Complete Heartbreak Hill with a hard hat and safety vest

An opal miner wearing a hard hat and hi-vis protection isn’t the first person you’d expect as you trek up Heartbreak Hill. But James Caruana is ready to defy expectations.

The 25-year-old miner, who normally works in opal fields near White Cliffs in north-west NSW, will be one of tens of thousands of runners in the City2Surf fun run next week. And all in his full mining uniform: heavy boots, hard hat and long-sleeved hi-vis shirt.

James Caruana hopes

James Caruana hopes “do something hard” will encourage fans to “do something easy” and donate.Recognition:Walter Peeters

He admits it’s an odd choice to run 14km in such a uniform – but his motives are as pure as the gems he finds in the ground. He runs to raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the free flying service that transports patients to remote parts of the country for medical care.

“I’ve always had a passion for wanting to help people in my life … and I’ve always wanted to raise money, but I’ve never really known how to do it,” he said.

Race ready: Caruana runs in his high-visibility outfit at City2Surf.

Race ready: Caruana runs in his high-visibility outfit at City2Surf.Recognition:Walter Peeters

But since appearing on the Discovery program outback opal hunter, he’s built a modest following (“Every time we come to Bunnings, we get loads of people [coming up to us] which is kind of surreal because we live in the desert most of the year) and asks its followers to dig deep.

“Now that we’ve been on this TV show, we’ve got a few people following us. I thought maybe if I go out and do something difficult, I could gain a little awareness,” he said. “People recognize me by my mining equipment [so] When they do something difficult, they think about doing something easy and donating some money to charity.”

He also encourages fans to donate by purchasing an opal, with 20 percent going to a charity of their choice.

And the training? He thinks he’s doing pretty well since quitting beer and taking up yoga. Complete Heartbreak Hill with a hard hat and safety vest

Joel McCord

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