Unbelievable: Ipswich dad conquers epic 500km race
BLISTERS the size of 20 cent pieces on his feet. Swollen ankles. Just 10 hours sleep in five days.
What Ipswich endurance runner Paul Shard puts himself through to achieve his goals is nothing short of incredible.
But after completing his latest 500km Wildearth ultra trail event in 102 hours, 27 minutes and 45 seconds, Shard was surprisingly upbeat despite aching feet and lack of sleep.
"Mentally, I didn't have one problem,'' Shard, 47, said after finishing his epic sporting challenge in the hostile Gold Coast environment.
"I was just so focused on what I had to do. There was not one moment out there that I didn't think I was going to finish.''
It was another inspired achievement from the former Ipswich State High School student who placed third overall and was one of just five athletes to complete the gruelling challenge.
He started at 6am on Tuesday, finally reaching his 500km destination just after midday on Saturday.
He ate constantly to keep up his energy levels and only had small periods of sleep.
Having won a 100km event in 2016 and finished fourth over 100 miles a year later, "Shardy'' had some idea what to expect during this year's inaugural 500km journey.
But while mentally up to the task, he said the terrain, featuring 25km laps, was the most difficult aspect.
"It's just a brutal course because it's so rough and rocky and hilly,'' Shard said. "It's got 900m of elevation.''
Yet he soldiered on in what is regarded as the longest trail event staged in the Southern Hemisphere.
The winner finished four hours earlier with the second placegetter crossing the line only one hour, 50 minutes ahead of Shard.
Having been a relatively late starter to long distance conquests, Shard had last year off such events following his 2016 and 2017 ultra endurance successes.
When he heard the 500km event was being planned, the Brassall competitor started getting keen again and decided to "go right to the top''.
"Find something that's harder than anything and just tick it off,'' he said. "I just wanted to set myself a challenge - prove to myself that I can do it and it may just inspire other people to go out and try something that's outside of their comfort zone.''
He ended up with massive blisters on his feet and "puffy'' limbs from the trek.
He appreciated all the support from his wife Jenny and his "fantastic'' crew including running colleagues from the NANCI group. They provided regular food and water and a much needed massage for his overworked muscles.
"I just had so many people come up in awe of what we've done,'' he said.
Having completed another massive feat, Shard planned to put his feet up before tackling less demanding running events on the Queensland Masters circuit this year.
He'll also continue his coaching at the Ipswich and District Athletic Club and Ipswich Little Athletics Centre, eager to inspire others to challenge themselves.
But regardless of what comes next, he's already a winner.
Shard's marathon efforts came after he recovered from a debilitating back injury that required surgery in 2014.
ASKED whether he'd tackle a 500km event again, Shard said "probably not on that course. It's just so hard on the feet''.
"The worst part of it is the rocks and the valleys there,'' he said, reflecting on the 25km lap sections he had to tackle on the notorious Nerang circuit.
"You've got blisters upon blisters on your feet,'' he said.
"I've got blisters the size of 20 cent pieces on the soles of my feet.
"My toes are fine but my heels and the front part of the feet on the side, I've got blisters both sides.
"My feet were good for about 300ks. Then I started getting a few hotspots.
"My ankles are all swollen and I've got puffy feet.
"Other than that I feel okay. I feel pretty good.''
Given what the fearless Ipswich competitor just conquered, that's an amazing final response.