Finding Purpose on the Trail

Words by Darcy Swain – Trail Running Enthusiast / Surfer
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I grew up in Coolangatta, 600 meters walk to iconic Kirra Beach. I spent a lot of my childhood being active, either Surfing, competing in Nippers and playing footy. Dad was the full-time lifeguard at Coolangatta Beach and I would use his truck as a base surfing from Sunrise to Sunset all through the school holidays. Both my parents lived a healthy active lifestyle both running marathons and competing in Ironman triathlons. Dad has done some crazy runs over the years... One charity run which he ran 280 km from Noosa – Tweed Heads. I guess growing up in this environment and sitting sideline for these races was where the ultra-running seed was planted.

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After finishing school, I worked full time at Billabong (gap two years). I left retail and began studying to become an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer where I then spent 6 years working on helicopters and planes on the Sunshine Coast. I’ve since moved back to the Gold Coast and still currently work in the industry. Work consumed a lot of my time, working 12+ hour days was quite normal.

This stress triggered a downward spiral of my mental health and I wasn’t dealing with my mild depression and anxiety well. In mid 2017 my mental health was at its lowest point; I was struggling. I used to be the first person up every morning either surfing or shooting photos down at the Bay’s and I was struggling to get out of bed and sleeping into till lunchtime on days off. I was lucky enough to have family see the signs and they pushed me in the direction of exercise to help regain a healthy mental health. ‘Go put some shoes on and go for a run mate’ something my Dad would say after most phone calls, so that’s what I did. There is one run I will always remember, after a few km’s of the trail I was on the top of Emu Mt.

I remember standing there listening, feeling the wind on my face, feeling an incredible sense of self-awareness, noticing that my mind was quiet, and I felt happy. I was tapping into nature’s medicine and it was incredible. Running trails is how I destress and help manage my mental health. I’ve now run thousands of kilometers of trails, and I can’t wait to continue exploring more.

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- How did you come to start Metropolis Misfits / what is it about?

Metropolis Misfits started because I wanted to share with people the mental health benefits of being outdoors. Getting actively immersed in nature and putting your busy life aside for a while, is becoming a Metropolis Misfit. During the last few months of living on the Sunshine Coast through mutual friends, I met Ammon, an ultra-trail runner living in Coolum. He’s a member of the NUTRS (Noosa Ultra Trail Runners) so I joined them for a bunch of trail runs. You won’t find a better group of like-minded ultra and trail runners on
the Sunshine Coast!

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After getting to know other fellow trail runners there seemed to be a common thread where most of us were trying to find balance with our mental wellbeing through running and exploring the outdoors. I was inspired by the stories of people I had run with and felt the need to start a platform to share their incredible and unique journeys. This is how misfits trail chats started. My vision into the future with Metropolis Misfits is to continue helping support and connect the trail running community. I just think there’s nothing like enjoying time amongst nature, with great company all while creating a positive change through conversation.

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- Who are the crew you are always running with?

I still try to get up to the Sunny Coast and run with the NUTRS crew. I do a lot of my longer trail running solo. I like being able to push hard when I’m feeling good and cruise if I’m not feeling it. Since moving back to the Gold Coast I’m involved with another project with my Dad called Run Walk Talk. It’s a men’s running club, aimed at supporting mental health. A bunch of the guys from that group has been getting into ultra-running and trail running. So, I’ve been showing them some cool trails and places to explore. I’ve done one Misfits meet up Hike with a few local trail runners here on the GC, it was a lot of fun and full of good vibes. I’ve got another meet up in the planning stage atm, keep an eye out.

 

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- Why are those connections important?

I do struggle to get out of bed early, but it makes it that much easier getting up for a sunrise hike or run knowing you’re meeting friends who support you and share the same passion of the outdoors. I think accountability keeps you motivated.

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- What’s something you’d like to impart to the reader?

 It’s a little challenge. If you’re someone who hasn’t been outdoors for a while, call up a friend you’ve been meaning to reconnect with and lock in a micro-adventure.

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