Two feet, 500km and no sleep for charity
By Dan Satherley
Her kids think she's "a bit nuts", and her mother wasn't impressed when she found out what her daughter was planning.
But 47-year-old Kim Allan is adamant – she is going to walk 500km nonstop, and without sleep.
Why? To raise money and awareness for spinal cord injury research and treatment – and because it's a challenge.
On Thursday, November 22, Ms Allen will begin the first of 332 laps around the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile at Auckland Domain, raising money for the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit in Otara and the Catwalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust.
If she completes the full 500km, the next time the Tuakau mother-of-four gets to sleep, it will probably be Sunday.
"It was a matter of finding something I could do that didn't involve a huge cost from me, or myself having to get sponsorship to cover the costs, because obviously that sponsorship could have gone towards fundraising," says Ms Allen, who currently makes a living off her art.
Inspired by US ultra-runner Pam Reed, she decided running – or walking – fit the bill nicely.
"I came up with the idea after reading Pam Reed's book," says Ms Allen.
"I was looking at different options of things I could do, and obviously your first one is the length of New Zealand, but that's been done quite a few times and the cost is huge – you need support people and a month or so to take off from life.
"I then came up with the thought of trying to break Pam Reed's record, then it was just a matter of finding where I could do it."
In 2005, Reed became the first person to complete a 300-mile run without sleep. It took her just under 80 hours – more than three days and nights.
"I feel a bit cheeky because obviously Pam Reed's one of America's top ultra-runners, and I really don't have any claim to fame," says Ms Allen.
In fact, she only completed her first ultramarathon of 100km two years ago. Before that, the longest distance she'd run was 10km, though she once walked the Pukekohe half-marathon.
Since then however, she's completed two 24-hour races. Last year she managed to cover 178km, and just last month, 187km.
But she's taking it easy in the weeks ahead of her charity walk.
"I'm not doing an awful lot at the moment – more or less going into this quite fresh, just doing enough to keep my fitness up, doing cycling at the gym, and I went for a 21km run on Saturday. It doesn't seem much compared what I'll be doing, but the thing is I can't go into this tired or my body fatigued in any way.
"You can't train to stay awake for 80 hours."
To help combat fatigue, Ms Allen says she will have support from other runners, donors and hopefully members of the public.
"I've just been blown away by the support from people that have said they're going to come," she says. "I'm hoping the last two days, which are going to be the hardest, I'll have more support because it's going into the weekend."
Her record attempt has been named 'Blue Light 500km, 0 Sleep' after youth police initiative Blue Light bought the rights on TradeMe.
"They've just been amazing," says Ms Allen, noting they won the auction with a bid of $355, but voluntarily upped their donation to $400.
"They're going to bring a busload of kids, hopefully on the Thursday, to run with me – I'm pleased it's on the Thursday and not on the weekend, 'cause by then I'll be a mess."
Also being auctioned off is an entry into the Tarawera Ultramarathon, which also comes with accommodation at Holiday Inn, shoes and other running gear, a training programme and a subscription to Runner's World magazine.
Ms Allen's also had support from Wilderness Motorhomes, who will be supplying a campervan for her support crew to use.
She hopes to raise at least $5000 each for Catwalk and the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit.
"I'd love if I could raise more, but the reality is it's really, really hard. I'm sure I'll get more when I'm doing it, people will donate when the run's going on."
Does she think she can complete the 332 laps (the Domain's mile circuit is in fact about 100m short of an actual mile), stay awake for four days and break Reed's record?
"I've really got no idea, and I don't know that I can do it," says Ms Allen. "If I knew I could do it, it wouldn't be a challenge. There'd be nothing exciting about it."
Though there's no time limit, the sooner Ms Allen gets it done, the quicker she can get to sleep.
To support Ms Allen's fundraising efforts for spinal injury, please make a donation at http://www.everydayhero.co.nz/kim_allan or www.everydayhero.co.nz/kim_allan, and you can follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bluelight500km0hrsleep.