Ultra dash for Gash across India

Australian ultramarathon runner Samantha Gash has started her gruelling 3,800 km record run across India, in a bid to raise money for World Vision projects tackling barriers to quality education in India.

Starting yesterday (Monday 22 August 2016) at one of the driest deserts on earth, Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, she will pass through the foot of the Himalayas and end in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya.

© Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

© Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

Running, on average, the equivalent of just over a marathon a day, Samantha will take 77 days to run West to East across India, being the first person to run the route. During her run, she will also be visiting the World Vision projects that she is fundraising for. She has already raised over $76,000 and is calling on Australians to join her by taking part in the Run India 12 Week Challenge, whilst following her virtually as she runs across the seventh largest country in the world.

“This is the biggest challenge I’ve ever undertaken, but when you consider the challenges many children face on a daily basis, this is not comparable,” Gash said.

“Through Run India, we are aiming to raise funds to support six World Vision Area Development Projects that focus on education. These are in Jaipur, Barmer, Kanpur, North-West Delhi, Hardoi and Pauri.

“This project will showcase the human stories and practical realities that are faced in these communities and demonstrate World Vision’s approach to sustainable development, which is about providing a hand up, rather than a hand out.”

World Vision CEO Tim Costello said Samantha is an inspiration.

© Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

© Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

“Samantha’s passion for shining a light on some of the world’s most vulnerable children by undertaking this huge challenge is formidable and impressive,” Costello said.

“Samantha’s goal to run 3,800km across India may seem too big, too ambitious, but similar to our goal of ending child poverty, no target is too difficult to achieve when we have determination, passion and work together.”

The World Vision projects that Samantha is supporting tackle issues such as malnutrition, access to appropriate water and sanitation, underage marriage and gender bias, which all present major obstacles to quality education for young women and men in India.

© Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

© Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

In India today, 4 per cent of children never start school, 58 per cent don’t complete primary school, and 90 per cent fail to finish high school. Combined with the fact that 67.7 million India youths are living on less than one dollar a day, the barriers to accessing education are highly complex.

World Vision’s 12 Week Challenge invites runners and walkers from all ages to form teams of up to 10 people to track their distances against Samantha’s run and fundraise.

To donate directly to Run India or join the 12 Week Challenge visit www.runindia.org.au.

Follow Samantha’s journey and join the conversation via #RunIndia, Twitter @WorldVisionAus and Facebook www.facebook.com/WorldVisionAustralia.

Mt Buller

Q&A: plant power and the Pyrenees

Victorian adventure athlete and dedicated vegan, Jan Saunders, was looking to become the first Australian to run 866km through the French Pyrenees in an inaugural endurance event, the TransPyrenea challenge which began on 19th July. She’s still out there, competing  but facing tougher conditions than imagined, she is now in the La Pastoral edition, an abridged section of the full course, that is still brutal at 450km+

This is an interview with Jan before she headed out, as seen in the latest edition of Trail Run Mag downloaded from www.trailrunmag.com/magazines.


What does it take to run 866km and climb 65,000 metres in under 400 hours (UPDATE NOTE: or even 450km!!)?

Fruit and vegetables. A lot of fruit and vegetables, according to vegan athlete, Jan Saunders, who will rely entirely on plant power to fuel her way through this audacious endurance challenge as the only Australian entrant in the inaugural TransPyrenea, a mega-trail running event to be held in France’s stunning Pyrenees mountain range.

The 54 year-old from Smiths Gully, Victoria, is no stranger to endurance efforts, having competed in numerous adventure events from the Costa Rica staged ultra (250km) to local endurance challenges including the 100km Alpine Challenge and the brutal seven-day XPD Expedition Adventure Race. Most recently Jan fast-packed the 230km Larapinta Trail in central Australia in just five days, a journey that is usually undertaken at a pace that takes more than double that time.

But nothing comes close to what lies ahead in the French Alps: Jan will have to run an average of 55km per day, climbing more than 3500 metres each day. Overall she will climb the equivalent of Mount Everest from sea level more than seven times over.


Unlike other endurance events around the globe, there will be no aid stations. Jan will be self supported allowed only one fifty litre re-supply bag that she will have to prepare and made accessible every 200km. The event’s race director expects only one quarter to a half of the 300 entrants to even finish.

The fuelling challenge will be a minimum of 6000 calories between drop bags somehow contained in a pack that, due to the ‘fast and light’ requirements of the challenge, will need to be restricted to approximately 11kg, barely more than a domestic flight’s hand luggage allowance.

Jan assures that being vegan makes no impact on sourcing the high calorific intake, pointing out that some of the world’s best athletes share her vegan lifestyle, including Serena and Venus Williams (tennis), endurance running legend Scott Jurek, Jason Gillespie (cricket), Carl Lewis (Olympian), Murray Rose (swimmer), Martina Navratilova (tennis) and recently feted bound for Rio athlete, Morgan Mitchell, a vegan bound for Rio Olympics after winning the national 400 metre titles.

