A personal challenge became base-wide as Corporal Andrew Zhang encouraged the RAAF Base Tindal community to test their limits.
CAPTION: Corporal Andrew Zhang running for the March On Challenge, to raise funds for Soldier On. Story by Corporal Veronica O’Hara.
The team of 20 raised more than $5000 for Soldier On last month and walked or ran a total of almost 1700km for the March On Challenge.
Seeing people push through discomfort and doing their first 10km was a highlight during March, as everyone has a different perspective of what is hard, according to Corporal Zhang.
While completing 30km one day, he joined colleague Corporal Clay Brown and his teenage daughter Ella-Rose, running her first 10km.
Corporal Zhang accumulated the most kilometres in the team, at 617km.
Originally, the 17 Squadron physical training instructor had a personal running challenge planned for March. Then the Soldier On event appeared, so he decided to combine the two.
His intent was to run as far as he could in a month and put himself in the “hurt locker”, showing others what can be achieved regardless of fitness level.
“I had an unrealistic goal of 800km in a month, which I didn’t hit, but I wanted to give it a crack and fail, rather than fail to try,” Corporal Zhang said.
When the community noticed him pounding the bitumen every morning and evening, the challenge began gaining traction. He said people start donating and wanting to run with him.
“Seeing me out constantly, they started asking if I was training for a marathon or something,” Corporal Zhang said.
He averaged 20km a day, mostly around base and the domestic area at RAAF Base Tindal, completing more than 250km in one “big” week.
Fatigue was a major factor – mental and physical, along with the Northern Territory heat.
While it did get repetitive, Corporal Zhang said there was always a friendly face to join just around the corner, like someone out with their dog.
The weekly Friday base run is normally 5km, but on the final day of the challenge, he doubled it and called it the Tindal Dash for a bit of fun.
The purpose was to clock up more miles and get people outside their 5km comfort zone. It was pleasing to hear from personnel who completed their first 10km in the dash, Corporal Zhang said.
Australia-wide, more than 500,000km were clocked up and $2 million raised for Soldier On.
The annual rugby league game between 17 Squadron and 75 Squadron in August is his next focus, to help his squadron make it four wins in a row.
Seven years ago, as a then Air Force Security member, Corporal Zhang was the first member of his family to join the military.
Initially apprehensive about him moving away and deploying, his parents now see he is enjoying his career.