High country to high street ultra success

IMG_0119 low Two ultra runners have successfully completed a unique challenge to run all the way from the summit of Mount Baw Baw, in Victoria’s east, to the bustle of Bourke Street, in Melbourne’s CBD. Theirs was a 205km effort that took three days to complete, undertaken with a point to prove: that you can run all the way from mountain to mall using only trails and tracks the entire way.

Ultra runner Richard Bowles and adventure racer Jarad Kohlar set off from Mount Baw Baw knowing they had to complete the equivalent of five marathons to reach their downtown destination.

The high country to high street journey took them off the summit of Mount Baw Baw via the Australian Alpine Walking Track, before running through the Yarra Ranges National Park to Warburton in the Yarra Valley.

The environs turned from wild water catchment to semi-rural farmlands along the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail before a diversion through the Dandenong Ranges gave way to the inevitable suburban sprawl of the eastern suburbs.

IMG_0196 mediumMaintaining the run ethos of staying on trail, the pair took to linking up green corridors including the Dandenong, Eastern Link and Capital trails to eventually make it to the banks of the Yarra River, and on into Bourke Street via Federation Square where curious onlookers barely believed their claim of running into town from 205km away.

While the aim of the run was to find an off road route the entire way, the runners admit that they were forced to run on fire and logging roads on one section early on.

“It was still running on dirt,” says Bowles, who is used to running marathon distances day after day having run the length of Australia’s eastern seaboard and the length of New Zealand. “And the huge gum forest wilderness, zero traffic, and overall remoteness meant it was pretty much the same as singletrack – stunning fresh air running. It blows me away that you can run all the way from Mount Baw Baw to the centre of Melbourne pretty much all off road. I think we only touched a kilometer or two of sealed road to link up trails.”

IMG_0402“Even the final day from the foothills of the Dandenongs through suburbia and into the CBD, the whole way you would barely know that you were in the city as the green corridors provided plenty of nature to run through,” said Kohlar, who while an experienced trail runner, had not previously run the distances undertaken for the Baw Baw to Bourke Street Challenge in one multiday stretch.

IMG_0385 low“The highlight for me was the first twenty kilometres of trail out of Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort, along the Australian Alpine Walking Track. You’re up in the snowgums and then you drop down into tall Eucalypt forests, with big views. Also the last little stretch running past Flinders Street Station to Bourke Street amid all the hustle and bustle – it really brought home the nature of our journey from mountain to mall,” said Kohlar.

Bowles and Kohlar finished with a run down Bourke Street before dropping in to specialty running store, RunningFit, to IMG_2749 mediumcelebrate their achievement with a cool and rehydrating beer, a fitting end to just under thirty hours of endurance running completed over three days.

The challenge was undertaken to highlight the upcoming Brooks Trail Run Festival, a three day event that focuses on the trail running lifestyle, held at Mount Baw Baw during the March long weekend, 8-10 March. Entries, including for the iconic marathon from Walhalla to Mount Baw Baw using some of the same trails traversed by Bowles and Kohlar, are still open and will be taken on the weekend.


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