His darkest moment comes at 4am. In hammering rain, Gus Barrier has been running laps around Hamilton’s Lake Rotoroa for 13 hours straight. Soaked and sore, he still has 11 excruciating hours to go. He sees black dogs lurking in the shadows of trees and has to ask his running mate if they are real. They are not.
“It was definitely an interesting experience, because I started to hallucinate a little bit as day broke - but we got through it!” Gus says.
“The weather was horrific. It was SO bad. My feet bore the brunt. They were getting absolutely eviscerated. It was about breaking it down into little goals and reframing your perspective.”
Gus has put his body on the line to raise money for kids in poverty. The MMA fighter had set up a Givealittle page, telling donors he’d run a kilometre for every $5 they gave to KidsCan. "Let’s see how high we can get it and how far I can go!" he wrote.
Donations streamed in, and soon he was facing an ambitious target of more than 700 kilometres! Gus had run a marathon before, but thought he had more in him. So he set his sights on running 120 ks in 24 hours, and asked his mates to help him clock up the rest.
The torrential rain didn’t stop the community from turning out, and Gus was never left on his own. Almost 40 other runners - his workmates, the martial arts community, and complete strangers - took turns running beside him. Collectively they ran more than 1000 kms.
“We had a police officer who drove an hour from Te Kauwhata, some Waikato Trail Runners who banged out 30 or 40ks, some people from the Park Run.”
The support fuelled him - along with his team who kept him going with constant sock changes and a diet of boiled potatoes and butter.
“I would say it was the fact that I always had someone running with me - well normally about five people - which meant that I didn't really have an excuse or opportunity to stop” he says.
Gus chose KidsCan after seeing the difference the breakfast club at his school made. “It makes me very sad that a lot of kids in New Zealand just don't have the bare necessities, and it showed me what a little bit of kindness can do. It’s a very simple, effective thing that we can do to help.”
It helped that he had kids cheering him on. They’d come down for a dragon boating regatta, and when the rowers found out what Gus was doing, they got behind him. As he ran his final lap, they played the Rocky theme over their tannoy, and lined the path to the finish line, clapping and cheering a man they’d just met.
After three back-to-back marathons - an incredible 133 kilometres - Gus broke down as they raised their oars in a guard of honour.
“I wasn’t expecting that. It was unbelievable. I was crying. They really kept me going for the last couple of hours. Definitely a life highlight kind of moment.”
At last count he’d raised more than $3600 for KidsCan. Thank you Gus - what a legend!
You can still support Gus here: https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/gus-gentle-jaunt-for-kidscan