Going the distance
When John Eastham first came to the Sunshine Coast in pursuit of a business opportunity, his life was dominated by work. But a sudden whim to find time for himself saw John develop the drive to conquer much more than the business world.
“You’re not one of those MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) that bombard unexpecting cafes after you’ve been out riding, are you?” I joke, nodding at the intimidating race bike that sits in the corner of John Eastham’s office.
“Unfortunately, I am!” he laughs back, “It’s all about that coffee afterwards”.
As the co-owner and chief executive officer of Crick Auto Group, John is responsible for running a successful company that boasts a string of car dealerships around the state. But he never thought his drive for tackling challenges in the business world would translate to a passion for physical challenges in everyday life.
John sees his role as ensuring the group’s employees have the resources they need to look after their customers – and with more than 600 staff under his supervision, it’s an unsurprisingly stressful and busy position.
“I had no work/life balance,” says John of when he first started, “I was totally unbalanced and my life revolved around work.”
But after years of creating excuses about how he was ‘too busy’ to do anything else, John had an epiphany that it was in fact him alone that stood in the way of achieving a more active lifestyle.
“I noticed how fit Garry (Crick) was – he was always active, always doing things, and he would be up at five o’clock in the morning and I’d be shaking my head at him as I’d be eating a Big Mac or something,” John jokes.
“So one day I just started running. I was surprised at how much better it made my days. I started off using running in two ways – I’d either use it to get my day going, so by the time I got to work I felt I was sharp, or I’d use it at the end of the day to decompress and be a human being for my family, to release the stress and not take work home.”
Looking for something to concentrate his efforts towards, John registered for the 10km Bridge to Brisbane, training for just six weeks before taking on his first big challenge.
“I felt like I’d just run around the continent. I’d gone from doing nothing to running; I was too heavy and it was hard. But from there I thought, ‘Well, maybe I can do a half marathon’.”
After sustaining two stress fractures in his leg, John took up cycling while recovering, opening up even more possibilities for fulfilling his new-found competitive nature. Since then, John has completed two Ironman challenges (3.8km swim, 180km ride and 42km run), seven marathons, multiple Noosa and Mooloolaba triathlons, a variety of charity rides, and the 4800km Race Across America bike ride.
“I used to watch the Ironman and didn’t think it was possible for anyone, let alone me. But then one thing just kept leading to another,” says John of his incredible hobby.
“I’m more committed if I know I’ve got an event to get ready for. But I still seek out the challenges too – I still have a time I’d like to beat at Ironman and I still have longer races I’d like to do just for that pure challenge.”
Adding to his list of impressive achievements, John is now preparing to run the Boston Marathon in April next year (the only marathon in the world that runners must qualify for) after beating the qualifying time by 15 seconds.
“No one’s making me do it and I’m not trying to be a world champion; I mean, I’m very average at all those things that I do,” he laughs, “But it’s just enjoyable. I’m not competing to win my age group or anything like that, I just want to beat either a mate or a time I’ve done before.”
I used to watch the Ironman and didn’t think it was possible for anyone, let alone me. But then one thing just kept leading to another.”
Having clearly mastered the art of maintaining a work/life balance for himself, John now makes it his mission to encourage his staff to do the same, helping them excel at work while encouraging them to be active, both in a physical and community sense, through the Crick Eastham Foundation – an initiative that donates a percentage of each car sale to various local charities. And as an extension of this community involvement, the group sponsors a number of sporting events in the region, such as the Sunshine Coast Marathon and the Crick Eastham Charity Ride, which they encourage their staff to enter.
“I think it’s important for everyone here to know that no matter what they do, it contributes to the foundation, which then contributes to a charity,” says John.
From running a business to running marathons, John has come a long way in the 11 years he has called the Sunshine Coast home, proving in an era where work is often all consuming that the right mindset is all you need to make your life your own.
John’s tips for a successful work/life balance
Finding time: “I don’t know what it’s like for other people, but for me the only way I can be guaranteed to get a session in is to do it before anything else happens. If I try to do it at 5.30pm and something goes wrong at work, you just don’t get around to it, so get up a couple of hours earlier.”
Finding the motivation: “Find a group of people, even if it’s just one other person, and do it together. You’re much more likely to show up if you’re going to be letting someone down if you miss it.”
Beating the mental hurdles: Accept they are going to come and hope it doesn’t happen too early in the event. During my first marathon, I hit the ‘wall’ at 30kms, and no one can prepare you for how that’s going to feel. Family and friends definitely help – I remember walking along the side of a road in Cairns during an Ironman, holding my daughter’s hand and her saying, ‘You should probably start running some time soon’. And if they’re not there with you, an old mentor of mine taught me in the last 10km to think of the most important people in your life and run one kilometre for each of them, thinking about them during that kilometre.”