Running Change

After prolonged recovery from a lower limb injury, I have regained the confidence in my physical abilities as a long term soldier. Run Army has helped make running enjoyable and a regular part of my lifestyle again.

—  Participant

The Australian Army is committed to improving the health and well-being of its personnel.

As part of the endeavours, Army has instituted Run Army. This initiative aims to support current serving members who are recovering from injury, struggling physically or mentally, or are seeking assistance in enhancing their physical and mental resilience.

An important element of Run Army is an 8-week health and running program, called Running Change, which builds resilience and community amongst participants. Physical training has always been a fundamental part of Army life, but the Running Change Program goes further, incorporating mentoring, sports psychology, physiotherapy and nutrition.

“Running, Change! #RUNARMY!!”

Anyone who has spent time in the Australian military will understand what the term “Running, Change” means. It is a command barked out by our wonderful and sometime impatient Physical Training Instructors (often followed by muffled groans of those within the ranks) to get a group of service personnel running. After that command is given, the next command most pray for is “Walking, Change” which is the moment that one can draw breath again. With some intentional irony thrown in, this phrase has now been taken as the name of a new program instigated by the Australian Army to help its people. The Army, as a result of increased injuries, moved away from running a decade ago, and moved to a more holistic, weights based physical conditioning program. While this program has been very successful in reducing injuries in training, the challenge of enhancing issues of mental and physical resilience, as well as increasing issues associated with obesity, remains elusive. These issues are mirrored, if not magnified, in the wider community....

Having used running as my church while growing up in a broken family and throughout a long and rewarding career as an Infantryman that included numerous challenges including multiple deployments, I understood the power of running. Regardless of the personal challenges I was facing, I knew that I could always throw on my runners, go outside and find the answers I was looking for, or if not the answers, at least a moment of respite from the pressures that life throws at you. I coached both of my children at different stages in their lives to use running as a tool to help them navigate their own challenges. Despite some initial protestations like “Dad, running can’t fix everything...”, I am proud to say that both are converts, addicted to the life of a “runner”. Both have also joined the military, but I can say in all honesty, while I did all in my power to shape them to run, their decision to serve our Nation was all theirs!

While on long runs with a friend of mine who also serves in the military and is an accomplished athlete and former Physical Training Instructor, we often discussed the issues facing some of Army’s people. During one of these long runs we threw around the idea of using running as a potential medium to help some of those in the ranks who are struggling physically or mentally. After all, there is more than enough research proving there is a nexus between improved mental health and running, not to mention the health and wellness benefits.... Enter, “Running Change,” a running program that has thrown away the old Army no pain, no gain methodology that resulted in the high injury rates. It has been replaced by a calibrated program that focusses on heart rate, form and mindfulness. As with anything in the Army, the idea is nothing, it is the execution that counts. It didn’t take long to find a small, capable team of running enthusiasts to ‘make it happen’, and make it happen they have. Within three months of an idea forming, this amazing team have put together a crew of mentors, a sports physiotherapist, a sports psychologist and a handful of dedicated mentors who have now run a prototype program for 25 participants who were facing a range of issues. The tailored eight week program has been absolutely transformational for many of the participants. Importantly, it went beyond transforming fitness, to transforming lifestyle. Watching the pointer on the clock or weight scale was not the aim, but rather a pleasant bi-product. More important was the change to a more healthy routine that has resulted in decreased anxiety about running, improved performance, improved health and wellness, and importantly, without any injuries. This program will go Nation-wide over the next 12 months, becoming accessible to soldiers posted regionally.

Overlaid with this new program, we thought it important to hold an event that could serve as a goal for those on the Running, Change program. Enter, “Run Army”, an Australian Army annual fun run. In the finest traditions of the US Army Ten Miler, the United States Marine Corps Marathon and the Canadian Army’s Army Run 5 km event, the Australian Army has now committed to running a 10 km event annually on the Sunday before Anzac Day, in conjunction with Legacy, who will be the benefactor of all money raised. Legacy is the only organisation of its type, serving the families of injured or fallen service personnel since World War One. The pilot event was run in April this year at Enoggera Barracks, with 1100 runners predominantly from the Australian Army. Next year it will be run in Brisbane on 24 April (the day before Anzac Day) and will be open to the public. It will be a spectacle for those who want to see Army’s hardware and personnel on display while running around the track!! While the 10km event will be the capstone event, a 5km option will also be available.

Run Army President, Major General Jake Ellwood, DSC, AM.

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