On Sunday 14 August, City2Surf will return to the streets of Sydney after a two-year hiatus and for Penrith’s Mikaylee Drysdale, the return of the world’s largest fun run will mark a significant comeback of her own.
City2Surf is a race that means so much to Mikaylee and her family. The 22-year-old took part in her first City2Surf in 2001 – the year after she was born – pushed in a pram along the 14km course by her dad, Troy Dawson, who has been running City2Surf since he was a teenager.
Despite completing her first solo City2Surf in 2018, an eating disorder Mikaylee developed in her mid-teens coupled with severe anxiety and depression has prevented her from participating in any further events.
After the 2018 event, Mikaylee fell into a particularly dark place with her mental health and the toll of a five-year battle with her eating disorder left Mikaylee cycling through periods of illness and injury, resulting in multiple stints in hospital for treatment.
“I did my first solo City2Surf in 2018 and I had intended to continue to do that but then I did actually fall into quite a dark and deep spot with my eating disorder and anxiety and depression, so I was in and out of hospital treatment and was unable to run, which was a huge setback for me because it’s something I've always loved doing and so I did go through a number of years where I had registered to do City2Surf and then just never made it to the start line because I was unwell,” said Mikaylee.
With all the challenges she’s faced over the past few years, the mental health charity Beyond Blue has been a beacon of hope for Mikaylee.
“Because I wasn't really comfortable telling people how much I was struggling, Beyond Blue was a bit of a lifeline for me in a way because it meant that I had an opportunity to talk to somebody and be equipped to then tell my family how much I was struggling and get the help I needed,” said Mikaylee.
Through the ongoing support of Beyond Blue and later her family, Mikaylee has finally reached a point in her recovery where she’s able to return to running from August –just in time for City2Surf, where she’ll take part as a Charity Superstar for Beyond Blue alongside her mum and dad.
“City2Surf will be my first event back to running since 2018, so it's a huge milestone for me. Not just in terms of the running but in terms of my mental health, so I guess I have Beyond Blue to thank for that,” she said. “When I went to register and I saw that was an option (to run for Beyond Blue) it was a no brainer for me, I absolutely knew that they were so pivotal in me getting to the start line, so it was really important for me to support them.
“My mum and dad are both running City2Surf for Beyond Blue as well, which is amazing because when I told them about the idea they sort of had the same reaction I did which was it was a no brainer, it's a charity as family we've been so involved with because of me and they know about the impact that's had on my own journey,” said Mikaylee.
As a team of three, Mikaylee and her parents are hoping to raise $3,000 for the charity that’s played such a huge part in their lives.
“We have family members and friends who are affected by depression and anxiety, so we understand that Beyond Blue is an invaluable service for those in need and their families. So for our family this is a cause quite close to our hearts,” she said. “I think COVID lockdowns in particular were difficult for everybody, so I think that's why it's so important to support mental health services.”
For Mikaylee, the return of City2Surf means more than just being able to run again. Her family has a deep connection to the event that celebrates bringing people together and giving back to charities, and after a two-year hiatus the 2022 event will be extra special.
“My dad has been running City2Surf since he was in his teens so it's a really important event to him, but I guess for all of us it's a mark of normality and things kind of going back to normal since COVID, people being together again. It's become quite an important celebratory event for all of us because it has so much meaning for all three of us,” said Mikaylee.
“I think for me in particular it will be a huge achievement and celebration because it's a marker of reaching a point in my own mental health journey where I'm actually able to get back to the things I love and because running is such a huge part of my identity and who I am, not being able to do that for so long has been really taxing on me,” she said. “To know that I will be able to do the event this year and finish it alongside my family, for me it's a huge milestone. We're all runners, my dad's a runner, my mum's a runner, so for them to be able to support me to get to the finish line will be a massive symbol of how far we've been able to come.”
City2Surf is returning to the streets of Sydney on Sunday 14 August, taking participants through the iconic 14km course that starts in the city’s CBD and finishes at the famous Bondi Beach. Usually attracting over 80,000 participants, the event has been run virtually during the past two COVID-affected years but is to set to return to its full glory next month.
Raising money for charity has become the beating heart of City2Surf. Since 2008, when the fundraising tally was first recorded, participants have raised over $48 million for charities in need.
To donate to Beyond Blue and support Mikaylee’s fundraising effort visit https://city2surf22.grassrootz.com/beyondblue/mikaylee-drysdale