Hume & Hovell: ultra trail run preview

TrailRunMag 11.07.2012

Organised by members of Wagga Wagga Road Runners and headed by Event Director Peter Fitzpatrick, an accomplished distance runner , the inaugural Hume and Hovell ultra trail event has opened for business, and set to take it’s initial outing Saturday 20th October. Trail Run Mag got got the low down on what’s in store from the RD…

Peter as the RD for the inaugural Hume and Hovell, tell me what was the spark for creating this race – over what bottle of red was it conceived and what was the thinking that convinced you it’d make a top ultra?

In November 2011 we heard a group of runners from Sydney area, Darrel Robbins, Andrew Vize and Terry Coleman were running the entire length of the Hume and Hovell Walking Track. Warwick Hull and myself joined them on a section of the track for a day. After about 5km in I said, “Boy, this would make an excellent ultra, 50/100 and 100 mile run!”

Two weeks later I went to see Warwick at his office. I then decided to find someone from AURA (Australian Ultra Running Association) who could advise me with the insurance side of things. Bernadette at AURA was so helpful and so easy to talk to. So with the help of Bernadette, Val (my wife), Darrel Robbins, Warwick Hull and Phil Roy, we are up and running.

 The Hume & Hovell will have a strong historical connection – talk me through that…

In 1824 Hume and Hovell were sent out at their own expense by Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane further inland to explore where the western rivers run, what lay between the furthest settlement and Bass Strait. A group of convict servants were provided to assist the explorers and several of the points along the track were named after the convicts. After 11 weeks of exploration they returned disappointed they had not reached their nominated destination. The actual Hume and Hovell Walking Track is 450km long and was a bicentennial project in 1988 .

Talk me through the physical course – what kind of run will it be in general, what unique terrains and environments are we talking and what defines the race?

The track consists of a lot of single track and fire trails and the first half is very challenging. The first 7km is through the old goldmine areas with several points of interest marked. The next few kilometres you will see where the miners have cut through granite rock to get water for the mines. Then you will run along about 11kms of an unused water race, which supplied water to the township of Tumbarmba. 

Another section runs through huge trees, which stand tall – some were used for milling purposes in years gone by. There is a section where brumbies roam freely, wombat holes, fantastic bird life and a shelter used by the pioneers. At about the 40km mark you have climbed to around 1250 metres, then, it drops down to 450m where the 50km event joins in and at the finish you are down to 320m. The 50km run starts on the Jounama Dam wall joining the 100 km runners on the track near Ben Smith’s camp site. We all then run along the full length of Blowering dam on the edge of thousands of acres of pine forests, finishing over an 800 metre downhill section to the park/picnic area below the wall.

There’s a special section of the run that in the inaugural year won’t be included – what is the story there?

The section being detoured was damaged beyond repair for the time being due to the massive flash flooding and wash away earlier in the year. Huge landslides in the area of Buddong Falls and limited time to repair it has forced us to make the detour. This is disappointing to miss seeing the beautiful Buddong Falls. We hope it will be repaired for next year.

What kind of support are you offering runners in the first year – checkpoints, aid stations, food etc? 

Support to the runners will be in the form of number checks to ensure everyone is safe; checkpoints to include food, drinks and a First Aid person, radio contact to the finish line and compulsory safety bag check before going into the night section. There will be a doctor and paramedic on the course. Support crew access is at 32.8km and at 80.5kms.

October timing – what the weather will be like is anyone’s guess, but in general what does the timing mean for conditions in that region? 

From 1965 to 2007 average temperature was 19.2 max to min 5.2 degrees Celcius.  Entrants need to be aware that the weather in the mountains can change within a matter of an hour. And runners need to be prepared.

Are there any restrictions on numbers or…

 Yes. We have a cut off of 100 entrants in both events so we can manage them on the remote course. Entries are open!

 There’s a bit of logistics in travel for this ultra being a point to point – talk me through them…

The 50km run will be provided bus transport only to the start on the Jounama Wall. Bus pick up will be at the Blowering Power Station picnic area, 15 km from Tumut.

The 100 km run is starting at Henry Angel Trackhead, 9km from Tumbrumba on the Tooma Road. Arrangements can be made for those entering without support crews regarding vehicle collection.

 In some ways, the ‘culture’ of an ultra event is as important as the distance and the terrain… what kind of vibe do you want to build around this event? Is it aimed at elites? Teams? First timers? 

Being a runner for over 30 years, with a passion, I would love other runners to enjoy the beautiful area and remoteness of an untouched running track. We have made a generous cut off time to allow first timers as well as the elite to experience the emotional side of running.

 Speaking of which – is this the kind of event a first timer should contemplate – why or why not?

I think it is an ideal run for first timers: all the tough bits are out of the way in the first half and the rest is scenic and reasonably comfortable running.

Gear – heavy on requirements or…?

We have made up a list of the safety equipment needed similar to other 100 k events. Check the website.

Post race goodness – what winery/pub/gastro delights should be visited for post race celebrations? 

There are 3 hotels, clubs in a reasonably small timber country town. We are having presentations and breakfast at the finish / picnic area at 9am Sunday morning.

 Three words that encapsulate the event: 

 (Great) Course – Remoteness – Beauty.