“Being vegan has really helped with everything: energy, health, the environment. I am one of those people who actually cares. It’s what I chose to do,” says Mitchell.

Saunders agrees that protein and energy requirements demanded by either intense sports like Mitchell’s or endurance pursuits like her ultra running can easily be delivered by a vegan diet.

“On these hard ones, I aim for calorie dense foods – a minimum of 140 calories per 30g weight,” says Jan. “ My favourite is a rolled oats mixture usually with chia seeds, Vanilla Sunwarrior Raw Vegan Protein Powder, coconut sugar, good quality salt, raisin or goji berries, sunflower seeds, coconut shreds, and powdered coconut water. I just add a little water and then eat on the move. It fuels me super well.”

Since becoming vegan in 2012 for ethical reasons, Jan – a former member of Victoria Police Mounted Branch with 33 years of service – has investigated the culinary terrain of veganism by opening a vegan B&B in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, hosting guests who are seeking something a little different from beer and beef.


Jan’s guests will be well catered for in her absence with yet another plant powered trail running athlete, raw vegan John Salton, taking over the kitchen as she takes her plant powered approach to the French Pyrenees for what will no doubt be more proof in the vegan pudding of how plants can perfectly power extreme sporting pursuits.

Jan Saunders began her TransPyrenea challenge on 19th July. More race information (in French) www.transpyrenea.fr 

Q&A Jan Saunders // Vegan Endurance Adventure Athlete //

Name: Jan Saunders
Age: I turn 54 the day before the race! Happy birthday to me.
Occupation: Vegan B&B proprietor
From: Smiths Gully, Victoria
The Race: Transpyrenea – www.transpyrenea.fr

Tell us a little more about the Transpyrenea, Jan.
It’s an inaugural running event taking in 866km with 65000m+ ascent along the GR10, a long distance hiking trail that weaves through, up and down the Pyrenees mountains in France.

Sounds tough, especially as a first edition event!
Yes, the cut off is 400 hours to complete it, or 16.5 days, which sounds like a lot of time but I know the time will slip away quickly trying to tick off 866km! There will only be 300 runners in the field – I’m the only Australian that I know of and the Race Director expects only 1/4 to 1/2 of field to complete within cut off times.

So no aid stations or support crews – how do the logistics work on that?
My goal is to complete on average 55km per day, dependent on total ascent, which on average will be 3500 metres, keeping in mind most days will have equal amounts of descent which can be just as tough on the legs, especially the quads!

In terms of supplies, I’ll have one 50L accessible approx. every 200km (or every 3–4 days) and mostly be self-supported. Being vegan I cannot rely on having the food I want to fuel me available in the public refuges and villages we pass by and through. So I will be carrying most of my four days’ worth of food for each section between drop bags with me.


Wow, so you’re running with a fair whack on your back, then?
My pack weight I anticipate – or hope – will not lurch over 11kg. But

It needs to include compulsory items of clothing for bad/wet weather, sleeping bag, safety items such as first aid kit, GPS and compass, map, head torches and spare batteries, water filter, portable charger, phone and minimum of 6000 calories between drop bags.

And sleeping – what is the plan?
I want to get an average of 4-5 hours’ sleep per night plus 1.5hrs-2hrs cumulative rest breaks to tend to feet and eat per day. I have a bivvy bag, a borrowed light sleeping bag, an Ultra Light Tarp from Terra Rosa Gear and a ultra light hip mattress that I used in XPD last winter.

What’s the eating plan look like?
Being vegan I don’t reply on anything external – be that the event organisers’ offering or on a race like this we go through villages and past refuges, so there is access to food in general. But I need to guarantee that I have vegan food, so I pre-plan and prepare. [Check out a list of Jan’s vegan race lunchbox in the break out below. Ed.]


In terms of how I eat on the run, I tend to graze. A little something every 30minutes to on hour keeps the tummy happy. I have something liquid early in the morning; I intend to hit the trail each day around 04:00 and eat my special oat mix when the sun is warm, maybe 8-10am.

So your nutrition seems well under control, what is the biggest threat to finishing? Blisters and tendon/ligament over use issues.

You seem to have a lifestyle that works well around your endurance training…
I’ve been training in a way for the Transpyrenea for two years starting with with Alpine Challenge 100km in 2014. I then undertook multi day solo hikes in high country and on the Larapinta trail plus competed in the XPD expedition adventure race in 2015. This year I’ve done a few more mini solo missions as well as a 48-hour adventure race and a second go along the Larapinta Trail – 223km end to end in 5 days with a 15kg pack. That was about 9000m ascent and averaged 50km most days on rough terrain and warm weather so was an excellent training session!

Have you always been an endurance athlete?
Not really. I only really started undertaking serious endurance challenges in my mid forties – I’m edging into my mid fifties now. I was always active with gym and aerobics in 80’s/90’s and a bit of running off and on. Then I got into some hiking in the 2000’s and did an Oxfam (100km trek) in 2006. Plus I trekked in Nepal and climbed Kilimanjaro in Tanzania around then.

