Fitter, happier former footballer conquering new goals
BEING fitter aged 47 than he was playing footy, Mark "Kanga'' Kennedy is in a happy place.
The former Ipswich Eagles footballer lost 18 kilos after discovering a way to improve his fitness and continue sport while achieving a different set of goals.
Instead of kicking his way to satisfaction on the Aussie rules field, Kanga has taken to contesting marathons and regular runs with Ipswich's highly-regarded NANCI Running Squad.
After an enjoyable 200 game stint with the Eagles, Kennedy said marathon challenges had given him a new lease of sporting life heading towards 50.
"It's a bit of a stress reliever to be honest,'' he said.
"You go for a run at the end of the day and it just helps you wind down from what's happened during the day. It gets you thinking about what you need to do the next day.''
Kennedy was a keen spectator watching his former Eagles team given a footy lesson by Kedron in the first round QFA Division 2 North match at Limestone Park. Kedron won Saturday's encounter 19.8-122 to 8.6-54.
Sipping water instead of beer, Kanga was cheering on his 19-year-old son Nick, who is one of the club's rising footballers.
Halfback flanker Nick overcame a timid start in senior footy last year before making an impact as the season progressed.
But it was games like Saturday's that Kanga can easily forget.
"I don't miss playing at all. I like watching Nick run around,'' he said.
Once he finished playing with the Eagles, Kennedy continued his club friendships playing golf "with the boys''.
"After a couple of years of that and not improving and gaining too much weight, I decided to start running,'' he said.
He began with "small stuff, just social running by myself'' about five years ago.
"Then being a goal-oriented person, I set myself a goal of doing the Gold Coast Marathon - four years ago,'' he said. "I failed miserably in that one.
"I didn't think they would be that hard.''
However, Kanga stuck with it and progressed to the stage where he now confidently tackles the 42.2km challenges.
He's since conquered seven marathons, including Melbourne and Paris last year.
"I had a really good time over there,'' he said of the French adventure.
"That was probably the second best marathon and I then went and did Melbourne last year and finally got three hours, which was the goal.''
Kennedy said he had benefited from training with the NANCI crew alongside seasoned performers like Clay Dawson and 'superstar' talent Jude Thomas under the watchful eye of an elite coach.
"Pete Reeves knows his stuff,'' Kanga said of the NANCI leader.
"These young fellas are quick.
"Clay is just a phenomenal endurance athlete.''
Thomas is aiming to qualify for two major world events next year.
Thomas and Kennedy joined forces at the height of the COVID-19 restrictions.
"Because you could only run in pairs and Jude is pretty much down the road, we just hooked up a little group at Karalee . . . we just started training and doing that during the lockdown,'' Kennedy said. "Jude kept me honest.''
Kennedy said he is now "heaps fitter'' and "10 kilos lighter too'', having played footy weighing around 73kg.
While he briefly contemplated a return to Reserve Grade footy with the Eagles, Kennedy shut down that idea, saying he took a week to recover.
Ironically, testing marathons and other NANCI club running has revitalised his sporting motivation.
As for the Eagles 68 point loss on Saturday, Kennedy said such a big personnel change over the last couple of years had an impact on the team's consistency.
"I think they are probably just getting to learn to play with each other,'' he said.
"They were getting a bit of a touch-up in the middle today.''
New Eagles captain Tyler Hall showed his ability with five goals.
The youth-laden Eagles Reserves lost 100-26 to Kedron in their first game back for the revised season.
Kanga shared in three grand final losses - two with the Seniors and one with Reserve Grade.
"It was a good era and we're all still really close mates,'' he said.