‘You show me strength again’: Inside Wyatt’s record-run

Brendan Wyatt was struggling to keep himself together when he reached the finish line. The Macarthur FC physio had just run 170km in little more than 17 hours. By the end, he could barely stand-up. He was physically drained and emotionally spent. 

Beyond exhaustion, the sight of 50 family and friends cheering him on at the finish line at a suburban park in Wollongong had Wyatt on the brink of tears. When he received one text message shortly after, the dam walls gave way. 

Bulls physio Brendan Wyatt on the way to breaking the record for 160km.
Photo: supplied.

“You are a special guy… Everyone back home is grateful for your actions. I will go one more year again in football because you show me strength again,” read the text message from Bulls captain Ulises Davila. 

With that message, a bone-tired Wyatt broke down crying. He had set about the incredible journey in honour of Lily Pacheco, the late wife of Davila. Wyatt sought to match Dave Goggins’ 2005 record for running 160km in 19 hours to raise funds for the Brain Foundation and awareness for cerebrovascular disease in light of the tragic passing of Lily to AVM last year.

By the time he finished, Wyatt not only smashed Goggins’ record by 1 hour and 42 minutes but inspired the injured Bulls’ captain to keep playing.

“It just shows you some things are bigger than football,” Wyatt said.

Well before he had inspired Davila to delay any thought of retirement, Wyatt had already captured the hearts and minds of Macarthur FC. 

At 2am in Avalon, he began the run alongside his fellow physio Jun Arima, who underwent the first 35km with Wyatt. Bulls head physio, Cody Williamson, was subbed in for 65km before assistant coaches Jacob Burns, James Meredith and Anthony Crea all joined on the course. Bulls FC Academy players Jess Seaman and Lara Coward took part while Macarthur’s GM of Football, Anthony Siciliano, was the constant in the support car and on the bike. 

Despite playing just a day earlier, Bulls winger Craig Noone mustered 35km alongside Wyatt while goalkeeper Nick Suman got through 25km. Bachana Arabuli and Aleks Susnjar were in support while Lachie Rose played the role of the DJ at the finish line alongside defender Jake McGing.

“They carried me through,” Wyatt said. “If I told you exactly what happened on the entire run, nobody would believe me; all of the little nitty gritty of food and drinks, the medical bag. My girlfriend frantically running backward and forward to get food, gels, nutrition, water bottles – there was so much going on behind the scenes.”

“Everyone was stressing about food or my phone battery. It just allowed me to try and focus on genuinely putting one foot in front of the other.”

The route that delivered the record.
Photo: supplied.

That became his mantra. After the 100km mark, clear streams of thought were vacating his mind as quick as the sweat beads poured out of his body. His focus couldn’t drift further than the next stride. 

“I was genuinely wanting to quit and concerned that no matter how mentally strong I am, I didn’t know if I could physically get through that distance,” Wyatt said. “I can’t explain it but I kept having this quote go through my head; ‘One foot in front of the other’.”

Wyatt’s fears were shared by many in his support crew when he keeled over in a coughing fit near Waterfall. 

“I hunched over on my hands and knees on the footpath and I started coughing up blood. Blood was coming out of my nostrils. I was looking worse for wear. People were starting to get worried about me,” he said.

“I was in agony to walk, my muscles were hurting, my joints were hurting, my gut was in absolute bits. People were driving around to petrol stations to get me water, icy poles – anything to keep me hydrated and to keep me going.”

With all attention on Wyatt, the focus drifted away from the map. One wrong turn added an extra 10km to Wyatt’s course, meaning that not only did he comfortably beat Goggins for time but also distance. 

But that pushed Wyatt to the brink. Instead of celebrating his record run at a bar, he was forced to take it in while lying on a hospital bed.

As images of him in the ward and wheelchair revealed the true toll of his ultramarathon, the broader football community became as inspired as Davila. Rival players have donated handsomely, players past and present have chipped in as the tally already neared $17,000 by Tuesday, well over the initial target of $10,000 that Wyatt had set. 

“It’s been pretty overwhelming to be fair. The amount of messages from people I haven’t spoken to in years or people I haven’t met,” Wyatt said. “Marcelo from the Wanderers and his wife donated $1500 yesterday.”

For the mild-mannered New Zealander, it’s a surreal moment in the spotlight. Wyatt is almost in as much disbelief with the response as he is having shattered Goggins’ 18-year record. 

Recovery mode: Brendan Wyatt in hospital after his 170km run on Saturday.
Photo: supplied.

“I don’t know what it was that physically got me through it on the day. I don’t know if it was just the motivation levels,” he said. “Maybe it was Lily there with me in spirit. Maybe it was the support from everyone around me on the day and seeing how willing everyone was to suffer with me.”

Speaking on the way back from a visit to the doctor on Tuesday while recovering from rhabdomyolysis, Wyatt boldly declares that he “would do that a thousand times over.” 

“I have never experienced such an overwhelmingly positive amount of support,” he said. 

Donations to Brendan’s cause can be made here.