Hunter athlete fighting polycystic kidney disease tackles 24 hour obstacle course

Eyes on prize: Jillian Bellamy, pictured training at Merewether, enjoys the social aspect of endurance races. “It’s a safe zone, everyone wants to help each other and supports each other to get through it". Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Eyes on prize: Jillian Bellamy, pictured training at Merewether, enjoys the social aspect of endurance races. “It’s a safe zone, everyone wants to help each other and supports each other to get through it". Picture: Jonathan Carroll

JILLIAN Bellamy had just completed her second obstacle course when she realised some other competitors were pushing beyond her one lap.

“I thought ‘I want to do that!’,” she said. “I want to still be on an obstacle course at midnight wearing nothing but a headlamp!”

Ms Bellamy, 28, got her wish and competed in her first 24 hour endurance event in 2016.

The Rutherford primary school teacher will compete against 400 participants on Saturday – when showers are forecast – in the globe’s first 24 Hour Enduro OCR World Championships, to be held at Dargle Farm outside of Sydney.

The event includes completing as many laps of an 11 kilometre course as possible in 24 hours.

The course has 30 obstacles, ranging from crawling, to climbing ropes and carrying weights.

“I really like all the rope climbing –  I have a lot of lower body strength rather than upper body strength,” she said.

“But I also like all the full body work - running, jumping and pushing myself over the top of a wall or getting down and crawling between tyres and barbed wire.”

Ms Bellamy said her determination to push her body to its limits came from her desire to focus on what it is capable of, instead of her polycystic kidney disease.

She was 15 when she received a “bombshell” diagnosis of the inherited disorder, where clusters of cysts develop within the kidneys, causing them to enlarge and lose function over time.

She was told she would need blood pressure medication, regular blood tests, to see a specialist and consult a nutritionist to cut almost all processed food from her diet.

For now, she said, the only symptom she has is pain when one of the cysts bursts.

“Health and fitness is a big distraction from the disease,” she said.

“It keeps me in control of what my body can do. I love these challenges so much because one day I won’t be able to do them. I want to do them now – and I will do them now.”

Ms Bellamy is aiming to complete seven or eight laps in the event.

She’s been training at least two hours a day every day since January, when she received medical clearance for a hip injury.

“You don’t know what to prepare for until you’re out there,” she said.

“You can do as much training as you like but you don’t know what’s going to hit until you’re on the course.

“The first year it was minus five degrees.

“I only had one outfit and I thought my fingers were going to fall off.

The second year it was raining and I thought ‘Why am I doing this?’

“You start counting down the minutes till the sun comes up and thinking about when you can have a hot shower and food.

“But when you finish it’s the best feeling.

“You’re walking like a penguin and all you can do is laugh.

“You think ‘I love this pain –  I’m coming back again’.”