Lucy Bartholomew has run under the clouds of controversy before: at the age of sixteen, she undertook the challenge to complete the 100km Surf Coast Century. That was with her Dad running beside her. Now she’s off to run a 250km monster in the Big Red Run, Australia’s newest multiday stage race looping out across the desert from Birdsville and back. She’ll have to run a marathon a day before taking on an 80km leg. Stay tuned to her reports here on Trail Run Mag, but in the meantime, here are her thoughts in the weeks leading up to the event.
With only 21 days to go (until the start of the Big Red Run), I started thinking exactly how I got to where I am today: booking flights to Brisbane and then on to the Simpson Desert; training hard; being given a box of technical The North Face gear specially suited to desert running as a lead in to potential sponsorship; and working with some of the most amazing people who are supporting me in my journey to becoming a competitive trail and adventure runner.
I love running. I completed the Surf Coast Century 100km with the controversy of age limits hanging above, and finished how I finish all my runs: smiling and happy! It wasn’t easy when people were against what I was doing, but I do know that it was all in the best interests of my safety. And I knew I had my family to support me no matter what and so I was easily able to push aside negative comments and run proudly with my dad.
Big Red Run is a completely different scenario: there has been no media roiling with controversy at my age or the wisdom of my entry. And I no longer had the support of my Dad. The only things that were the same were that I was entering to finish and to have fun.
Entering didn’t come easy. It briefly tore my family apart. Mum wants whatever makes me happy and I knew I wanted to do this. Dad took the side all the people opposing my run in the Surf Coast Century, saying that I am too young, that it would affect me mentally and physically.
To be honest, I didn’t go about it the right way. Instead of asking him, I told him, and that pretty much guaranteed a bad result.
Dad was my running partner and my mentor and now I had neither. I started doing my own research: how to train, gear for desert conditions, people who had done this before (Lisa Tamati and Sam Gash) and nutrition.
People were interested in what I was doing, believed I could achieve it and wanted to help and be apart of it. I was stoked; I took onboard all the advice I received and when the word sponsorship was spoken I couldn’t believe that it was a viable option. I always thought only top level athletes were sponsored. I never saw myself as this, despite my daring to believe it may be a possibility one day.
It was all pretty surreal up until now, where I have been told to think about tapering, booking my flights and buying my food. I entered this run oblivious to the fact that 254km is a bloody long way. I entered expecting to be travelling alone. I entered to prove myself and to challenge myself but since entering I’ve realised that the distance is brutal.
Yet I tell myself to break it down over the six days, to take it slowly, don’t get competitive and just enjoy something most people won’t even get to. This thing will be hard, but as any long distance runner must tell themselves, I must tell myself: it’s achievable.
I’m no longer traveling alone. Two runners gave me the best birthday present of joining me: Jacinta O’Neill will be part of the Big Red Run medical team and Jim Eastham will race the first-day 42km Big Red Dash and stay on to support me. Having two people I know and have run with will ensure a crucible of confidence when I am out there in the desert.
I’ve also come to realize that I don’t need to prove myself: what I have achieved, what I am doing is something no ordinary 17 year-old does and I’m proud of who I am and what I have become and I love what I do. I run.
I haven’t exactly got a race plan. I’ve got Jacinta and Jim who I know will look after me, making sure I am drinking and eating enough and pacing well. I know I am competitive, and want to run fast but I also know that this is no race to go out hard in and blow up. As a runner used to shorter distances – or at least timelines for finishing a race (20km-100km done and dusted in under 13 hours as opposed to a run broken into stages and completed over six days) – it’s going to be hard to hold back. Just another challenge I need to overcome.
I know this run isn’t going to be easy. I know it will test me and push me, but I simply can’t wait. I have two friends by my side, the support from my school and schoolfriends, support from my family (with some reservations from my Dad but nonetheless, we’re still a team!) and I believe in myself.
Bring on Big Red!
Lucy is being supported with gear supply for the Big Red Run by The North Face. We include mention of it here as we believe it is important that trail brands support up and coming (and established!) trail athletes in their endeavors to achieve.
As with all entrants in the Big Red Run. Lucy is trying to raise money for Type 1 Diabetes. Help her in the cause at https://bigredrun.everydayhero.com/au/lucy-bartholomew
You can also follow Lucy’s trail life on her athlete Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lucybartholomew17