How flexible working supported one Ironman's dream


Suncorp’s Wayne Harding explains how Suncorp’s flexible work policy and the support of his team helped him to conquer one of the greatest athletic achievements in the world: The Ironman World Championship.


How flexible working supported one Ironman's dream

“I think…what I enjoy about Ironman is the journey,” Wayne said. “With an Ironman there’s no cheating. It doesn’t happen overnight; it takes six months of work to get there. But the accomplishment you feel when you get there…it’s like nothing else.”

The Ironman World Championship is the pinnacle of the sport of triathlon, which athletes all around the world aspire to get to but only the top two per cent achieve.

The race is held in Kona, Hawaii each year and is known for its brutal conditions as well as the epic distances covered: a 3.8km swim, a 180km ride, and then a full marathon: a 42.2km run.

The training schedule of an ironman certainly is grueling. At the peak of his training last year, Wayne was up at 4am each day riding 400km per week, running 80km per week, and swimming 10km per week, all before attending a full-time job.

It’s a dedication that he brings to work every day, working in Suncorp’s finance team where he recently celebrated his 15-year work anniversary.

Wayne explained that his team – though initially baffled by his desire to conquer such distances – was extremely supportive.

His leader, Erica Smith, said: “We worked together on a plan to ensure he was able to meet both his professional and personal goals, including some days of leave and some days working at home.”

Wayne shared that he would cycle for a couple of hours before work each day and that his team knew to leave lunchtimes free when he would be running or swimming.

However, Sundays were always kept free for his family, as well as most evenings.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing – a cycling accident ahead of his first Ironman qualifier saw him break his collarbone and five ribs – but the three months out of action only heightened his commitment.

“The training towards the end really does get hard,” Wayne said. “And it’s mentally tough to just keep going. But having the opportunity to go to Kona…there was no way I was saying no.”

With an Ironman there’s no cheating. It doesn’t happen overnight; it takes six months of work to get there. But the accomplishment you feel when you get there…it’s like nothing else.

Wayne Harding, Suncorp

The Kona event is known for its high temperatures, gusty cross winds and beautiful surrounds.

“The water there is really clear; you can see the reef and the fish below you while there is turmoil above you with arms and legs flying everywhere,” Wayne said.

“And then in the run, the sun is really starting to bake; there’s massive humidity radiating off the tarmac; there’s no breeze, no wind; the sun is really intense and you just want to get out of there. You’ve been on the go for nine hours by then; everything is hurting.

“My daughter always does up a sign, and she’ll shout ‘Go Daddy Go! Go Daddy Go!’ When I’m running and need a lift, I can hear her talking to me.”

Wayne completed the event last October in 9 hours and 59 minutes.

“Crossing the finish line was like nothing else. My wife and daughter were on the side. It took so much commitment and time, and so many things could have gone wrong, but all of that is so worth it when you cross the line. I was so elated; I can’t explain it. It was just brilliant.

“On the surface it probably looks crazy to do what I do…but just the fact that I can do it, I think: why not?”

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