Luke Mitchell: On the rise

As the sun rose over Adelaide City on the last Sunday in August, it lit up the Morphett Street Bridge like a stage, as two of Australia’s premier middle distance runners Isaac Heyne and Daniel Canala glided over the River Torrens on their way to a 1-2 finish in the Adelaide Marathon Festival 10km. While onlookers are now accustomed to seeing this type of performance from these two stars, the next figure on the bridge may have raised a few more eyebrows. As Luke Mitchell kicked off that downhill section of the course and returned to the Bonython Park finish line in 31 minutes and 59 seconds for the 10km journey, he placed himself alongside two elite performers on a very high-quality podium. At the finish line, Luke received a wealth of well-deserved praise for his efforts that morning, but it was apparent to those who know him well that he wasn’t satisfied to be next best on the result sheet, and that his thoughts in the moments after finishing were occupied by a desire to be far more competitive next time.

Flashing back to 2018, and by the end of the amateur football season in Adelaide, Luke Mitchell decided had played his final game of footy. At this point in his life, he’d just started his professional career as a physiotherapist, and this had become his new priority. However, he thought it best to not let himself get out of shape as a health care professional, and so he channeled his 14-year-old Little Athletics experience, laced up some sneakers, and set off on an experiment to test whether jogging was a sustainable way to maintain some fitness. At this point of the story, it must be noted that Luke is one of the more determined, and quietly competitive people you’re likely to meet. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume that throughout those initial laps of the neighbourhood, there was still some mental imagery occurring in Luke’s mind; his arms thrown out wide as he imagined himself crossing that finish line first at his local park run! Regardless, and to return to the linear narrative of how Luke started running, it was his mate Josh Young who eventually convinced the newly crowned sub 20 minute park runner that he could go a bit faster than that. By now, Luke was hooked on the ease at which progression was measurable in running, and he was becoming more curious as to how to make the next leap forward. Together with Josh, the pair composed a plan to become more consistent with training by using a few methods and principles that they had read about. Initially, this worked, but it wasn’t long before the paces began to plateau once again, and Luke was forced to reply to the message of one of his peers at Flinders University Physiotherapy who kept bugging him about training with a group he had just started. That peer was Riley Cocks, and in an eventual act of desperation Luke and Josh made their way out to their first RunAsOne training session!

It wasn’t long before Luke was a regular at RunAsOne, and upon reflection of the series of fortunate events that lead him to the group, it is quite remarkable to consider what he has achieved in such a short time. While it has only been twelve months, Luke has shown a level of discipline, durability, and toughness that is well beyond his years of experience. In this time, he has gone from a complete unknown, to a name that stands out on any start line in South Australian distance running events despite the exceptional strength of this era of local distance runners. With an ethos that focusses on finding enjoyment in the struggles of training, and surrounding yourself with people you want on your journey, it is hard to imagine his meteoric rise is about to end anytime soon. Pairing his appearance at the front of RunAsOne sessions every Tuesday and Friday, with regular strength sessions, a consistent long run, and a disciplined focus on recovery on the easy days, Luke looks set to surpass his goals with ease, despite prefacing them with a warning about their ambitious nature. With his aforementioned starting point of 20 minutes for 5km in mind, Luke’s back-to-back sub 16 minute 5km times in the Adelaide 10km race are already difficult for the logical mind to process. However, as he clicked off sub 3 minute and 10 second kilometers with confidence and ease at the start of that race, it is easy to imagine those soon becoming even faster again. Similarly, as he recaps the move that saw him drop his more seasoned competitors with a level of conscious thought and reflection that one wouldn’t expect from a relative new comer to the sport, it is difficult to not get excited about Luke’s future as a distance runner. While 5km to half marathon events are his priority throughout these initial development years, Luke sees himself in the marathon eventually, and don’t be surprised if by then you see him once again running personal bests more than once in a row on his way to some great times over 42.2km!

In the mean time though, it is back to business as usual for Luke after his 10km PB. Once again, he puts his head down to balance his running endeavours with his priority for family, and his career as a physiotherapist. While Luke is quick to attribute the supportive atmosphere at RunAsOne to his early success, I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that he leads by example in this group. His humble, but determined approach, combined with the healthy balance with which he lives his day to day life is an inspiration to the many who so regularly follow behind him on the trails and paths of Pakapakanthi! We can’t wait to see what he can do next!