My foray into Adventure Racing only kicked off in 2008 at 45 after deciding it would be fun to do something different as I’d stagnated a bit.

At that stage I had never paddled or ridden a mountain bike or navigated. In fact I hadn’t ridden a bike for 18 years!

Then the adventures just followed: I climbed Aconcagua (Argentina, 6962m) in 2009 and Ausangate (6384m, Peru) in 2011 and did the XPD for the first time in 2010.

Sounds like you jumped in the deep end – did you encounter any big dramas while navigating your way into the world of endurance sports?
I injured my back at work – I was a policewoman in the mounted (horse) division – in 2011 and had 18 months off recovering with plenty of setbacks. As an active person who had not long discovered a pure love for adventure sports, it was a difficult time full of doubt. But it was also a time where I reassessed a lot in my life – from my career to how I lived. It was the time, in 2012, that I became vegan for ethical reasons.


So you quit your job, went vegan, and started a vegan B&B – talk about a life change! How did you get back on track in terms of the ultra adventures?
In 2014 I signed up for the Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, which capped off 11 months of backpacking the world. All the time while travelling I was getting stronger and deciding on what direction I wanted to take with my life as didn’t want to stay in the Victorian Police (I joined 1983). I finished 10th Female in Costa Rica and my back was great! So I ran a few more ultras in 2014 including GOW100, Buffalo Stampede 75km, Wilsons Prom 60km and another Alpine Challenge 100km. I’m hoping it all stands me in good stead for the Transpyrenea!

Lots of non-vegan athletes are skeptical about how you can maintain the required nutritional input from a vegan diet when undertaking endurance sports. How did you manage the transition?
When I found out late 2011 into 2012 that it is possible to survive without consuming any animal product at all it became a no- brainer that I would become vegan. But it didn’t really click over in my mind till a few days after my 50th birthday as I contemplated a leftover spit roasted lamb.

I suddenly really thought about who it was not what…I’d simply assumed without ever investigating it for myself that we needed to eat animals and milk and eggs to be “healthy”. After all, that’s how all the advertising and traditional health advice went. I just “swallowed” that, like most people do.

But once I knew it was possible I knew I didn’t want to be the cause of animals suffering and being killed simply because that’s the way I’d always eaten. So I stopped. I was relieved and excited though when I read Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run and Rich Rolls Finding Ultra, which gave me the confidence, that endurance pursuits and veganism were not mutually exclusive concepts!

You take that lifestyle a step further with your vegan B&B retreat…
I believe in leading by example and supporting people where they are at without sugar coating the facts. At my B&B, The Beet Retreat (www.thebeetretreat.com.au), I provide a safe and friendly space for people to sample the lifestyle and ask questions without fear of being judged or ridiculed. We have great conversations over meals and around the kitchen bench as I prepare food! I also use my endurance adventures as part of my advocacy to show a) what is possible and b) to fire people’s imaginations and awareness of both their health and the plight of animals and the many amazing organisations doing incredible work on their behalf.

I’m passionate about both animals and humans thriving and living a full and beautiful life. I have found my niche doing what I do although it is a juggle doing both the adventures and running a business!


Indeed – your Pyrenean adventure is in part about raising awareness and funds for?
Ah – glad you asked … five organisations that I am personally connected with: Animal Liberation Victoria; International Anti Poaching Foundation; Gunyah Animal Healing Sanctuary; Freehearts Animal Sanctuary ; Project Hope Horse Welfare.


Not just living the dream then Jan, but walking – or running – the talk!
I believe that to live a truly healthy, happy and meaningful life we need to not only be authentic, but to align ourselves to our deepest core values and live by them, not just in our down time but all the time. It won’t usually make you wealthy but it will make you love and be very grateful for your life and your place in the world


What does Jan Saunders endurance lunchbox look like?

  • Calorie dense foods – minimum of 140 calories per 30g weight
  • Jan’s favourite is 2 zip bags of a rolled oats mixture with chia seeds, Vanilla Sunwarrior Raw Vegan Protein Powder, coconut sugar, good quality salt, raisin or goji berries, sunflower seeds, coconut shreds, powdered coconut and water.
  • Turbo Super Food mixed with the Sunwarrior Vegan Protein Powder and Vital Greens in a concentrated liquid mix.
  • Tailwind for pick-me ups.
  • Turbo and Hammer electrolyte.
  • Various raw vegan bars or Fruit Leather I buy or make myself.
  • A tube of Vegemite to suck on.
  • Nut butters.
  • Active Green Food bars. Hammer bars on occasion.
  • Fresh and dried fruit. I crave fresh fruit and hope to source some at villages. If I can get avocado I will be over the moon!
  • Salty pretzels and nut mixes at the end of the day.
  • Coconut water in drop bag if I can fit it in!
  • I never feel the need to cook or have warm things but if the weather turns bad I will have a couple of emergency soups and an instant cos cous to treat myself with.

