A family that runs together stays together, right? That’s the question being asked and the answer will be revealed post this year’s Surf Coast Century trail ultra in Victoria, Australia, with the Ditchfield family running it as a team.
“I’m not a runner,” was the cry 18 months ago when Dad Brett headed out to hit some single track on his mountain bike.
Wife Chrissie puts her hand up as a regular runner, often competing in fun runs and “one mega half marathon back in the day.”
Then there’s the junior Ditchfields’: 15 year-old Holly, and 14 year-old Delcan who continually progresses at a high school level in cross country running events.
So, now in training for the big event in September, do they consider them selves a family of runners?
“Well we’ve always been active with bush walking, mountain biking and such, but running, no!” says Chrissie.
That all changed last year when Melbourne’s renowned wet winter made it hard to ride and an email arrived promoting the short course Salomon Trail Running Series.
No decent running shoes and no running experience meant the Ditchfields’ missed the first race of the Series at Studley Park. However with new shoes and a 2km run under his belt, Brett signed the family up to Race 2 at Plenty Gorge.
Plenty Gorge is about a 5km ride from their Eltham home with some good single track and an area they know well, so how hard could it be?
It wasn’t the perfect welcome to the world of singletrack running (or maybe it was depending on your perspective): it rained so hard the river flooded and at the start line it was cold, muddy, wet and miserable. But the finish line response was anything but harsh.
“It was the best thing we’ve ever done. It was epic. And despite the conditions, we loved it!” said Chrissie.
The Ditchfields’ then ventured on to the next two races in the Series, with the finale at Anglesea last September where nearly all four received a medal for placing in the overall series.
It was at this destined race that the Ditchfields’ watched in amazement the competitors in the Surf Coast Century 100km ultra trail run come across the line.
Completing as a team of four, let alone as a solo seemed well beyond us. But then Brett in a moment of delirium said we should do this next year as a team of four,” said Chrissie.
A plan hatched although it wouldn’t have been carried out if not for the insistence of the determined kids, Holly and Declan, who took the ultra trail baton and, well, ran with it.
A busy schedule means the family finds it difficult to train together, “so everyone is responsible for their own loose training plan.”
But a Saturday morning often sees the Ditchfields’ running the hills of Eltham or along the Yarra trails together as a family.
Another favourite training ground of is the Bass Coast trail from San Remo through to Kilcunda, east of Melbounre, where it winds up and down the coastal cliffs and incorporates a short beach section – much like the Anglesea course they will tackle come race day.
While the family has bonded over running, that hasn’t left them immune to regular old family disputes: there’s the ‘discussion’ to be had over who does what leg of the ultra.
Mum Chrissie doesn’t want Holly or Declan to run in the dark, or have too many hills or run too far. Her concerns have since become a bit of a family joke as both kids are, according to one family insider, more capable than the parents!
The Ditchfields’ will contest the Surf Coast Century 100km as a relay team of four, each tackling a 21km to 25km leg each, on Saturday 21st September, 2013 in Anglesea Victoria.