Four Katoomba residents and interstate family and friends have followed the example of an ultramarathon runner who ran from Broken Hill to Sydney to raise awareness and open conversations about family violence.
The Katoomba-based team of 20 signed up for this year's annual Run Against Violence (RAV) under the banner "IDH powerhouse Run Against Violence (RAV)", completing the "1.7 million-step" challenge almost a week ahead of time.
Team captain and Katoomba resident, Dr Henriette Macri-Etienne, said many of the participants did not know each other before signing up, but all had thought it was a good time to take on the challenge given the difficulties brought about by lockdown and potentially heightened family violence.
Under the challenge, teams from around Australia signed up to run a collective 1300km, the distance from Broken Hill to Sydney, over 19 days - from August 31 to September 17. Some teams, including the IDH Powerhouse team, crossed the line in Sydney several days ahead of time and ran a further several hundred kilometres back towards Broken Hill.
The Katoomba-based team completed the required distance on September 11 but ran a further 400km up until September 17.
The 1300km distance is said to be roughly equal to 1.7 million steps, the estimated number of Australians who experience physical abuse before the age of 15.
The idea stemmed from ultramarathon runner Kirrily Dear who, in 2017, completed the run to Sydney solo to give a voice to the often-silent victims of family violence.
The RAV mission is to create a healthy relationship culture in local communities and remove the stigma and social barriers that can stop people from asking for help.
Each team member was able to take part anywhere, anytime over 19 days, tracking their individual walks or runs and uploading them to an app, so the distance could be added to the team tally.
"With COVID and lockdown, things are a lot harder for people at home," said Dr Macri-Etienne. "We wanted to be involved because it's a way to get people talking, especially for children who often don't have a voice.
"Two of us work at Integrated Dental Health in Katoomba, so we were pulling on our runners during lunch breaks or after work to get in a few kilometres. But we stayed on target."
Another member of the team, Heather Thorley, from near Shepparton in Victoria, agreed the challenge had been a "lovely way to connect with family and friends".
"Sometimes, it's hard to motivate yourself in lockdown, but the challenge was engaging and it was fun to track our progress."
Ms Thorley and her husband Rex were also attracted by the "opportunity to make a difference in a small way" and to be a part of the "RAV community".
Dr Macri-Etiene said she hoped the challenge would highlight the need for open communication about family violence.
The Katoomba-based team finished in the top quarter of the field of more than 200 teams.