Read Jan’s blog about her vegan and adventure life here: www.thebeetretreat.com.au/blog/  

Mt Buller

Rapa Nui Run: or how to win your own race

Trail running has exploded in popularity across the globe, reaching into most wild corners of our spaceball (see what I did there? confused? does a ball have corners?), and now the last remaining outpost (perhaps) is about to fall to the sound of runners – or at east one runner – pounding the ancient soil at the feet of the giant Rapa Nui statues.  2015-04-29-1430312580-1303880-iStock_000018197703_Large

The Inaugural N.U.T.R. (Nui Ultra Trail Run) has been launched, to be held on 25 April on Rapa Nui / Easter Island, adrift from its mother nation, Ecuador, in the Pacific. .

This new off-road running event follows the 65km Ara Mahiva trail around the circumference of Easter Island.

April 25th 2016 will see the running of the new trail event based in Hanga Roa, the sleepy capital of Easter Island (Rapa Nui).

Sydney based runner and travel writer Dan Slater will be launching the event, the NUTR, by running solo and unsupported around the coastline of this magical isle, a distance of approximately 65km.easterisland04

Dan came up with the idea for the NUTR when he got the opportunity to visit Chile and needed a credible excuse to extend the trip to include Easter Island. He has since discovered that the route follows a traditional trail called the Ara Mahiva, and has only been run once in recent history (by Susie Stephen of longrunergy.com). If successful, the event may become a regular fixture on the trail running calendar.

As a journalist, Dan regularly writes for the Australian publications Australian Geographic Outdoor, Great Walks, Trail Run Mag and Wild, as well as numerous overseas magazines. His last running event was the 50km Wild Endurance in 2014, which he and his running partner won with a new course record.12377832_604886609675202_417459298760354246_o

Not wishing to lose that winning feeling, Dan is making the event an invitational and not inviting anyone else to participate.

“I hope to secure a win,” said Dan from his training ground in Inner West Sydney, “and I think my chances are good as long as I don’t fall off a cliff or run into a cow.”

Dan has a website and review blog www.thisisnotaholiday.com and has written a book about the trials of travelling through Africa on a budget of $10 a day.

Follow Dan’s run progress by visiting the official event Facebook page www.facebook.com/nutr2016 Easter-Island2

EDITORIAL: Technique of Ages

Technique is about the little things, but also about the big things, like keeping you in the game in the first place, says TRM Australia Editor, Chris Ord. [This is the AU Editor’s editorial from the recently released TRAIL RUN MAG #19, out now. Download for FREE here.]Mt Buller

A general thirst for adventure led me to trail running. But technique has kept me in trail running.

I was a generalist outdoorsman – expert at nothing, dabbler in everything. Trekking, paddling, mountain biking…whatever it was, so long as it was in the Great Outdoors.

Blame a youth spent in scouts under a scout master who threw notions like uniforms, badge collecting and honouring the Queen and Country out of the tent flap in favour of midnight madness mega-hikes and coasteering without ropes or helmets. Thanks for that, Dad (he’d never get away with it these days).

If there was a running influence, perhaps it was that same scout master (I was never allowed to call him Dad, it had to be his scout name – Suba – taken from the first half of the name of his work car. His lieutenant’s name was, of course, Roo). Suba/Dad punched out eight or so Melbourne Marathons in his day. Never broke three and a quarter, however (3:17 was his peak performance). Perhaps the trail thing was seeded obliquely back in a youth spent cross-country running, the only sport I was anything better than below average at.

But I was not a runner. At least I didn’t call myself a runner.IMG_6184

So when I came to trail running – not much prior to the beginnings of this magazine – I had long lost the elasticity and supernatural recovery powers of youth. I loved being out on trail, in the bush, an environment in which I had spent so much time. But my running was hopeless. I could headstrong it through the distance. But I soon paid the price of absolute ignorance: ongoing, unabated injury. ITB was the worst, but my knees felt like I had severe osteoarthritis (or what I imagine that to feel like) – something akin to metal grinding and ceasing. It sounded bad, it felt worse. Running to the top of some steps I clearly remember stopping, and inching down like a decrepit old man. I was in my mid thirties at the time. My boss of the day bounded off ahead. He was around the same age. I thought that was me done with running before I even really started. That realisation was wrenching. I wanted to run. I’d spent a mid-life doing all sorts of adventurous things, but not running. And now I’d found it (or rediscovered it if you count the cross country), I wanted it badly.

So I did what any idiot runner does. I bulldozered on through the pain. I ran anyway. No idea why things just got worse. No idea why I didn’t consult anyone. Not a physio, not a biomechanist, not a coach of any description. Not even a running buddy.

Then I did what any other runner does do. I consulted not someone, but something. Hello Doctor Google.

Now, Medi-Googling is not to be recommended. But somehow it did indeed start the journey to rehabilitation by exposing me to one important thing: the idea of technique. I didn’t even know there was such a thing – as stupid as that sounds. I read up on how to run, even though I thought I knew. I mean, we run from the day we can walk, why do we need to learn any more about it? Okay, if you’re an elite, I would accept that technique makes you faster. But I wasn’t trying to get faster, I just didn’t want my knees to lock up whenever I took ten paces.

