bree Sam and Richard in 2015. Image: Run4aReason

For the Wolany’s themselves, there has been much in preparation but a excitement for tomorrow’s event.

“Sam and I are both nervous with anticipation but also excited to enjoy the day”, said Bree.

Yet, though much time has indeed been spent in preparation – and so the Wolany’s have every reason to just ‘enjoy the moment’ this Sunday, there is also already a mind to the future.

“Right now we are sure about the future of Run4aReason, however I’m always looking at seeing how far I can take things.”

“Yet, I’ve also met many families whose lives have affected by PSP whilst I’ve been involved in this fundraising initiative, so i might see what i can do that will continuously help other affected by PSP and their families, so we do say ‘stay tuned!’”

An ongoing effort to raise awareness of an illness like PSP shall always be a marathon. In the short term however, for the real one to come this Sunday there is already a well earned post-run plan in place.

“First thing we will do after the race is get a photo, we have a photographer and we look forward to posting finish line photo together – and after that? – a shower for sure!”

Bree and Sam’s campaign can be donated to via this link here.

The Bayside Citizen on behalf of all Baysiders and those beyond wishes the Wolanys well this Sunday, alongside all those who live day-by-day with the illness of PSP.

Article first appeared in The Bayside Citizen October 2016.

Ed Kennedy is a journalist, ghostwriter, and web developer from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via on LinkedIn or Twitter@EdKennedy01

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