Last updated: 05-Nov-18
It was the story that melted hearts worldwide last year. A tough-as-nails ultra runner meets plucky pup during the Gobi March race. They conquer the stages together and true love blossoms. There are twists and turns, drama, near-tragedy and then a happy ending as Gobi comes back to join Dion and Lucja Leonard and their cat for a new life in Edinburgh. It has catapulted both of them to international fame and the book will be coming out this year and should be on everyone’s Christmas list. It’s also highlighted the sport – which is great for all of us. I was keen to speak to Dion and hear more about him as a runner and an ultra competitor as well as the hero in this super cool love story.
To start with the basics. Dion is a 42 year old Aussie who has lived in the UK for the past 15 years and is now based in Edinburgh with his wife, Lucja. He is a WAA-sponsored athlete.
Dion is pretty new to the sport, having started three years ago with the Marathon de Medoc in 2013.
“It was a great way to start,” he says, “drinking and eating my way around Bordeaux.”
He has always been very competitive, though, with a background in cricket and hockey and a childhood spent running around Queensland and living life outdoors. His spur to start running was while he and Lucja were living in Manchester. At the time he was still playing competitive cricket.
“We got rained off all the time and I got tired of sitting in the changing room, waiting for the weather to change. Lucja was doing a lot of running and she encouraged me to join her.”
He found out that he was fast, strong and that he had a good resilience to heat, no doubt due to that childhood in Queensland where the kids were sent home from school when the thermometer hit 45 degrees and the AC didn’t work, and spent the rest of the day playing cricket.
His first ultra was the Kalahari Augrabies which is a 250 km stage race. He ran it in 2013