Following the black hole of tangents that can swallow days on the Internet, I ended up reading about form, Chi running, gait, cadence, barefoot, body position, breathing, core, arm swing. And I took none of it in. This is the danger of the Internet: awash with so much information, yet so little of it sinks in.

One thing that did stay with me was the danger of overstriding and heel strike. I leant forward a little. I started stepping on my mid-to-fore foot. Smaller, more nimble steps. It felt awkward, wrong, laborious. But then I left the screen and started my studies in real life. On a hill in Victoria, I watched elite runner Matt Cooper glide through the bush. Easy, with grace, and a smile. I wanted to float like he did.

In the mountains of Nepal, I watched, me the broken runner still ascending on an out and back, ultra star Lizzy Hawker springing down the boulder field, rock to giant rock, her wrists limp, arms out in front like a kangaroo, feet tap dancing. It was a flow of easy, efficient movement I instantly likened in my mind to Fred Astaire, Singing in the Rain. This at 4000 metres and 100km along the trail. She, too, was smiling.

And so it was that I decided to take my running lessons in the school of observation. I soaked up other’s technique  – watching, feeling, and admiring. I chose my subjects by their lightness of being and their smile.

I banked away in my mind images of those runners. On a downhill bomb, I’d project visions of Lizzy’s (and Fred’s) dancing onto my own technique. Weaving along flowing singletrack, I’d get my shoulders back, engage the core, float over the earth, just like Coops. And, of course, I’d smile.

For me it was not about speed, nor winning, nor times, or even comparing performance against performance. It’s not even about being the best runner I can be, in a way.

What it has been about is seeking a more natural, effortless flow so that I may tap into and enjoy the more ethereal aspects of running: the seeing, the smelling, the feeling. If I make it easy on the effort, through technique, I get to relax and enjoy the ride a whole lot more.

And it’s about longevity. I’m not alone in not getting any younger. And the older I get, the more aware I am of my limited lifespan. Not just generally, but specifically as a runner. And my worry is that my lifespan as a runner will end before my lifespan as a human. And I don’t want that. I want to die on my feet. Running. In the wilderness. With a smile on my face. Thankful for the technique that allowed me to pass away while still moving freely in the environment that makes me feel so alive. Yes, I’ll die running and smiling wildly. Until that time, I’ll keep watching others who radiate effortlessly through nature and try my best to follow in their footsteps, so light they are.

Your observant editor,
Chris Ord, AU

Mt Buller

Larapinta strip


Editorial: Yin to the Yang

Editorial: AU Editor Chris Ord looks at the balance, or lack of, in his trail running lifestyle. This editorial appears in the current edition (17) of Trail Run Mag, downloadable for FREE here

Mt BullerIn my natural state, I am chaotic, unorganised, and essentially a lazy individual.

But sometimes life demands more of you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still that same person sitting on the couch, eating fish and chips and ice cream watching endless episodes of Breaking Bad, wondering if my shed will be suitable to run an easy-money meth lab.

But somehow, today, life as a runner has demanded a little more of me. A little more organisation. A little more responsibility. A little more effort.

And, as a runner, it is demanding a lot more attention to detail than perhaps my personality has inclination toward. Attention to detail like, umm, training.

Essentially I’m on a mission to balance my running life of unpredictable, unstructured and unplanned running yīn with, for the first time, equal amounts of rigid, structured, charted-training-plan running yáng.

Now my yīn (shady side) is like Darth Vader’s force within (powerful and looking for total domination); the yáng (sunny side) is like pre-Yoda coached Luke Skywalker, all wide-eyed naïve and a little lost.

Barely two weeks in and I’m fumbling with the demands of scheduled training like Luke fumbles with the realization he’s related to Princess Lea. It’s awkward to watch.

My yīn approach to trail running has long been one of as-and-when-the-whim-strikes I’ll go for a training run. Trust me, the whim never struck at 5am. And if it did, I missed it, being fast asleep and all.

The whim that did win out on occasion is the one that had me entering long(ish) trail events without sufficient lead-in training. That mostly ended in all sorts of agonizing wrongness (particularly embarrassing was the needless call out of ‘medic!’ at the finishline of Shotover Mountain Marathon). I am responsible for all my own embarrassing demises, of course, and that is one thing I do take full responsibility for. Indeed I usually document it, see TRM Edition 12 for the Shotover tale.

But the time has come to see if there’s any Jedi lurking within. Reason being, I have committed to an expedition run in the high Himalayas. It’s a project that would be fine to approach with a death-by-cramp-at-altitude-wish if it were just me up there. But on this expedition I will be responsible for guiding other runners. And if there’s one thing that will make me sit up at 5am on a crisp winter morning, it is the realisation that I’m to be responsible for other people’s lives as they trot up to 5000 metres at a rate of incline that risks death from cerebral or pulmonary edema. Even tapping that out makes me sweat more than my scheduled hill repeats ever will. It also induces me to do them. At 5.05am.

