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Lecturer running ultra to raise awareness

trail at night
Charles Darwin University Paramedicine Lecturer Elissa Martyn supported runners in the 2023 West Macs Monster, this year she is taking on the challenge to start conversations about PTSD and DV.

For many people running in an ultra-trail race in central Australia might seem an unsurmountable challenge, but Charles Darwin University Paramedicine Lecturer Elissa Martyn is no stranger to adversity. 

Ms Martyn also knows what to expect during the iconic race, as she has been on the sidelines as a paramedic looking after the runners in the West Macs Monster.

Last year, a weekend working as one of the race medics for the West Macs Monster planted a seed to bring awareness to issues that are close to her heart. 

The West Macs Monster is Central Australia’s Ultra Trail running festival and has been described as Australia’s toughest outback event and sees runners traversing the infamous Tjoritja West MacDonnell Ranges. 

Participants have the option of choosing differing distances along the Larapinta Trail, the 5km Tele Monster, 25km Simpson Monster, 65km Standley Monster, 128km Ellery Monster and the 231km Sonder Monster.

The race brought up some tough memories for Ms Martyn but also lead to personal reflection about her past and how she can raise awareness for survivors of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Domestic Violence (DV). 

This year Ms Martyn will not be the paramedic on the course, she will be running the Ekistica Standley Monster, a 65 Km race on some of the toughest sections on the trail. Although she will be running with more than 50 other runners, she will still be surrounded by a harsh environment, dry and isolating terrain. 

A visual backdrop that reminds her of the adversity she has faced and the challenges many must navigate while struggling with PTSD or surviving DV. 

Ms Martyn said supporting the runners on the race reminded her of running with a friend from her time as a medic for the Australian Defence Force and how she started running for her own mental health. 

“I have always used running as an outlet to look after my mental health, and my best mate was an ultra-runner who unfortunately did not survive her battle with PTSD,” Ms Martyn said. 

“I am running this event in her memory and as a way to raise awareness for PTSD and create space to have uncomfortable conversations.” 

Ms Martyn said her main motivator to run and raise this awareness is to get people to start these difficult conversations. 

“Creating safe spaces where survivors feel comfortable to open up about abuse is hard, people don’t always want to hear it. 

“I wish someone within my space had asked me if I was okay, so I am running in silence to let victims know that they are not alone and to remind the people closest to them to create those spaces so we can have better outcomes for survivors in the future.”

With more than 20% of Australia’s population having reported some form of physical or sexual violence against them since the age of 15 and more than 30 DV related deaths already in 2024, it seems fitting for Ms Martyn to help society begin to ask questions no matter how difficult the answers can be. 

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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