In November 2023, a group of dedicated fundraisers took on a massive challenge – the world’s toughest road half marathon, Point to Pinnacle – to raise money and awareness for game-changing Parkinson’s research.
We spoke to two of this year’s participants, Olivia and Niall, to find out all about the experience of tackling the race, what motivated them to get involved in the event, and their experience of fundraising for Shake It Up Australia. Want to take part this year? Read on to find out all about it!
Tell us all about the day! How did you find it?
Olivia: It was a fantastic event. Our Team Bailey make a great weekend of it. We all went out to dinner the night before for our bonding meal. The day of the Point to Pinnacle was perfect conditions this year. Not too hot and not snowing! So we all made it to the Pinnacle which is 21.1 km and 1270m in elevation, giving it the title of the world’s toughest half marathon.
It is such a great event because everyone is there for a reason. People are all fundraising or on their own journey. You get to chat to all different people on the way and it’s amazing to hear their stories.
Niall: The race was great! I last ran it about 10 years ago, when we finished in snow flurries. It was cloudy this time, but warm. It was fantastic to see so many walkers and runners taking part, and I got to say hello to a lot of people in Shake It Up Foundation T-Shirts. I was a bit buggered by the end of it, but a BBQ and a few beers soon fixed me up!
I don’t specifically train for events. I go running 3 times a week for fun all year round. Before the Point to Pinnacle I did some of my runs on sections of the mountain road instead of my usual runs which take me on bush tracks round the mountain.
What inspired you to get involved in the Point to Pinnacle and raise funds for Shake It Up?
Niall: My partner Michele was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease last year. Michele got in touch with people from Shake It Up and was impressed by the research, dedication and attitude of the organisation. As well as that, I was happy to see that all money raised went to the charity to fund research. So really it was a no-brainer to pick Shake It Up as the organisation to raise funds for.
Olivia: My husband Scott was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease when he was only 39. Fundraising is something I can do. I am a fixer and a doer. I may not be able to find a cure but I can fundraise for research, which will hopefully help slow the progression of the disease and one day find a cure. We chose Shake it Up because 100% of the funds go to research.
What was the highlight of taking part in the Sydney Marathon for you?
Olivia: This year was extra special because Scott’s brother joined him to take on the mountain and our children and parents all caught the bus up to meet us at the top. The highlight for us is how much this challenge brings people together for Parkinson’s research. We have had so many people wanting to join us next year. It is a challenge but it is achievable. Even my 72 year old mum wants to give it a crack and has started training already.
Niall: The first highlight was actually finishing the run. I’m not as young as I used to be. The other highlight was seeing so many people raising money for Shake It Up, and meeting Olivia and Scott from Team Bailey vs Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. My partner Michele was with me at the finish and she found it really exciting to meet someone else with Young Onset PD who still does plenty of exercise. The opportunities for meeting Young Onset people are few and far between.
What is your advice for someone thinking of wanting to make a difference for Parkinson’s?
Olivia: Just Do It. That is actually my motto this year. If you can, you must. If you have legs that can climb a mountain, do it. If you have a voice that can speak, do it. If you have hands that can bake, do it. Whatever it is that you can do, just do it. You don’t know when those gifts will be taken away from you, so while you can, you must.
In the lead up to this year’s Point to Pinnacle we ran an online auction and raised almost $7000 for Shake It Up Australia. We are so thankful to our friends and family and the many amazing local businesses who donated to our Auction or donated to our Team. It’s such a worthy cause and with 100% of donations going directly to research funding. We look forward to next year being even bigger and better!
Niall: I think knowledge is power. The more you know about something, the better equipped you are to deal with it. I’m quite open about Michele’s diagnosis now, and I spread the word that PD is not just an old, white man’s disease. In my discussions I’m surprised by how many people have relatives with the disease, and how keen they are to open up about it. I think a big difference can be made by shining a light on the condition and stressing the non-pharmacological steps that people can take – it’s incredible the difference exercise can make and how much effect stress can have on symptoms.