And so in search of my inner-Jedi, I have sought some Yoda-wisdom where the Force I’m aiming to tap into is conditioning and strength. While I can (mostly) blag the distances and I’ve completed a wilderness first aid course so medical knowledge is covered, it’s the strength and abating of injuries and cramps that I need to tackle. The latter is my Death Star nemesis (exhibit A: a near-death banshee screaming session as seen in Run The Planet, a TV show pilot that underscored my ill-preparedness, in that instance at 93km in a desert. Google it. Not in a workplace. Swearing involved).

So the yáng to my yīn has materialised in the form of not just one structured approach to training, but two, the other side of my personality being always to put in three chillis when the recipe says one and generally over-salt everything.

And while I wouldn’t say that I am yet to latch onto Skywalker’s singleminded focus (The Force is a long way from my grasp), I have managed to jump on the Bulletproof Legs bandwagon, a program from the crew at Brewsters Running. Then there’s an adjunct program from Lee Harris, a mid-east based Brit who is a multiday running machine and owner of Lifestyle Fitness Management. His knowledge about holistic training methodologies and a focus on core strength gives me faith he understands where I need to get to with this new-fangled yáng approach.

To my own disbelief, I’m enjoying the structure and routine. It’s a work in progress, my idea of ‘routine’ a long way from winning any Anally Retentive OCD award, but on trail I am seeing, even in these early days, results. Whowouldathunkit?

Even better, I’m enjoying the yīn side of my running more so thanks to the late arrival of yáng. On an impromptu jungle run in the Otway Ranges, south west Victoria, we ran in with not enough water (there were waterfalls so we were safe), no food and no idea how long we’d be in there for. The reward was one of the most stunning waterfalls I’ve seen standing proud in an ancient forest far from any human impost. It was wild and remote goodness, off the chart. What made it possible and enjoyable was the fact that I’d been training. The foundations are only a brick session or two in. And the Otway run topped out at roughly 200 metres above sea level, not 5000, so we’re not on training parity just yet. But I love that my new yáng is complementary to (rather than opposing) my beloved yīn. Light cannot exist without shadow. Performance cannot exist without training (it’s finally sunk in). And for my money, a training program will never be truly leveraged without the chaos of a whimsical wilderness run where anything can happen, but the legs are bulletproof enough to withstand it.

Your getting-more-balanced editor, Chris Ord

Check out the latest edition of Trail Run Mag by downloading for FREE here.

Mt Buller

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.19.46 pm


Editorial: Child’s Play on The Trails


I believe the children are our future.

Sure, Whitney Houston may not have gone on to be the greatest role model of all time, but her lyrics hold truths far greater than her kitschiness.

Teach them well and let them lead the way.

That’s it – you gotta show them what’s possible if they are going to be able to lead the way.

Check all those kids setting themselves up for thumb arthritis as they ‘play’ on screens. Worse, check out all the dads (and it is usually the dads, be honest) at the playground tapping away on screens – “just getting off this last email” – while their kids stare in wonderment at a climbing apparatus.

“Dad, what do I do here…?”

Silence. Tap, tap, tap. “Uh, two secs, be there in a tick…”

And the kid looks to Dad and learns what is important.

IMG_8843That apathy toward physical play in the outdoors is dangerous. More dangerous than any perceived physical danger that lurks in the outdoors itself (a notion the cotton-wool parent may erroneously employ when justifying their child’s lack of outdoor play).

And here I (truly) mangle Whitney’s words:

Show them all the beauty that can be found outside.
Give them a sense of risk management to make it easier.
Let the children’s laughter remind us how good nature can be.

Okay, so my reworking is as awfully cornball as Whitney’s, I agree. And I guess I’m not sprouting something that most of you lot – trail runners – would find hard to swallow anyway.

So my point, then, is this: that it is up to us leaders of the active community to engage and activate beyond our own; to shove a firecracker called ‘nature play’ up the non-active crowd’s negligent parenting clacker.

Beyond our own families – and the number of kids-of-trail-runners already running singletrack warms the cockles of my adventure-loving heart – is a generation of kids who can be introduced to the recreation we love so much. And let’s face it, you gotta blood ‘em young – even your local drug dealer will agree there. And best we inject our kids with the natural green stuff called fresh air rather than any other nefarious substance.

The author, Richard Louv, in his seminal book Last Child In The Woods, speaks of Nature Deficit Disorder – where a lack of contact with nature increases the potential for childhood depression, obesity and other wellbeing issues. Tim Gill, an advocate for exposing children to risk and outdoor play, is well known for his thoughts on the importance of outdoor play and childhood adventure and how it engenders better risk management and resilience in children as they journey through adolescence to adulthood. Indeed, internationally and locally there are now dedicated movements such as Leave No Child Inside, Get Children Outdoors, Children and Nature and Take A Child Outside working to reconnect children with nature.

IMG_8848Importantly, as Richard Louv argues it is not just children with ‘outdoorsy’ parents who need to be reconnected – more importantly it is the children of parents who themselves are not connected with nature that must be also focused on.

