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The Connor's Run Story

05 Sep 2023
In September 2011, 17-year-old Robert Connor Dawes ran from his home in Sandringham to the boatsheds on the Yarra. He'd started his training for the upcoming rowing season early. Not loving running, he did the 18.8km because he was determined to be the best he could be. Little did he know that in his head was more than fierce determination: there was also a tumour growing. Connor had unknowingly begun his battle.
Two months later, Connor was diagnosed with an ependymoma brain tumour. Major surgery resulted in loss of movement to his right side, impaired vision and severe short term memory loss. His body was broken, but his mind was not. He was determined to improve and spent hours each day on his physical and mental rehabilitation. Intense radiation and later chemotherapy followed.

But throughout all this, Connor never stopped smiling. He stayed positive, philosophical and true to his mantra: "I will be awesome". Sadly we lost Connor just over 10 years ago, but his awesome spirit lives on.

We honour Connor in many ways; from the distances, colours, to the songs, everything has a special meaning. 
Here's a few reasons why we do things the way we do.

The Run

The Connor's Run course is an actual run Connor did from his house in Sandringham to the Mercantile boatsheds in September 2011 (2 months before diagnosis). It was uncharacteristic, because Connor although sporty, didn't like running! 

More times than Connor if you've taken part in Connor's Run more than once, you've actually run the route more times than Connor!

18.8km is the distance he ran that day, but also his age when he passed away.
9.6km is Connor’s birthday, June 9th (he would now be 29 years old).

The finish line at the boat sheds on the Yarra was Connor’s favourite place in the world and where his ashes are scattered. 


As you approach the finish line you'll be given a yellow gerbera flower. You can add yours to the specially created flower wall, take it home, or share the love and pass it on. RCD Foundation Ambassador and New York Times bestselling author, Sally Hepworth, will also be at the flower wall, so make sure you say hi!


Aeternum Fortis
 - Latin for Eternal Strength, and the phrase Connor's classmates put on wristbands to raise money for his treatment. Latin was Connor's favourite subject and Aeternum Fortis is our eternal reminder of the amazing person he was.

More fun than run - because Connor wouldn't want it to be about winning, or even running! Connor had a chilled out disposition, that's why this is about more FUN than run.

I Will.... you may have already written an 'I Will...' affirmation when you registered, and on your bib. During rehab, Connor's yoga therapist asked Connor to make an affirmation. His answer: "I will... be awesome". What will yours be?

Three Little Birds - Connor's favourite song and the perfect representation of who he was and how he made others feel, carefree and passionate about living life. It's why we play this song before the race start and why the birds feature in our logo and merchandise.

Who's Taking Part

The community
 - Connor’s Run participants over the years have included Connor’s friends, teachers, babysitter, formal date, brain surgeon, radiologist, headmaster, occupational therapist, yoga instructor, music therapist, dentist, rowing coach, neighbours and so many more. This year there'll be over 4,000 runners taking part, those lucky enough to know Connor, and those new to us who have been inspired by him and his story. 

Brain cancer community - We have many families and friends running or walking for a loved one currently battling brain cancer or who have lost their life to this awful disease. We have neuro-oncologists joining us that will be the recipients of our fundraising efforts, music therapists working with children and young adults through our Music Matters Grants, and brain tumour survivors. 

Celebrity Ambassadors - We’re lucky enough to be supported by some of Australia’s favourite celebrities. Dave Hughes, and footballers Andy McGrath, Brayden Maynard and Nathan Murphy are just some of the awesome ambassadors who will be there on event day.

VIFs (Very Important Fundraisers) - Our biggest fundraisers will be noticeable by their extra merch on the course - wearing a bandana for raising over $500, a teal tee for raising over $1,000, red tee for raising over $5,000 or rocking a Super Cape for raising over $10,000! Be sure to give them an extra loud cheer at the finish.

Fortis Club members - Big hearts who have been with us from the start! Fortis Club members are participants, fundraisers and volunteers for have been involved in 10+ Connor's Runs, and will be honoured with a spot on the big screen at the finish, and given a special commemorative key ring.

Corporate Challengers - More than 80 teams from our sponsors and corporate friends have been in healthy competition to raise funds and be the Corporate Champions. A big-hearted thank you to everyone at these companies who get excited about brain matters, and contribute a huge amount of money to the fundraising total.