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.

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

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

Steve Kil­gal­lon

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

LAWRENCE SMITH/ STUFF

There is a se­ri­ous side to Dom Har­vey.

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