Which is why it is so awesome to see the likes of well known ultra trail runners, Brendan Davies and Jo Brischetto, setting up things like Trail Kids, a small non competitive outing specifically designed to introduce kids to trail running. Check them out at www.trailkids.com.au.

As a parent of two daughters, I love this concept and it’s one I think should spread far and wide not just as something for our won kids but as a forum for everyone’s kids to safely experience what we all love: trail running. Because if we’re honest, it’s just ‘playing’ in the outdoors with an adult twst anyway (we add competition or mission to it to make it seem all grown up…but really, we just like splashing in puddles…)

My favourite trail runs of all time have been my shortest and least exotic ever: out and about on local singletrack with my eldest daughter. I’ve seen firsthand how trail running builds the resilience factor, too. My daughter is no rough and tumble type, with a delicate sensibility that – how do I put it politely – sometimes puts her in the princess category. Yet on trail, I watch as she kicked a root, went flying face first into the mud, a hard fall that would likely have had me calling it quitsville for the day. Yet she upped, dusted herself off and continued on running. Five kilometres. A six year old delicate petal turned determined dirty warrior princess. She now harangues me whenever I return from a trail run – can I go running with you now, pleeeease? Which is fine. Except when I’ve been out on a long run. But then, it’s my turn to be resilient and back up, for my daughter’s sake. And those moments I then have with her out on trail I know I will cherish forever – especially now, while I can still keep up with her. For I’ve noticed her form, I’ve seen her stride purposefully forward, dust herself off with Xena attitude…I know that it’s not that long until she’ll be off tackling mountains tougher than I’ve known.

And I repeat:

Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.

– Chris Ord, Editor, Trail Run Mag

**This article is the lead editorial from the latest digital edition of Trail Run Mag, available as a pdf download fro FREE from www.trailrunmag.com/magazines or as an iPad / Kindle edition on subscription. See the same link for how to purchase. Hardcopies of the special print edition (different content from digital edition – a best of ‘look’) are also available, along with limited edition tshirts and stickers, at www.trailrunmag.com/shop**

Mt Buller

Larapinta strip

Trail run guide: Ben Lomond, New Zealand

Your guide: Matt Judd from www.juddadventures.com

One could argue that New Zealand boasts more killer trails per capita than anywhere else on the planet. And if one did argue that, one would have to say that Queenstown was the capital, so close is it to a plethora of singletrack gold. Thing is, you don’t even have to step far from town centre to be able to tackle a monster mountain run. Matt Judd, usually found on the Gold Coast, nipped over the Tasman to have a play in the hills, Ben Lomond to be precise.

DCIM105GOPRONEARBY TOWN/CITY: Queenstown (the run starts/finishes in the centre of town)
EXACT LOCATION: Skyline gondola base on Brecon St
TOTAL ROUTE DISTANCE: 16km (give or take)
TIME TO RUN: 2-3hrs for elites. 5-7hrs if you’re taking it easy and enjoying the views.
TYPE OF TRAIL RUN: Out and back with a loop
option to finish
DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS: Native forest, breathtaking views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges, beautiful singletrack running
FEATURES OF INTEREST: The run takes in either native beech forest or douglas fir forest down low (depending which way you run), and opens up above the treeline to spectacular lake and mountain views in every direction. Do NOT forget the camera for this one!

There are plenty of variations to how you start/finish this run, but this one takes in a little bit of the lake before taking you up the steep stuff!

1.     From the gondola base, head down Brecon St to the lake. You’ll cross several roads during this time but the lake is a pretty easy landmark to find!

2.     When you get to the lake turn right onto the wharf keeping the water on your left. Follow this until the wharf ends and a path begins, leading you beside Lake Esplanade heading out of town towards Fernhill. Follow it.

3.     You follow the path for 800m or so where you will come to One Mile Roundabout. Here, take the right-most road (there’s a gravel path on the side) which takes you to the One Mile Creek Walk and the old power station.

4.     When you get to the old power station take the straight-most option which is signposted. Be careful not to follow the mountain-bike only trails in this area.

DCIM105GOPRO5.     The next bit takes a little care navigating as you need to follow the orange trail arrows randomly fixed to trees on the route. It’s not hard to follow, but you need to keep your eyes out for the correct way. The going through here is steep.

6.     Continuing up, you eventually find yourself in a clearing (Midway Clearing, but this is not midway for your run!) which you will need to cross, finding the DOC sign to the Ben Lomond Track. Follow the track and after more honest (steep!) work, you’ll find yourself at the edge of the treeline.

7.     300m or so from when you break through the trees, there is a track junction at which you want to continue straight on in the direction of the Ben Lomond saddle. Remember this junction for the return journey. From here it’s onward and upward!

8.     Follow the Ben Lomond Track up, being sure to lift your head up and take in the ever-changing, spectacular views of the surrounding region. You will eventually come to a DOC sign at the Saddle indicating the Ben Lomond Summit track to the left (your route) or the Moonlight Track/Arthur’s Point to your right – go left. There’s a chair not far on from here that affords great views of the mountains if you need a sit down.

