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The Clarence Valley - a chapter in the story of your life.
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What I’ve learned...

10 August 2017

“Man up” was the only advice my dad gave me. I was just a tiny kid. He only gave it once. But it stuck.

I’ve promised my kids that their childhood would be the opposite of what I had. Mum and Dad split up when I was six. I went with Mum. She had alcohol and mental health issues. I was the one who made the meals and looked after my younger sister.

Sport was an escape from home. Cycling was the first sport I fell in love with. We used to track ride at the old Velodrome at South Grafton. My kids have both become professional BMX racers.

Sportsfishing became my passion. I was a deckie. Marlin and Tuna. Game fishing. Catch and Release. On a larger, commercial scale, we have to be very careful about our by-catch. If you’re running cattle you replace the livestock, if you’re growing wheat you re-sow wheat. We need to allow the waterways and ocean to replenish. We’ve got to look after what we’ve got.

We’ve been running the shuttle from Yamba to Ballina airport for three years now. Business is going through the roof. Passengers tell us: “Bugger the Gold Coast and Byron, this is our place now”.

The conversations I have with passengers are just phenomenal. You’d be surprised at who visits and who lives in the Clarence Valley.

It’s simple: Don’t drive tired. Focus. Keep space between your vehicle and others. Let people pass you if they’re in a hurry. We cover 10,000K every three-and-a-half weeks, just driving to and from Ballina. When you’re on the road so much you see lots of fatigue. You see cars and trucks drift across lanes. It happens more often than you think.

Driving back here from Ballina, soon as we cross the Mororo bridge, you can see the passengers relax. Instantly! Something about that stretch of water.

I’ve always been connected to the fitness industry. I started out bodybuilding at 18 and started competing when I was 22.

When the kids came along we got heavily involved in BMX with them. I put bodybuilding aside and raced. I had a nasty accident. Took five years to heal and the Doc said I’d never raise my right arm above my head.

In 2006 I was diagnosed with low grade Lymphoma. I did the whole Oncology thing. Had kidney failure, a dozen operations. Sold the house to pay for medical bills. Turned out I had Sarcoidosis, which mimics Lymphoma.

I was seeing five or six specialists a week and on up to 17 different medications. My world was upside down. The Sarcoidosis got out of control. Three times they said get your affairs in order. The brain went clunk and I spiralled into depression. I got way out of shape. Eating the chips, hitting the booze, feeling sorry for myself.

One day I just asked myself: “How come I’m not me anymore?” I tried to do a single push up and couldn’t. Couldn’t do a single chin up either. I cried for two days.

You have to start somewhere. Every morning I’d get up at 5.00am and go for a walk. I chipped away quietly. I worked on my nutrition.

In 2011, I walked into Bodyrock Fitness. A broke, 73 kilo, skinny/fat, sickly, feeling-sorry-for-himself-bloke. In 2015 I won the World Bodybuilding Title in Las Vegas. The medications, specialists, symptoms – they’re all in the past now.

I train and help other people. I don’t charge anything. What goes around comes around.

Start from the inside and work your way out. People say: “I’ve got to lose weight, I’ve got to go to the gym.” No. Start from the inside. Eat properly and drink more water. Address the mind as well.

Food is our biggest medicine. I’ve talked with doctors and surgeons and brain surgeons on the bus. They don’t promote nutrition and healthy eating because they’re not taught it. There’s no excuse, though. Anyone can get on their phone and get all the information.

In general terms of health, society would do well to go back to swapping vegetables over the back fence, instead of the supermarket where everything’s laden with sugar.

When you’re up there, posing for the judges, it’s the first time you can relax. You’re working right up ‘til the moment you go on stage. When you’re up there, you’re not dieting, you’re not training or practising.

Self discipline and self knowing is key in Bodybuilding as in life. Knowing how you work, how you respond physically, mentally, emotionally.

I won the World Title in the masters division, and was also the highest scoring athlete in that whole contest. I’d come from a very dark place to be the highest-scoring athlete at 48 years old. To go from one extreme to the other made it so special for me.

If I wasn’t in the Clarence Valley: if I was in a big city, I wouldn’t have made it to Vegas for the World Titles in the first place. The support of the locals was mindblowing. Gary Mills of Mills Mowing gave me money to get over there, not expecting anything in return. Gary’s just one example. Bodyrock were amazing. One girl gave me a $1000 Qantas voucher. The Clarence community is unbelievable.

They don’t tell you about the crash, though. I came home with the World Title on such a high. After a day back in Australia it took two phone calls about something trivial and annoying for me to plummet back to earth. The comedown can be brutal. You can see how some Olympians struggle to adjust. I felt the negativity start to come down on me so I sat right down and wrote out a list. Thirty names of people I was going to help and train. It took the focus away from myself and back to helping others, and the negativity just evaporated.

Yamba Airport Shuttle operates between Yamba and Ballina Monday to Saturday.
$55 per person, $25 for children.
www.yambashuttle.com.au

Strong in body, mind and spirit. Brad Clarke. Photo by Gra Murdoch.

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