The North Face 100: Inspirations

TrailRunMag 15.05.2015

More than 2000 runners line up tomorrow for The North Face 100 , representing 35 countries and all walks of life. Some are elites – you’ll read a lot about them across the mediascape to be sure, internationals and local go-fasts rocking the single track in unbelievable min/km pace. Worthy of accolades and attention, their feats are admirable, absolutely.

That said, I still prefer the stories that echo back from the past of the pointy enders quipping that while their 10-ish hour (as it was back then) 100km , was hard, but by geez they respected the hardy souls at the back taking 24 or so hours to knock off their tonne. Many of these super athletes admit that they couldn’t and wouldn’t stay out there that long. That’s why they rush it through…

But back there in the mid and rear end, are stories of – to steal a line from our 100 Reasons documentary of TNF100 a few years back – ‘Ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.’

So we thought we’d highlight a few heart tugger tales of people out there, people like you and me, plodding through what to them is an Olympian effort, a special effort, and given the extra challenges-of-life some face, a Herculean effort.

There are a number of driving forces that urge these runners to push themselves to their absolute limits. Here are a few short profiles of runners out there tomorrow achieving extraordinary things, and providing relatable inspiration for us all.

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Pip Candrick // Pain Relief
“I found each time I came away from the mountains I felt somewhat healed.”

In 2011, Pip was diagnosed with a brain tumour, low grade glioma. After two brain surgeries and a long recovery she joined a gym, and through the gym was introduced to a trail running group. Still suffering from seizures as a side effect from the surgery, Pip requires a companion to run with her out on the trails. In 2014, she ran The North Face 50km course with the assistance of her trainer.

Pip hopes to one day be able to run mountain trails, and The North Face 50 independently.

“These runs are challenging but compared to the little challenges I live with daily they are a release in my life and are what I call my pain relief.”

Tim Horsburgh // Celebrating 15 Years of Remission
Fifteen years ago Tim Horsburgh was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. Without treatment he was told he would have less than four weeks to live. After six months of treatment, intense chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, his official remission date was May 2000. Almost 15 years later to the day, Tim Horsburgh will take on The North Face 100 in the Blue Mountains. But it was a long road to get there.

In 2009, after noticing trouble breathing just walking around Tim realised he needed to make a change for his health. The first goal was the Sydney Running Festival Half Marathon in 2010. Since then he has lost 30kg, completed marathons, ultramarathons and triathlons. He will be competing in The North Face 100 for the second time this May, and celebrating 15 years of remission.

Leigh Jeffrey Neilson // The Ultra Running Traveller
For Leigh Neilson, trail running is about the obvious health and social benefits. He runs to clear his mind, keep his body active and to learn to adapt to different environments. But his main reason for running is to see as much of the world as possible.

“I have run along a beautiful, clear set of rapids in the Canadian Rockies, surrounded by soaring peaks, circling me in. I have dodged thousands of commuters on the streets of Osaka, this time circled in by skyscrapers. I struggled through extreme heat in the desert of Rajasthan, which taught me how important preparation is, and made me appreciate how the locals have managed to survive there for thousands of years. I have run through the cold in Iceland and along the Namibian coast, where I came within metres of Cape Fur Seals frolicking in the sand.”

Leigh admits he is not an elite runner, and says it’s unlikely that he ever will be but that is not what’s important to him.

“There are two certainties in my life- firstly, I will never feel that there is nothing left to explore on foot. Secondly, I will never be happier than when I finally finish a long, steep climb and turn around to see the beautiful scenery that awaits me.”LM_150515_TNF.Athletes_31_MEDres (logo)

Brett Sammut // A Treatment Plan for Depression
In a bout of depression, Brett ran to escape. He ran to escape the black dog, escape himself, escape reality. With severe depression and thoughts of suicide, Brett ran. He ran until he started to enjoy it. Meeting accepting runners along the trails, Brett ran more, and the more he did, the more his mood lifted. He started to rely less on medication and says running became a treatment plan for his depression. The people he met on the trails became the people he looked up to and aspired to be.

With a wife and two daughters to care for, Brett no longer runs to escape from reality, but to get fitter and be more prepared for what this life will bring him.

“Everyone out on the trails has a story to tell, a history, or a reason why they run. We have all come from such different backgrounds, have varying abilities and ambitions and all stand on the start line with vastly different goals in mind. But one thing is guaranteed, once out on the trails, we all are the same and all suffering as much as the next person.”

Ruth Johnstone // Telegraph Pole to Telegraph Pole
Four years ago, Ruth described herself as a “38 year old wife and mother who was a smoker and morbidly obese.”

To turn it around, she decided to quit smoking and go to the gym 30 minutes a day. After building on her time at the gym, she decided to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.

She started her running by running from one telegraph pole to the next, then walking. “I did my first 1 km nonstop and thought – Okay, I like this.”

Starting with a 10km race and moving to half and full marathons, Ruth is now taking on The North Face 50 this year in May. This year she has reached her goal of losing 60kg.

“I love to push myself to places I have never thought I could go. I am certainly not the fastest but that’s okay because I run the same distance as the winner and I run to complete not compete.”

Working in a highly stressful job, Ruth says running is a great therapy for her at the end of the day – and it’s free. Ruth urges everyone to give it a go – ‘You may just surprise yourself.’

Travis Saunders // Running for Autism
Travis Saunders started running four years ago when his son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. He ran to cope with stress and depression.

“I remember going for my first run after he was diagnosed and I threw up in the street and couldn’t complete a short jog. This was the night that changed my life.”

As a father of a child on the autism spectrum he set up Run4Autism ( in 2013 as an ongoing fundraising and awareness campaign for autism not for profit organisations Australia wide. The website platform has raised more than $138,000 for 10 autism organisations around Australia.

This year Travis will continue his running journey and take on The North Face 100.

“Running in the North Face 100 has been a dream of mine for the past three years and this will be the first time that I run in a 100 km trail event. Even though I have run in several 24 hour events and a few smaller trail ultras, I felt that I could never ever call myself a true ultra runner until I completed Australia’s premier running event on the ultra-calendar, The North Face 100.”

The North Face 100 kicks off tomorrow morning (Saturday 16th May) at 6.20am.


During the race, one hundred athletes will have GPS trackers, including 40 elite athletes. These can be tracked on the live feed that will be on The North Face 100 website. There will also be a live feed of the starts and finishes.

For the ORDINARY HEROES 🙂 – check in to , punch in your runner’s bib number and you’ll see the last checkpoint hey passed through another time.

As it takes about 55 minutes for the fastest runner to get to Checkpoint 1, the live results will show no runner times until about 7:15am when runners start to arrive at Checkpoint 1. After Checkpoint 1, the timing system, LiveTrail, will show an estimate of where every runner is located at all times. It will give an estimate of the time that each runner will be due to arrive at their next timing point.

Or, check in with their support crews, or call them… they will have mobile phones on course as mandatory gear! And they may just be happy to hear from you. Depending on their state of being…

It is also a good idea to download the free app ‘The North Face 100 – Australia’ for scheduling, timing information, and other race info.