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350km for $35k – meet the man who ran to Mount Kosciuszko

by Malavika Santhebennur15 minute read
350km for $35k – meet the man who ran to Mount Kosciuszko

A Resimac regional sales manager has proved that it’s mind over matter after running a gruelling 350 kilometres to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko in five days, raising $35,000 for Invictus Australia.

Earlier this year, The Adviser introduced readers to Rodney “Rocket” Cottam, a former military man who joined the army in 2000 as a paratrooper in the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, based in Sydney.

In 2004, Mr Cottam was involved in a motorbike accident that left him with several debilitating injuries and a long-term prognosis caused by spinal nerve damage called brachial plexus palsy.

In that moment, he transformed from an elite soldier to becoming permanently paralysed in his left arm and losing all movement and feeling from shoulder to fingertip.


Running towards his challenges

If Mr Cottam had become cynical and bitter and run away from his profound new challenges, he would have been justified.

Instead, he chose to accept his circumstances and live the best life that he could. He turned to running to build his resilience and move forward.

This innate passion for running — coupled with his prognosis — prompted Mr Cottam to embark on a 350-kilometre running challenge to raise funds for veteran support charity Invictus Australia with the support of The Adviser’s parent company Momentum Media, Resimac and its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) campaign, and a range of other partners.

From 7–11 November 2022, Mr Cottam battled oppressive heat, torrential rain, gale-force winds, and snow as he ran to Mount Kosciuszko.

He was accompanied by two support personnel: a friend who drove their vehicle, packed supplies every morning, and took photos and videos, and his fiancé, who helped him with food, hydration, and pacing and ran around 150 kilometres with him.

Completely a mental game

Recounting his arduous journey to The Adviser, Mr Cottam asserted that the challenge was a “mental game”.

“The five-day run was physically gruelling and you have to be capable of it, but that in itself wasn’t the hardest thing,” he said.

“It was by far a mental game. It was about me telling myself to keep going, and to keep pushing. I kept repeating little mantras in my head.”

That mantra was simple: put one foot in front of another, he explained.

“I kept telling myself that that’s all I have to do. I really had to make sure that I kept my mind strong and positive,” he said.

Mr Cottam began his run at Moss Vale Services Club in NSW and proceeded to Goulburn, the War Memorial in Canberra, and Cooma, before making his way to Banjo Paterson Park on Lake Jindabyne.

He covered an average of around 70 kilometres a day.

Much like the terrain he covered, Mr Cottam experienced highs, lows, and bumpy roads as he wound his way through highways, the bush, and mountains.

His mental strength and resilience were tested on the second day of his challenge — on Tuesday (8 November) — as he battled exhaustion and shooting pain throughout his legs from the punishing run the day before.

“That was a disaster of a day from the start, and it was one of the hardest days,” Mr Cottam declared.

“Mentally, my head wasn’t really in it from the start of the day. I hadn’t slept well the night before. The sun was beating down on me all day and I didn’t get any reprieve. There were no shaded spots or a breeze to cool me down a bit.

“I also didn’t fuel properly by eating solid foods and drinking water mixed with powdered supplements that are high in calories and carbohydrates. I didn’t have enough of it at the right time so I went into deficit really quickly. I could feel the energy being drawn out of my muscles. A lot of frustration came into play too.”

On top of this, Mr Cottam had to change the course of his run as some trails were closed around Canberra.

Nevertheless, he persevered and covered just over 70 kilometres.

“I still made it,” Mr Cottam said.

“I just put my head down and got to the Canberra War Memorial. I was mentally and physically drained and sore that night. I got to bed as early as I could. When I woke up on Wednesday morning though, I was a completely different person.”

Uphill battles

Mr Cottam kept running on the subsequent days while enduring pain in his hips, eventually reaching the Kosciuszko National Park on Friday (11 November), the final day.

As one would expect, this was an uphill battle.

“It was all uphill in the national park and around the snowfields,” he said.

“I had to walk uphill for around 50 kilometres, and that was at an elevation of 2,000 metres.”

It was here that Mr Cottam experienced all four seasons within a few hours. What began as a sunny day with blue skies and some cloud cover changed to torrential rain by the time he reached Perisher Valley.

“There was no visibility. I couldn’t see five metres in front of me,” he said.

“The wind was blowing a gale and it was relentless. The weather completely changed. With the wind chill factor, the temperature was probably below zero.”

The only thing left to trudge through was snow, which Mr Cottam did as he headed from Charlotte Pass in the Snowy Mountains to Mount Kosciuszko.

“In some places, we had a foot of snow so I ended up running through snow in the end,” he said.

Neither heat nor wind nor snow nor rain prevented Mr Cottam from ultimately reaching his destination at the summit of Mount Kosciuszko just after 6pm on Friday (11 November) after running for around 13 hours.

On top of the world

Describing how he felt after placing his flag on the summit, he said: “It was a massive relief. I initially felt waves of joy and excitement.

“I was absolutely exhausted too. My legs had no strength left in them whatsoever.”

Despite this, it did not take long for Mr Cottam to bounce back, with his physiotherapist commending him for his quick physical recovery.

“I didn’t walk away with any injuries at all,” he said.

“My body responded really well, which I credit to my preparation beforehand. I could go for a run now without any problems whatsoever. I’ve got no niggly injuries or anything like that.

“To walk away unscathed was a really big highlight, as was, ultimately, finishing the mission that I’d set out to accomplish.”

Raising $35,000 so far for Invictus Australia — a cause close to Mr Cottam’s heart — was another feather in his cap.

Emotional roller-coaster

The run took an emotional toll on Mr Cottam, too, who recalled crying at several points during his taxing journey.

“I think this surprised me the most. It took an emotional toll on me, but not in a bad way,” he said.

Mr Cottam received words of encouragement throughout his run via direct messages from colleagues and his industry.

Strangers on the road who had read his story stopped to offer water and thank him for his service, he said.

“Thinking about the support I had out there and the reason why I was doing this got me so overwhelmed,” he said.

“Then there were times when I just started laughing thinking about what I was putting myself through and the fact that I was out there in the middle of nowhere. I just felt a whole range of emotions.”

Watch this space

He assured readers that while this was his first challenge, it would not be the last as he plans to undertake similar challenges in Australia and around the world to raise more funds for Invictus Australia.

“We’ve got a few ideas about what’s next. We might run longer distances or extend the number of days. Watch this space. We might announce that just after Christmas,” he concluded.

You can still help Rodney Cottam raise money for Invictus Australia, by donating now.

For more information about Run Rocket Run, click here.

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