Come April 2017, endurance ultra running and adventure enthusiasts will be introduced to one of the greatest physical and mental challenges ever held on Australian soil.
Nicknamed ‘The Monster’ by its creators, the Down Under 135 (DU135) requires athletes to cover 135 miles (217km) on trails stretching through Victoria’s spectacular Lerderderg and Wombat State Forests in what will be Australia’s longest single stage trail race held over 48 hours.
The out-and-back course begins at Bacchus Marsh, located only 40km west of Melbourne and not far from the international airport making it a prime target for international masochists seeking their next 135-miler challenge (of which there are only few marquee events dotted across the globe).
The foursome behind DU135 aren’t pulling any punches predicting their course will easily be graded as the toughest on the endurance event calendar with an ascent (and descent) profile that goads potential participants with the very notion of what is possible in ultra trail running. This, on a course that against the grain for big ascent trail run events, does not have a ‘hero mountain’ at it core.
“But the first 50km alone has 3000m of vertical gain,” says organiser, Dale Chircop. “And then you still have another 167km to go and somewhere in the vicinity of another 5000m of ascent. The mental challenge for athletes will be knowing that every downhill that smashes their quads on the way out, they will have to run back up on the return leg. That’s a tough mental proposition.”
Created as a labor of love by four passionate trail and ultra runners local to the region, the grassroots event is seeking to make its mark in its first outing with organisers fully expecting a high attrition rate from the likely small but bloody-minded inaugural entry field.
Says Chircop: “We know what reputation we’d like to see evolve but we’ll see what athletes report back as they tackle our monster.”
It is a reputation the quartet is hoping will spark the interest of international ultra athletes in years to come, in a similar way the Barkley Marathons in the United States remains a grassroots event that sits on the top of the bucket list for all miler-plus endurance runners.
Organisers admit, however, that while they are honoured to already be attracting some of the big names in extreme ultras, they are always equally love enticing the Unknown Joe who nobody knows but comes along and grinds out an event like theirs to finish where others fail.
“The feedback to the concept to date has been great,” says co-organiser Dion Milne. “We know of some who are already eyeing it off for their 2018 calendar. We also know there’ll be sceptics when it comes to a distance like this over terrain like this, but the overwhelming response has been encouraging. Sometimes you’ve just got go for it to create a dream and we are!” says Dion.
As if running 135 miles isn’t enough as a runner with support crew, the DU135 is allowing those suitably qualified to attempt this monsterous challenge solo and unassisted. This was brought about through discussions with race ambassador, the Tattoo Runner Mat Grills, from Queensland, who believed there is enough suitably qualified athletes such a solo challenge would appeal to.
Crewed runners will be accessible across most of the course excluding sections of the Lerderderg Gorge. Aid stations for all runners will be set up across the course with food, water and sleeping quarters for those who want to grab a quick kip and recharge the batteries.
Says co-organiser, Anthony Beyer: “The little details are important to a runner so we’ll have a good crew of friends, family and volunteers from our local running groups, the Surf Coast Trail Runners and Melton City Runners, to assist in a variety of roles on course. We want it to have a very strong community vibe, because that’s where the idea and now the event itself sprang from – mates out on trails dreaming up big, fantastical ideas. Or monstrous ideas, in this case,” he smiles.
“Our inspiration has been one of a real passion for the area coupled along with the fact there seems to be 100km and 100mile races popping up every second weekend. We wanted to go the next step. We also see our friends put their names into lotteries for 100 mile races in the USA or Europe and either not get their name pulled out or its not financially viable to get to them. So we wanted to present another option to the ultra running community – something closer to home and indeed, longer in distance to match the famous 135 mile races abroad, being the Badwater, Arrowhead and Brazil events at this distance.
It is not too late to enter the Down Under 135 so if you are looking for your next challenge and want to check out what the DU lads have served up, check out www.downunder135.com