LifeFlight crew are friendly running foes
Crews of the Sunshine Coast based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter have circled Mount Cooroora from the sky, however on Sunday 24 July they will be joining 100 athletes on the ground in a gruelling race to the summit and back, for the 38th Pomona King of the Mountain Challenge.
Last year LifeFlight, formerly known as CareFlight, airlifted two runners during the demanding and dangerous 4.2km race up and down the mountain which is almost vertical in places, winching them to safety after they were injured.
Surprisingly, this rescue inspired five runners from LifeFlight to sign up for almost certainly the most arduous hour of their lives this year.
Previous winners have completed the extraordinarily tough mountain challenge in less than half the time, with the fastest recorded time 22 minutes and 43 seconds.
Buderim local, LifeFlight Aircrewman Dan King was winch operator during LifeFlight’s rescue at last year’s King of the Mountain Race which saw two competitors reach the mountain summit but suffer major leg injuries while trying to make their way down.
“It was an interesting situation. We got the call around 4.30pm and knew we would be racing the light,” said Mr King.
“The Doctor and Paramedic were put on the ground to speed up the process and we ended up extracting the two patients. We had to leave the Doctor and Paramedic on the mountain to come down by foot due to fading light.”
Unbelievably Mr King is more determined than ever to enter this year’s race.
“After the rescue I said to the rest of the crew we should return next year and do the race,” said Mr King.
“I have been interested in taking part since I was in my teens. I was training for it when I was 17 but injured myself.
“My Dad has entered it twice and it seems that for me doing this difficult race was always on the cards.”
Mr King convinced work colleague, Irish Critical Care Doctor, Matthew Mulkeen to join him in the tough endurance race this year.
“I wanted something to motivate me to improve my fitness,” said Dr Mulkeen.
“I used to do a lot of middle distance competitive running in Ireland when I was younger but unfortunately due to the nature of shift work as a doctor I drifted out of running.
“It’s good to pull the running shoes out of retirement.”
Fellow LifeFlight Doctor Andy Haggerty has also signed up, along with QAS Flight Paramedics Santosh Broom and Anthony Crompton.
The LifeFlight runners have completed most of their training individually because of the difficulty in co-ordinating training schedules with their shift work at LifeFlight.
In preparation for race day the five runners are hoping to tackle the near vertical track to Mount Cooroora at least once together.
LifeFlight Doctor Matthew Mulkeen has had a taste of the challenge after recently having his first training run on the gruelling 4.2km course.
“I had a few days off work so it was good to have a go and get a feel for what I'm facing on race day,” he said.
When the starters gun goes off, camraderie will turn to friendly LifeFlight rivalry as colleagues become competitors.
“I won’t be nearly as competitive as crewman Dan,” Dr Mulkeen said jokingly.
“My aim is to finish and not get injured and require winching off the mountain.”
For Aircrewman Dan King there is a little more riding on his performance on the day.
“Well it is a race. There will be some friendly competition but I am pretty much looking forward to achieving the best I can for myself and treat this as a warm up for next year’s event where my goal will be to break 30 minutes,” said Mr King.
LifeFlight is celebrating 35 years of providing world class emergency health care to patients young and old - anyone, anywhere, anytime. While the name has changed from CareFlight to LifeFlight, the patient focus is as strong as ever.
The Sunshine Coast is one of LifeFlight's busiest bases in the state with 511 rescue missions in 2015-16, 32 more than the previous year.