Mates versus the States: Why Northrop’s Rory Cheal’s running for a very good cause

For most of us, the prospect of running one marathon is daunting enough. For Northrop undergraduate Rory Cheal and three of his friends, however, that would merely be classed as a warm-up.

In February, Rory - along with long-time friends Sean Stuart, Max Cutrone and Jasper Gotterson are heading to the US to take on the challenge of running an incredible 80 marathons in 80 days; all to raise money for Cancer Council Australia.

“For a long time, we’d talked about doing a ‘different’ type of gap year – one that involved a challenge,” says Rory, who joined Northrop in December 2021.

“About 18 months ago we decided to do something involving running. Initially, we talked about a half marathon, and then a full marathon… I guess there was a bit of project creep!”

With running experience between the four at a minimum, they enlisted the help of endurance coach David Byrne, who’s been setting a weekly training program the group has diligently followed for over a year.

“The biggest challenge has been finding the time in the day,” says Rory. “All of us are working full time, so to do a few hours training every day, plus our big runs on Saturday, takes a fair amount of time. It’s felt like we’ve been living in one big training camp – the social life certainly takes a hit!”

Running for a cause

The self-funded trip to the States will see the group run an incredible 3200km all the way up the East Coast, from Key West in the south, through 13 states, including Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, finishing at the Canadian border.

The group will be living out of a hire car and camping along the way and staying at numerous one star motels.

“They say the first seven to ten days are the hardest and then your body becomes acclimated to it, and through our training we’ve slowly been building towards it. The main thing for us is whether we can steer clear of injuries – none of us are used to the sort of load on our bodies.”

While it sounds like a fantastic – while hugely challenging – adventure, there is a serious side too. The group are hoping to raise $250,000 for Cancer Council Australia – a cause very close to their hearts.

Rory’s mum, Amanda, has had stage 4 bowel cancer, lost 80 per cent of her liver to liver cancer, lung cancer twice, bowel cancer again, stomach cancer and lymph nodes – and today is in remission and cancer free. Max lost his Aunty Karen to breast cancer in 2016, and his Aunty Jenny is currently receiving targeted therapy for an aggressive, advanced breast cancer.

To kickstart the fundraising – and to mark the official start of the challenge – a launch party is being held on Saturday 11 February in Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay.

Tickets cost $150, and there’ll be live music, canapes and drinks as well as an auction featuring a wide array of items including short breaks to Byron Bay, the Central Coast and the Hunter Valley, a signed Wallabies shirt, beer vouchers, some Aboriginal artwork, handmade quilts and some lamb – as well as some opal jewellery from Rory’s home town of Lightning Ridge, where his family are involved in open mining.

“We’ve been lucky enough to get a good number of items donated, and all of the money from the ticket sales and auction goes straight to the Cancer Council,” he says.

Supporting from afar

Straight after the event, the foursome will be packing their bags and heading stateside, making their way south before hitting the road on 18 February.

Of course, Rory’s colleagues at Northrop will be avidly following his progress via Instagram and wish him, Jasper, Sean and Max all the very best of luck.

“I don’t think many employers would allow someone to pack up and leave to do something like this for six months,” says Rory. “When I told Gareth, my team leader, the first thing he said was ‘That’s fantastic!’. I haven’t gone around telling everyone I’m doing this, but everyone who knows has been very encouraging and supportive.”

Good luck Rory!


To find out more about the challenge, visit the Mates v States website.

To buy tickets for the launch party in Sydney on Saturday 11 February, visit here.

Keep up with the progress of the team on Instagram, while to make a donation simply click here.  

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