“I Can Carry You”: 68-Year-Old Rogaining World Champions Appreciate Over 4-Decades of Bonding in Sporting Partnership

Published 02/12/2024, 9:41 AM EST

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How often do you hear about a tale of friendship in the realm of sports that lasts multiple decades? As astonishing as it might sound, Rod Gray and Geoff Lawford have been Rogaining for 48 years now and are showing no signs of slowing down. Both 68-year-old gentlemen hailing from Australia are champions in their discipline and aspire to continue their journey for as long as they can. 

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While very few marriages last for half a decade, this amazing tale of like-mindedness, coupled with their zeal towards sports, is unthinkable. What’s more astonishing is that at the beginning, they used to be rivals. 

A tale of two Rogaining champions: Rod Gray & Geoff Lawford

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While competing in the Australian Orienteering Championship in 1975, Lawford saw him beaten by an upbeat Gray. Recalling the incident, Lawford stated smilingly, At first I didn’t really like him very much.” However, things would soon change as Lawford was left wanting a partner for his 24-hour-walk in 1976. 

Having no other options, Lawford approached Gray for his services in the race organized by the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club. The reason for choosing him? Well, according to Lawford, “He beat me in that race, so I knew he was fit.” Even though he knew that both of them were extremely passionate, Lawford was wary of their chemistry. Since it was a long, 24-hour walk, the fear of indifference played on Lawford’s mind. And you know what? Their debut event as partners did not go as they would have liked to be.

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Instead, Gray recalled being passed out in one of the bushes from extreme fatigue. Both athletes made a lot of mistakes that often found them wanting in the rugged and cold terrain. However, despite a mediocre performance, both Gray and Lawford knew that this would work. 

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Since their first race together, the duo have been inseparable ever since. Together, they have participated in 14 Australian Championships, 17 World Championships, and numerous other rogaining events. A memorable moment came in their career in 2023 when they clinched both the men’s ultra veteran and men’s super veteran titles while competing in California. 

Once, during the Rogaining World Championships in 1996, Lawford passed out moments before finishing their run. Unable to get help, Gray took out his bottle of Gatorade and splashed it all over Lawford’s face. After coming to his senses, Gray asked him, You can take the ambulance, or I can carry you, or you can walk to the finish.” Hearing this, Lawford did not want to disappoint his partner and finished the race while rallying to a third-place finish. 

While the good memories make up a huge part of their journey, there are a few scary ones as well. 

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Lawford & Gray’s chilling Rogaining anecdotes 

Recalling one such incident, the duo remembered being tired from a 12-hour non-stop race. As they stopped to catch a breath at the Ore Mountains in the Czech Republic, they found their torches running out of batteries. With no other option available, the duo switched off their torches and lay in the woods in utter darkness. Much to their dismay, moments later they could hear the footsteps of a wild animal rushing towards them. While they anticipated it to be a wild boar or a wolf, luckily, it was only a friendly German Shepherd. 

Another interesting and unique recollection of their time together is Lawford’s tendency to faint. Such a habit had significantly marred their outings on several occasions, but the two decided to stick with each other through thick and thin. 

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Surely, the tale of Lawford and Gray is an inspiring one. It portrays how the strong bond of love and friendship can propel the careers of each other without posing obstacles. EssentiallySports wishes both the vibrant athletes all the best for their future endeavors. 

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Written by:

Disita Sikdar

533Articles

One take at a time

Words have the power to inspire and unite, and I am dedicated to making that happen! As a passionate Viral Sports writer at EssentiallySports, my past experiences as a content creator and social media manager have only fueled my drive to bring the world of sports to life. My love affair with American sports finds its epicenter in WWE. Since childhood, I have been enthralled by the dazzling world of WWE, captivated by its awe-inspiring storylines that blur the lines between sports and theatre! My coverage brings out the electrifying excitement of WWE, the poetic beauty of Soccer, and the fierce battles on the Tennis court.
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Edited by:

Rohan Karnad

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