Ah course marking. It’s a wonderful thing. There you are, out in the wilds, all by yourself. For hours. Not racing. In fact you even have to slow down stop, put up some tape (knowing the sweep will get it come race end, keeping the place pristine), work out in your head if anyone will get confused at this point as they speed along the singletrail.
I went light-on when it came to marking the marathon and half marathon courses for the upcoming Brooks Trail Run Fest, happening over this coming long weekend at Mount Baw Baw in Victoria. In fact I caught myself thinking “I hope some of them actually get that little nervous feeling in the pit of their stomach, that makes them slow, think, judge, tap into their instincts – are they still on the right track?” I purposely want to tread that fine line, because that to me is part of trail running – learning to trust your instinct, to read the landscape, to read the trail, to work out if you are on the right one or not.
Some go-fast racers may disagree – they want the trail handed to them on a platter. Phhhhhttt. Whatever. Tap into the senses, use them while you run. Work it out.
Of course, I’m talking here about a trail that really needs no marking. There’s not much that can swing you off it. It gets tight in some patches and you’ll double take – but you’d be right to thing that you’re right. Look underfoot. See the well-bedded footpath underneath? And see how that trail to the left ends in 50 metres at a campsite? This is a wild, remote run but its trail is defined and has very few diversions.
So those of you having a go at the Brooks Trail Run Fest marathon and half, go with the flow – you can’t get lost. The first ten kilometres is fast and open, following an old tramline for a while. At about ten kilometres you’ll hit Poverty Point Bridge and cross over Thompson River. Just prior to this on the marking run, it was hot as an oven, baking it down in the valley with radiant heat sitting low. Be hydrated. Not long after crossing the river, hooking right, a little undulating path open up to a switchback and then a hill. Rather crunching. But you soon top out at the only road crossing, pummel back down a fast descent to a campsite. Cross the creek and then prepare to hate me for setting this course. Up. Up. Up. Curse me at kilometre 18.
Basically this first half of the marathon course is pretty, but it’s generic Australian bush that will make you happy but won’t drop the jaw yet, bar a few gigantic trees that will make you lift it skywards.
Then you pop out on a dirt track, hook right and you’re soon at the halfway mark (and the half marathon start), Erica Carpark. No, prepare to be rewarded for your hard work thus far. From here it’s 100% singletrack to the finish and scenery that will make you feel all Alice (or Max) in Wonderland. Mushroom Rocks is another planet – almost as though you’d had some mushrooms. You’ll float through here. A climb awaits but it doesn’t seem anything like as hard as the first two. Topping out on Mt Erica, get ready to feel the flow. From here it’s fun running for kilometre after kilometre as the trail snakes through the woodland, a few small pinches but all runnable. Here you can put the pedal down some. A short section closes in with some scratchy heath (maybe pack some Moxie Gators if you are averse to a little bush tickle), but then it’s on to a junction to then dart out to Mt St Gwinear at just over 1500m. Don’t underestimate that number. It’s low by mountain standards, but its still 20% less oxygen going in. You’ll feel it.
Just when you think the trail can’t deliver any more fun, you swoop up to Mt St Phillack, to the saddle (great views) and hook on some fast, technical descending trail to hit the back of Mount Baw Baw. Nearly there. A few weaves on the rear flank, you come up to near the summit before swooping down Muellers trail – a final fast semi-technical run down into the village, under the Brooks arch, and straight to the bar with a massive view over the Gippsland Valley. Here you can talk about how the legs will handle tomorrow’s 12km day and night runs, before heading to our feature film presentation by adventure runner Beau Miles.
Yes, it’s an interesting concept that’s being created and curated up on Baw Baw. Trail Run Mag is proud to have been involved in the design of this event (as if you haven’t noticed) and we believe it will post this weekend garner a reputation as not just a trail event, but a true festival and celebration of all that we love about trail running, with the core being the community spirit befitting of a gathering of dirty souls atop a mountain.
If you’re coming up, be sure to join in one of two feature trail running film presentations (Sat and Sun nights), a presentation by adventure runners Samantha Gash and Richard Bowles on their global running forays, a tech running coaching session by the Grasshopper, Matt Cooper, a masseuse on site on the Sunday, Australia’s first free mountain tech running competitions over 1.5km/400m ascent and descent, 12km day run, 12km night run, 6km fun run….and plenty more.
And if you’re not coming…sucker. Check what you are missing: