Intrepid runners braved dire but thankfully inaccurate weather predictions (for a brief time) on the weekend just past to take part in the inaugural Surf Coast Trail Marathon.
A sell-out field of 500 runners tackled spectacular 42km and 21km courses along the Surf Coast Walk from Torquay to Fairhaven, Victoria, the first man crossing the line to register a blistering sub-three hour run and an inspirational comeback story.
Geelong based, Brett Coleman (below), was not expected to survive when he cycled into downed electrical wires while mountain biking in 2013. Sustaining burns to 12% of his body he was put into an induced coma and spent a month in hospital. Despite burns to the soles of his feet, Brett was back on the treadmill and running within three months.
18 months after being found hypothermic and semi conscious on the trails more than an hour after being electrocuted, Brett lined up for his first major run since the accident. His 2 hour 58 minute marathon was registered on a course that all agreed was tough going, and was so fast that event organisers had a tough time keeping ahead of him as they moved checkpoints up the course.
“When I heard that there was to be a marathon along the Surf Coast trails, I was super keen to take part but unsure whether my body would hold up so soon after my accident,” says Brett. “My fitness was good from riding and I added in a few long training runs to see how I’d feel. Amazingly, I felt great and entered.”
It was clear from the outset that line honours were going to hard fought between Brett and Wodonga-based runner, Luke Preston, who pushed hard to take the lead at times.
“I’d get away from him on the uphills and he’d catch back up on the downs, particularly the technical downs,” says Brett. “My efforts to stay clear just before Point Addis didn’t pay off as I smashed my left big toe into a rock and hit the deck losing plenty of skin. Luke sailed past me shortly after.”
In the end, local knowledge of the trails paid off, with Brett putting an eventual four and a half minutes on Luke, with notable triathlete, Melbourne-based Mitchell Anderson taking third place another ten minutes in arrears.
In the women’s marathon category, it was a ‘Dandenong trail sisters’ act with best friends Kellie Emmerson (left) and Samantha Gash taking the 1-2. Emmerson, who took the inaugural title in 3 hours 47 min, is a rising star on the Australian trail running scene, having been crowned National Trail Champion after winning at the Maroondah Dam 50km trail event earlier this year. In third was another Dandenong Ranges runner, Isobel Bespalov, who put in a strong run on the comeback after being injured.
“I had the opportunity run the course a few weeks prior with the local Surf Coast Trail Runners crew, so I already had a pretty good idea of how awesome the course was,” says Kellie. “It offered an impressive variety of terrain with well groomed walking trails, some gnarly single track sections, hills, lots of sand, and the most beautiful views.
“Despite an atrocious weather report that included ‘snow showers,’ we were very lucky to have the sun out for the first couple of hours. The pace was put on early, and I settled into a nice rhythm, running my own race, but the entire time thinking I was in second place. It wasn’t until I ran through the finish line banner that I realised I’d won – the woman ahead had been a team relay runner.”
In the half marathon event, it was a show of local running strength with Geelong runner Shane Keddie (left) winning the men’s in 1 hour 37 min and Torquay-based Ellie O’Kane (below) claiming the women’s half marathon crown in 1 hour 41 min.
The field behind the leaders ran through varying conditions as the unsettled weather waxed from sunshine to rain and back to a stunning rainbow display at the finish line, the final marathon competitor stepping over the line in just under seven and a half hours. That competitor, 54-year-old Frank Welburn, received a standing ovation as he walked into presentations, having run the event off the back of a cheeky dare from son and with a broken foot.
Created to put a spotlight on the Surf Coast Walk while also raising funds for the Anglesea Primary School, the Surfcoast Trail Marathon ran competitors from the Torquay foreshore along iconic Bells Beach to the clifftops of Point Addis and Anglesea and on to Split Point lighthouse at Aireys Inlet. The event attracted runners from far and wide, with a large contingent making the journey from South Australia and with entrants registered from as far afield as New Zealand, Ireland and the UK. Designed to appeal to both trail and road runners, the Surfcoast Trail Marathon also had a high percentage of first time marathoners and half marathoners, making for some emotional crossings of the line at the stair-top finish at Fairhaven Surf Lifesaving Club.
Despite the considerable distances run, and the tough terrain covered (including facing a king tide-hit 4km beach section), runners contributed to a cheery vibe that seemed to blow the bad weather away through sheer energy and fun had, with most runners locking in participation next year.
“The team did a fabulous job getting this event off the ground. It was very well organised, there were some great sponsors on board, and the whole vibe was so exciting and infectious. I’m sure that it will be successful for years to come,” said female marathon titleholder, Kellie Emmerson.
“Bring on the 2015 event so we can enjoy those fantastic trails once again,” added her winning male counterpart, Brett Coleman. “We’re very lucky to have them and to have this race on the calendar!”
The Surf Coast Trail Marathon was produced by Anglesea-based company Tour de Trails and supported by the Surf Coast Shire, Oakley, Vivobarefoot, IO Merino, The Running Company (Geelong), Runners Kitchen, Tailwind Nutrition, Kongo Industries, THIR Australia and online entry partner, Eventbrite.
Images for sale via Dandy Runner at: http://galleries.dandyrunner.com/sctm2014