If you have run around the northern beaches of Sydney you have no doubt encountered this legend. Olly Woolrych is a local Manly lad who loves trails and adventure just like us. He is the spiritual leader of the VipersRC and can be found sending it on Viper Hill all times of the year.
How did you get into running and what do you love about it?
My entry to running was one that were very timely, it was at a period of my life where I feel like a wasn’t doing such a good jog a most things and needed to have something that would get me back onto the straight and narrow.
I remember my first run, it was around Allen Boarder oval in Mosman and I could barely do one lap of the oval without having to stop and walk.
I guess initially what I like about running was that it was a purely effort based activity, it was an activity that meant as long as you keep at it, you were almost guaranteed to get better at. I felt like I could control my destiny in my running journey and I like that feeling.
Truth be told it was also a way to escape some of the other parts of my life, it was an opportunity to go and get lost in nature for a couple of hours knowing that I wouldn’t run into any life problems. I feel like this is why I was pulled towards long distance running, the idea of being out there all day with just my thoughts was something I enjoyed.
Eventually thought, this running to get away from things turned into running to find things, to find new boundaries and experiences. It was my way of expressing myself.
You ran for 198 days through Central America – what was it like?
I decided I wanted to do something big with my running, I wanted to do something big enough so that people would stop and listen to the message that I was trying to promote.
I wanted young people that were struggling with mental illness to see that I too was in that position a few years back, but I was lucky enough to find a passion and then I allowed myself to totally explore it.
So, I looked at the map and with plenty of planning I decided to attempt to be the first person to run unassisted the length of central America, 8 countries of beautiful, tough, hot and cold terrain.
The 198 day adventure had plenty of highlights, I camped out almost half of the nights that I was out there which would sometimes mean I would be staying on local families land. There were plenty of occasions that I would find myself sitting around a dinner table of a local family with a dozen family members staring at me in amazement as I slurped on some soup. Spending 90% of the time in rural areas, it would quite often be the case that the young people in the villages that I ran through had never seen a one person before….and certainly not one on foot pulling a cart.
I used to love when I was approaching the one street villages all of the people would be standing at the doors of there huts, half shielding themselves with the door, the kids be tucked in behind mums legs peeking around the corner. It gave me this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that only a few years ago I would struggle to leave my bedroom during the day and now I was running through a village on the other side of the world that no foreigner has been through in decades.
Of course there were tough times, the physical effort that went into everyday other there was huge. Some climbs would go for 70kms and take me two and a half days whilst pulling a 20kg cart. You can imagine the mental twists and turns that this would put you through, particularly when the mercery would hang around 40 degree.
All in all, the amount of life confidence that this adventure gave me really made me the person I am today and set me up for the kind of life that I want to live.
I encourage anyone that has a burning inside them to go an start an epic adventure to do so. It is one of the things I am most proud of and taught me more about myself and the world than I ever thought possible.
What’s your favourite trail to run/hike/explore?
My favourite part of the world to run is on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, HOME.
This is because it reminds me of the beautiful place that we live in. I think too often people of the Northern Beaches forget that people travel from far and wide to holiday in the place that we call home.
I would also like to give an honourable mention to the Pacific coast of Mexico, I spend 3 weeks there covering 600kms on my run in 2015 which was magical, The jungle filled mountains of Guatemala are brilliant also, Nepal’s Annapurna region is some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere in the world and of course the South Island of NZ will always have a special place in my heart.
I really like the quote “find out what makes you happy and do it as much as you can”
I think learning how to stay happy is a super important skill in life. To have an understanding as to what makes you have and know strategies to keep you there is a real advantage. Something I work very hard at in my mid 20’s and glad I did so.
You can find Olly running with the VipersRC you can follow them on insta @vipers.rc