Run Larapinta - a desert journey

TrailRunMag 08.05.2017

“I had no idea what I was in for – the flowing single track of the night run; then the vast expanses of flat terrain that we traversed before reaching rugged ranges over which we clambered  under a searing sun; then the depths of gorges so vast that they humbled my weary body.”Hanny on Mt Sonder

For Hanny Allston, elite ultra trail runner, the landscapes of Larapinta were unlike anything back home in Tasmania. She had pushed her  body across the Larapinta Trail over four days last year for her Run Larapinta debut at a pace that saw her out-run the entire field male and female, logging the fastest overall time for the 132km event in a total of 14 hours, 34 minutes and 24 seconds.

As an athlete and tour guide always in search of amazing runs, Allston travels across the planet – think Scotland, Italy, Japan, Switzerland. She has achieved world championship crowns in orienteering as well as Skyrunning titles. Yet Central Australia had never made the list of target places to run. When images from the inagural Run Larapinta popped up on her radar, the intrigue hooked her. Now, as  winner of the second Run Larapinta held last August,  she reflects on the event and its landscapes as being up there as one of the toughest run challenges on her CV.Hanny-under-tree

“It has a different sense of difficulty I think. I’d underestimated the roughness of the terrain in some areas; it’s so arid and rough out there, and it feels remote,” says Hanny.

For some , that is the allure. Get away, escape, find yourself. The West Macdonnell Ranges near Alice Springs, Northern Territory, is an iconic landscape of open plains, red rocks and blue skies, uniquely Australian terrain that surprises – it is technically desert, but runners will discover mountains, rideglines and oases that make it far unlike  any sand dune thought bubble the word may conjure.

The full Larapinta Trail traverses a 223km route from the Historic Telegraph Station at Alice Springs to the lofty summit of Mt Sonder and is regarded  as one of Australia’s most remarkable walking trails.Simpsons Gap to Standley Chasm 13 08 2016_28

As good as the Larapinta Trail is for multi-day hiking , it’s even better for trail running with endless kilometres of single track stretching through the incredible terrain that tests the mettle of any who run it.

Sam Maffett, event director from event organiser Rapid Ascent, says the landscape is simply unforgettable, and the experience of running through it life-changing.

“It’s difficult to put into words the sheer beauty and grandeur that visitors to the region get to experience: deep chasms, vivid colours, soothing cool watering holes, and a mid-winter lightness and warmth in the air,” says Maffet.TRM Web Banner 23

“Run Larapinta provides the ideal opportunity to combine a love of running with a visit to one of the best bucket list destinations in Australia for those who love wilderness.

“And the quality of the running along the Trail is second to none; as a major tourism drawcard, it has excellent trail infrastructure with ample  signage, water tanks, emergency access points and endless views from start to finish.”Redbank Gorge Mt Sonda Glen Helen 15 8 2016_12

The weather in the Red Centre mid-August is just about perfect for trail running; typically central Australia dishes up endless clear, cloudless days, temperatures in the mid 20’s in the shade, and just a slight breeze to cool your sweat. And zero rain.

Maffett explains that as with any long journey there are good sections and there are terrific sections of the Larapinta Trail as a whole, but organisers wanted to combine the best of the best to create the courses for the Run Larapinta Stage Race.

“Rather than battling along some 30km stretches that link two mountain ridge lines, we’ve skipped that bit and taken you straight to the heart of the trails – the most scenic, the most diverse, the most fun to run.”

Maffett strongly believes that all good trail running races must have three key ingredients.

“A breathtaking landscape, a sense of journey and a friendly camaraderie between runners. Run Larapinta has all these and more. It is a real bucket list event for any runner who loves their fresh air and freedom.”Redbank Gorge Mt Sonda Glen Helen 15 08 2016_47

Hanny Allston was awestruck at being out in a landscape so raw and so far removed from the urban normality, and savoured being able to share stories under the stars at night with new friends from around Australia.

“Together, as a united group of athletes, we all rose each day with weary bodies but excited for another day of scenic running.  For me, this is what made it so special. If you are looking for a challenge far greater than simply a race, Run Larapinta would be high on my list.”

Run Larapinta offers two course distance options tailored for runners of all levels: The Malbunka – a long course option features stages varying between 20km and 45km each day, whilst The Namatjira – a short course option includes stages varying between 11km and 30km each day.Hanny

Event accommodation partners have been appointed and all race logistics are provided – including transport, social functions and race support. So at the end of each day’s running runners can kick back and enjoy the unspoilt beauty of the Red Centre.

For an extraordinary mid-winter running escape, check out the Run Larapinta Stage Race at