As if claiming his sixth marathon victory in a year isn't enough, wheelchair racing champ Kurt Fearnley is facing the toughest challenge of his life: crawling the Kokoda track.
As if claiming his sixth marathon victory in a year isn't enough, wheelchair racing champ Kurt Fearnley is now facing the toughest challenge of his life: crawling the Kokoda Track.
The 28-year-old from Newcastle won a record fourth successive New York marathon on Monday, triumphing in a desperate photo finish from South African veteran Krige Schabort.
It means two-time Paralympic champion Fearnley will finish the year unbeaten in marathons, with wins in Seoul, Paris, London, Sydney, Chicago and New York.
But he has little time to celebrate as he flies back to Australia and then on to Papua New Guinea to start a 12-day trek of the iconic 96km track.
Fearnley, who was born with an incomplete spinal cord, will leave his wheelchair and crawl the track to raise awareness of men's health issues and in support of the charity initiative
"I think Kokoda will be the toughest single experience I've ever had in my life and I know that," said Fearnley. "But I'm also excited about it."
Although no stranger to the pain of pushing his body to the limit, Fearnley also admitted he was fearful of the challenge.
Trek 'a family effort'
"I'm a little bit worried, which is human I think when you're doing something like this," said Fearnley from New York.
"I'm pretty sure able-bodied people when they go on this feel worried but I don't think I'm any more worried than anyone else.
"I see myself as able-bodied and beyond that I have 15 of the closest people around me who are there to help if anything's needed and to make sure we all get through it together."
Fearnley will be accompanied by two of his brothers, as well as other family and close male friends.
After losing a male family member to depression, he said the trip was about "blokes supporting other blokes and asking for help when they need it".
He has given himself 12 days to complete the track.
"I'll require help, of course," Fearnley said. "There's no way I'd even contemplate doing this if I didn't have the right people around me.
'Anything can happen'
"I feel really confident asking for a hand from any of these blokes."
Fearnley, who grew up in the small town of Carcoar, NSW, west of Bathurst, said he had to back up so quickly from New York because of the PNG wet season.
He said his arms should have recovered from the 42km race by Thursday.
"I'm in the best shape I've been but it's more that if we wait any longer it's going into the wet season and if we go mid next year I'd miss out on an entire season of wheelchair racing, which is my job, so I can't do that."
While Fearnley was confident of completing Kokoda, he felt the unbeaten year was already one to celebrate.
"You can never hope and plan to win every race that you line up in, especially when it's over 42 kilomomteres.
"Anything can happen because you're not just against the competitors, you're against the conditions, the road, the course and a lot of times against yourself.
"It's tough to win one, but it's even tougher not to lose one."