"There are no limits" - by Benn Coubrough

11 December

"There are no limits" - by Benn Coubrough

"I will start the story with what my biggest drivers are and the people that have shaped most of my life - my Dad, and my cousin Shane. I let myself down at times with how I act, and am not the person I wish to be 100% of the time. I make mistakes and fail, and don’t show my true potential in aspects of my life. But as it is said - you are not judged by how many times you fall down, but by the amount of times you get back up again.

Football (soccer) and running were my go-to's. They were places that made me happy and I lived and breathed them. I always had a football with me, and running to and from school each day, it was my time to be free. I was doing what I loved and nobody could take that from me. On the football field I fought hard - the football field was my battle field. I never gave up. I chased the ball down and could always find that little extra to reach the ball first, or jump that little higher. The bigger the opponent, the harder they fell. My passion and love for the game always brought the best out of me.

We all have moments in life that change us, and help define our attitudes and focus. Mine was in year 7, age 12. Starting high school and being a big school with over 1200 students, there was bound to be some trouble. Getting home from school upset and crying again after being picked on from a group of kids, (the same story that I had been living all year), Mum just said to stop crying and deal with it. She said it was my choice to let them get to me and let them pick on me, so to face up and deal with it. So that was it - time to stand up and move forward. I stopped letting the kids get to me and I faced up. It's a choice we all face - what to do and what to make of what is presented to us. I'm not a fighter - but I knew I was strong enough to stand up as I did that on the football field. So the next day I stood up for myself. Unexpectedly it had grown into something bigger then what I thought as the kid was a loud mouth and word spread. It turned into a big fight after school where over 100 students turned up. I had no idea that was going to happen. They jumped me on my usual run home. The kid confronted me - and I stood up. He threw a punch. I ducked. End result - I was left standing and went home. He wasn’t standing - and he didn’t pick on me again. I still got picked on, but it wasn't the same from then. When I got home I was covered in dirt, and Mum asked if I had a fight, and whether it was in self defence. I told Mum it was. All Mum said was "okay then".

I haven’t had a physical fight since. But that experience defined my spirit and attitude in life - to make a choice - a decision to fight for yourself and what you want, and what you believe in. Our only limits are the ones we set ourselves. I have always had strong people around that have always challenged me and pushed me. My parents were supportive and fair. They taught me I had to work for what I wanted from a young age. I worked after school delivering papers, then again at 5am - 8am, and then went to school for an 8:30am start. Football was the same. First to training, and last to leave. I achieved some big highlights in football as a goalkeeper and wing back. My cousin helping me succeed in coaching. He always pushed me and challenged me to perform and to give 100% - anything else just wasn’t good enough. He helped me shift my life around from the party animal I had become - back in the day I was going out every weekend on the beers and bourbon’s around footy mates. My mid 20’s included working long hours in sales, events management etc, football training and games, and pubs and clubs.

Fast forward to 2010. I changed my career and entered the fitness industry - becoming a Personal Trainer - building a great network of clients and achieving great results with them. This lead to some massive achievements while working with Vision Personal Training - winning Trainer of the Year, not only for N.S.W. but also nationally. My cousin Shane, who was more like a big brother, helped me establish myself and achieve some great results. He pushed me and I never got away with anything - allowing me to be a part of his business, and partake in some incredible journeys and milestones.

This was when my Dad, at 53 years old, suffered a stroke - losing speech and becoming paralysed on the right hand side of his body. He collapsed and was taken to hospital by ambulance, suffering from a misdiagnosed minor stroke, then sent home. The hospital dismissed him with the diagnosis of a virus. We sent him back to hospital another 2 times. The 3rd time was with a referral from his GP, but doctors still sent him home - saying he just needed to rest to recover from the virus. Only a few hours later, that night, he experienced the major stroke - causing the effects he is now suffering from, and position he now deals with for the rest of his life. The time period from the first minor stroke to the major stroke was 3 days, during which we made 3 visits to the hospital and 2 visits to his GP. Had the hospital not refused to do an MRI, which would have detected the original stroke, my Dad wouldn't have suffered the major stroke 3 days later.

For the next 5 years I looked after my Dad with no help from any government services. Cooking, dressing, cleaning and maintaining his appointments with doctors, physiotherapy, speech therapy and other medicals. I had to move him into a unit as I was unable to have him move in with me. This circumstance had me not only paying my own rent, but his rent too, to keep a roof over his head. Still today he is unable to work. But we have worked hard together, to improve his life so he can live the best possible life given his current condition and state. My Dad has come a long way. He is still so young, and has so much more to offer in life. Dad even has a grandson who was born during the time of his stroke.

