Have a problem to solve? Run a marathon.

Solving problems on the run. Photographer: Michael Robert Williams.

Austrade senior trade and investment commissioner David Crook says he came late to accountancy and even later to his pastime of marathon running – and to succeed in both, discipline and focus are essential.

David Crook FCPA has a rather unique way of mulling over professional challenges. He runs marathons. “Running provides a good opportunity to spend time thinking seriously about any work issues that need to be dealt with,” he says. “It helps you clear your mind and be focused.”

Crook is six months away from ending a four-year term as Austrade’s senior trade and investment commissioner in London. A self-confessed obsessive runner since he took to the sport eight years ago, he has now completed seven road and six off-road marathons and clocked up his best time – three hours and 46 minutes – in his birth city of Manchester. “I don’t know how I did it,” he says. “It was way beyond my capabilities.” 

Among the marathons he has completed have been Canberra, Sydney, Liverpool and the 2015 and 2016 London runs, during which he raised money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

“I also had the great good fortune to be in the 2014 Berlin marathon when Dennis Kimetto set the world record,” says Crook, cheerfully admitting that he was a long way behind in the 40,000-strong field. “It was a bit of a nightmare really, running over 20,000 discarded plastic water cups every couple of kilometres.”

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Crook has spent most of his career with Austrade. He has been Australian consul general in Atlanta, Austrade’s chief information officer and corporate secretary and trade adviser to then deputy prime minister Tim Fischer.

As with running, Crook came late to accountancy. He became a CPA Australia member in 1998 (and a fellow in 2012) after doing an accountancy master’s and two years’ part-time CPA study. He says he wanted to have a grasp of finance because he was working with companies with serious budgets. “It’s amazing how many people you find who don’t have an understanding of the subject matter.”

Crook also believes that the discipline of thought that goes with the CPA qualification trains members to be more logical and precise. He reflects that the difficulty of the exams made him feel the qualification was worth it. “I always remember the 60-question multiple-choice three-hour tax exam,” he says. “Afterwards, I said to another participant how hard it was to read through one question and come to a conclusion in three minutes.”

Crook values his CPA skills. “Deciding when you need to drill down to the details is important,” he says. “The CPA gives you the ability to see the things you need to see more quickly. It gives you a good understanding of where you should be looking. So the qualification has a lot of value.”

One piece of advice

“There is a temptation, when something is a strength, to use it more than you need. Knowing when you have to be in the detail and knowing when you need to be thinking more strategically is a skill in itself.”

Read next: Running accountant goes extra miles for Gold Coast Airport Marathon

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September 2016
September 2016

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