Harvey driven in race against time
He’s a shock jock but Dom Harvey’s also deadly serious about breaking the three-hour marathon and has written a book about it, writes.
Dom Harvey considers his ‘‘secret double life’’. The breakfast radio DJ has his onair pranking frat boy persona and his relatively serious, thoughtful other life.
Nothing better illustrates the chasm between them than his love of running, a topic of such dullness for brekky banter that it’s rarely mentioned on his Edge morning show.
‘‘It’s bloody boring for the majority of people,’’ he says of his obsession with long-distance running.
‘‘You see a group gathered at a party or barbecue, and chances are they are not listening to the dude who is talking about his marathon... it is a nerdy thing, and I’ve become a real marathon nerd.’’
For the past few years, Harvey’s life away from the microphone has been consumed by the pursuit of the sub three-hour marathon, a barrier only the top 2 per cent of runners ever overcome.
‘‘It’s like some sort of curse,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s become a big thing in my mind. It’s an arbitrary thing, it doesn’t really matter and it’s not setting the world on fire... but it is something I am quite close to doing, but still a long way from.’’
The quest is the subject of Harvey’s new book, Running: A Love Story.
It’s his third, although very little like his first two, Bucket List of an Idiot, and Childhood of an Idiot, the sort of light-hearted, self-deprecating memoirs you would expect from a breakfast DJ.
Dispensing with the idiot tagline was a conscious, and early decision that this time would be very different.
‘‘I find it quite easy to write intensely personal stuff, if it is written in a humorous way,’’ he says. This was much harder.
The book was conceived by Allen and Unwin publisher Jenny Hellen, known for spotting zeitgeisty winners. ‘‘I had my doubts,’’ Harvey says. ‘‘It sounds f...... boring. I said ‘what kind of person reads running books?’ She said ‘so you read running books?’ I said ‘yeah, well... ’
‘‘Back of my mind the whole time I was writing it was ‘who would give a s... about reading this’. But I suppose everyone has that.’’
Hellen says she was intrigued by that apparent contradiction between shock jock and runner, ‘‘and that always makes for a good story’’. She liked Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, an earnest take on the philosophy of running, and saw Harvey’s book as a ‘‘more populist take’’. Hellen says: ‘‘Dom is a very good writer. He’s funny and direct and the writing process comes easily to him.’’
There’s definitely a crowd out there of serious runners who love proper books about running (Harvey and myself among them). Christopher McDougall’s hit Born To Run was one that crossed into the mainstream.
I’m in Harvey’s core market, I liked it and read it in one sitting. But there are potentially more accessible books out there for the couch potato, like Kerre Woodham’s Short Fat Chick to Marathon Runner.
‘‘It may be wishful thinking,’’ says
Harvey. ‘‘But a non-runner can enjoy it too. I have tried to be as user-friendly as possible.’’
I’ve always been struck by the difference in the two Dom Harveys and it only seems to have grown over time. The book describes an ascetic existence of rising at 4am to be on air, having a lunchtime nap, doing some meditation, and going for a long afternoon run before stretching sessions in the evenings in front of the television before bedtime at 9pm.
‘‘The drugs I’m taking are beetroot shots and magnesium pills for cramp. It’s no rock ’n roll lifestyle, I tell ya.’’
He used to be much worse on air than he is now. His last controversy came with the prank where he convinced fellow radio host Simon Barnett he was fulfilling a lifelong dream by interviewing Tom Cruise (he wasn’t, it was an impostor, and Harvey was widely castigated).
Harvey reckons that one barely counts. ‘‘Sometimes you f... up and you know you’ve crossed the line.’’ This time, he says they didn’t. ‘‘It was a well-executed prank and the outcome wasn’t ideal.’’ Has he mellowed? Maybe, he concedes, but ‘‘the worst thing you can be is boring or bland or not talked about.’’
At 44, he’s completed more than 20 years on breakfast radio. When Barnett recently said he would quit the morning treadmill next year, Harvey said his reasons ‘‘resonated’’.
‘‘The hours are brutal... life revolves around work and being mentally sharp and ready to go at 5am. It definitely chews people up and spits them out.’’
Age is also becoming a factor in his running quest. Without spoiling the story too much, Harvey falls short of his goal at the Berlin Marathon. Post book deadline, he’s still getting faster – he ran fourth in his age-group in the World Masters’ Games half-marathon – but remains five minutes short, a tangible but difficult leap his coach believes he remains capable of. ‘‘It feels like a race against the clock in both ways... who knows?’’
The next target race is the Tokyo Marathon next February, which will also see him complete the full set of World Marathon Majors, the world’s six most prestigious marathons.
‘‘I imagine if I am lucky enough to end up doing it and it feels underwhelming. You hope you would be elated, but what if you’re not?’’
Running: A Love Story now.
is on sale
There is a serious side to Dom Harvey.