Throughout this time I had maintained a full time job, with demanding hours of mostly 12hr+ days, 5am-9pm, 6 days a week - while having to balance my Dad, my work, time with my then wife, along with other training commitments. I have now been able to get him a place to live with support from government services. He has also fought hard to get a level of active ability to get around in wheelchairs and to cook simple food for himself. He is so full of life, and during this experience he has never put his hands up to complain, or given up on being able to have a better quality of life. He still smiles and has as much fun as he possibly can. Dad is the most inspiring person I know - to be so up beat and take everything in his stride. He constantly lives in pain from his right leg, which continuously throbs with pain. He still does what he can with no complaints. My plan is to raise awareness of the causes - to be aware of the signals, what to push for when with doctors or at hospital to get the correct actions required. I want to raise awareness to show people that anything is possible. That nothing will or can stop you from achieving what you want from life if you have the correct attitude and want it hard enough. That you can accomplish whatever you desire. What you focus on grows. One step at a time. With consistent steps forward, for goals, with desire - by making the most out of every circumstance.

I was given council many years ago, where they told me I was a fixer - I fix people - and when I had done the job, I would get left behind. I suppose, in thinking about the relationships I've been in, including my love life, this is accurate. I have always giving my all to others, and I get that from my Dad. When I was a personal trainer, I gave so much to my clients. And then gave so much to my Dad. I believe that could have been part of the reason why my marriage broke down - living apart while looking after my Dad. I was only in Newcastle for Saturday afternoons and Sunday. I was leaving at 2am Monday to get back to Sydney for the working week, and to be with Dad, in the first year of being married. I may not have given her what was needed. With my head all over the place and not being someone to stay home and sit still - work, coaching, Dad, my love of fitness, competing in triathlons, running events and more, all added to more time away.

So I guess that is part of my story. I have had some great experiences and enjoyed myself. I still have many more ahead. The last period of life has been hard. Harder then I guess I realise internally - but yesterday is in the past. Today is a new day, and tomorrow is always ahead. I always strive to make the previous day better, to be present now, and move forward with each action to lead into the future.

For me the best parts about running are the simplicity, and the hopes to inspire others on their journey. Running is my time to be with myself. I can throw my shoes on and just get out there. My passion is taking people from what they perceive as their "limit" to higher limits - joining them for the journey and watching them achieve their dream is my reward.

A personal attitude: desire, determination and discipline. This sums up my approach to my own training, and coaching, with a strong sense of accountability. Knowing I’ve set myself different challenges to achieve gets me out the door each morning and helps set a high standard for my athletes.

Football was the original passion, and endurance running events came later. I was competing in the NSW Football State League and South Coast Premier League during my youth, when an injury - a torn hamstring - forced a change in pace. To reduce the risk of re-injury in this high impact sport, I eventually switched my focus to endurance events. I initially built up to running thirty minutes continously, then longer running and eventually triathlons. I competed my first full ironman in 2014.

Moving from football to running races required a completely different approach. On the football field, I’d run 10-15km in a match - but it was stop-start - there was a lot of sprinting compared to endurance races. I’ve had to learn how to use different energy systems. I rebuilt the engine, by training myself to run further distances and for longer. Running became a new focus for me - a new goal, and a sport to work around the injury.

Hyperactive and never still, I have competed in multiple ironman and running events around the world. Not satisfied with the standard events on the racing calendar, in 2016, I dreamt up my own event - a 24 hour ironman comprising of 4 consecutive back-to-back half ironman's. This was to further test the body and mind, and to find new limits. I came close to finding the limits. I was nearly forced to pull out after developing hypothermia during the last quarter of the race, at 2:00am. I pulled through and completed the challenge at parkrun at 7:00am. A Guinness World Record worthy effort, and a personal new record set.

My approach is 100% belief in the potential of my athletes, by giving them the support they need to achieve their goals. The best part of my role as a coach is showing them the path to achieving their dreams and walking through the process with them. Showing them that what they thought was impossible, is possible.

At my first ultra-marathon, UTA 50 2018, I found a new limit, and attraction to running on the trails. I spent most of 2018-2019 training for the UTA 100 and other trail races, achieving some good results - 2nd place in the GNW 50miler, and 3rd in the 70km Alpine Challenge. Having broken a toe towards the end of 2018, I am only now able to get back into some speed work. I am constantly working on developing and improving myself, to build towards better results in 2019-2020. As well as now finding a great mentor in Vlad Shatrov and the Runlab team, I looking forward to more adventure and successes in 2019 and beyond.

My next goal after tackling the UTA 100 in 2019 and achieving 18th place in 11h29m, is to improve on my placing and time, and get closer to cracking the Top 10 at the same event in 2020. I am improving my speed, and training with the Runlab Elite Group and under the watchful eye of Vlad - who lives and breaths his own three D’s - Desire, Determination & Discipline. When I align my own approach of "be the best version of yourself", with the Runlab philosophy of "achieving your impossible" - there are no limits.

My highlights:

- UTA 100 2019 18th place in 11h29m
- Alpine Challenge 70km 3rd place
- Great North Walk 50miles 2nd place
- Gold Coast marathon PB in 3h02m
- Sydney Running Festival half marathon PB in 86mins
- City 2 Surf 2014 in 56mins
- Port Macquarie 2017 70.3 ironman in 4h57m
- 5 x ironman in Port Macquarie, Challenge Wanaka and Challenge Roth
- 15 x ironman 70.3's
- 24 hour ironman (4 x half ironman's in a row)"