What makes perfectly rational people hare around the countryside, run or walk themselves to exhaustion or swim until their arms give out?
The Sunshine Coast fizzes and bubbles with people who revel in moving their bodies, setting audacious personal goals and challenging themselves to try something that pushes them to their physical and mental edges.
See them flock to take part in the upcoming Hells and Fairy Bells Adventure Races and the Sunshine Coast Marathon Festival this month. Watch the grand parade along our beaches during the recent epic Heart Foundation Coastrek that raised $775,000, or the 10km Island Charity Swim that raised $80,000 for special schools in June. Most entry tiers of the Ironman 70.3 in September are sold out.
But why on earth do people do it? Why not stay in the comfort zone of the predictable and calm? Because they are human beings, to the full extent.
Psychologists tell us audacious goals bring a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Physiologists say we set them because we desire physical fitness through training. Anthropologists say we do it because no matter how fancy our clothes or jobs, we are primal creatures who have always sought newness and adventure.
A group of friends and I recently completed the Max Adventure Race in the Glass House Mountains. My race partner and I – both in our 50s – put in six hours of running, biking and paddling to get to the finish. It was tough to navigate, with exhaustion, confusion and rugged terrain just some of the obstacles. But, oh, the advantages: satisfaction of doing something untried, feeling stretched until we thought we might snap, feeling the warm wash of encouraging words and the satisfaction of working as a team to get it done.
Science tells us that security and boredom will lead to burnout if we stay too comfy for too long. Humans require disruption to routine to feel truly alive. The need is chemical: our reward centres lap up the adrenaline/endorphin combo.
Entering big, physical community events are what journalist Rudyard Kipling called “filling the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds’ worth of distance run”. In our region, so many answer that primal call. This place is positively pulsing with life.