9.     Continue to follow the tramped route, which sees you climb steadily up before taking you around to make your final approach to the summit from the north-west. You made it!

10.  Coming back off the summit, re-trace your route back to the saddle and continuing on the Ben Lomond Track towards Queenstown. You will eventually get yourself back to the track junction you first approached that sits about 300m on from the treeline. This time, take the left path which directs you towards the gondola station.

11.  Following the signs to the gondola station is easy enough, and once you arrive you can stop for a pit-stop or keep making your journey back to town. From the station, follow the Skyline Access Rd down for 600m or so until you reach the signposted entrance to the Tiki Trail – this is the trail you’ll follow back to the finish.

DCIM105GOPRO12.  The Tiki Trail signs guide you all the way back down the steep trails, following the orange tree markers where signs aren’t present. You’ll come to a few mountain bike track junctions along the way but the walking route is well marked. And you’re done!

Note that the track is in an alpine environment up high and can be difficult and often dangerous to navigate in winter conditions (snow and ice!). It always pays to check in at the DOC office in town to find out about track conditions before heading out, and if you can find a local to accompany you – even better!


Queenstown is perhaps just as well prepared for post-run goodness as it is for the delights of running! For a coffee or quality diner-style breakfast, Joe’s Garage – hidden away on Searle Lane in the middle of town – serves a consistently good brew and hearty sized meals. If you’re chasing a post-run beer, it’s hard to overlook Pub on Wharf – located on Steamer Wharf in the heart of Queenstown – where you’re treated to an affordable-yet-quality menu, a dizzying array of beer choices (*Sassy Red* – thank us later), and you can sit outside and watch the world go by next to the lake. Hard to beat, really.


New Record for NZ Great Walks

a-bridge-too-farAfter nine gruelling days of aching muscles, mental fatigue and sleep deprivation, Ben Southall (UK), Luke Edwards (AU), and Patrick Kinsella (UK) – aka The Global Adventurers – have completed a world-record setting challenge of running the nine Great Walks of New Zealand back to back.

The goal of completing the Great Walks in nine days was achieved with just 40 minutes to spare, although, as with every adventure in nature’s extremes not everything went to plan. Extended drive times led to the boys having to run through the night on the 78.4km Heaphy Track, in turn pushing back the start of the Wanganui river paddle, where water levels were too high to safely kayak through night, forcing the difficult decision to leave the river before the full completion of the 145km.

These challenges pushed the boys perilously to the brink, necessitating the superhuman effort of back-to-back ultra-marathons on the final day. The three runners completed the Tongariro Northern Circuit (43km) and immediately took a helicopter to the start of the Lake Waikaremoana Track (46km), where they raced against the ticking clock to finish their mission in nine days, 23 hours and 20 minutes.

Heaphy Beach LRWhile disappointed that they were unable to paddle the full length of the Wanganui River Journey, the boys have set a new speed record for the completion of New Zealand’s GW-listed 8 walking tracks, after Mal Law’s ground-breaking 7-in-7 challenge in 2010.

Throughout the expedition a film crew has followed the team, making a documentary for an Australian television network to be aired early next year.



Record attempt on NZ’s Great Nine

WEB Pat, Ben and Luke - summit of Bartle FrereNine and a half marathons in nine days through a range of testing terrain plus a 145-kilometre kayaking mission in the mix – this is the challenge three running adventurers have set themselves this coming November as they attempt to run New Zealand’s nine `Great Walks‘ in as many days.

Even for New Zealand – the spiritual home of adventure racing and a mecca for trail running enthusiasts from around the world – this is an extreme undertaking, and one that’s never before been attempted.

The walks aren’t called great for nothing. The trails range from 32 kilometres to 78 kilometres in length, and one of the nine isn’t a walk at all – it’s a 145-kilometre kayaking route. All are intended to be multiday experiences. If you were to attempt them back to back, the minimum period you’d be advised to allow would be 28 days, not including travel time between trailheads.

To do this in just nine days will involve running over 400 kilometres and paddling 145 kilometres, through some of New Zealand’s most epic landscapes, in highly unpredictable conditions, while fighting sleep deprivation, negotiating logistical hurdles and battling with physical exhaustion.

WEB LtoR Luke, Pat, Ben - Global AdventurersThe team, known for their previous record-setting adventure running Australia’s eight highest peaks, are Ben Southall, Luke Edwards and Patrick Kinsella – collectively known as the Global Adventurers. Their expedition, dubbed the NZ9 Project, has been made possible due to support from Tourism New Zealand, Britz Campervans and New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC), who manage the nine Great Walks.

“We are excited to see this world record attempt happen in New Zealand,” said Kevin Bowler, Chief Executive of Tourism New Zealand. “We have commissioned the production of a documentary to capture the attempt and will then use the footage captured to showcase the natural beauty and diversity of New Zealand’s Nine Great Walks in the work we do to motivate travellers to come here.”

Ben Southall admits: “This is the most physically challenging expedition I have ever planned, by far. There is no current record for this challenge so I’m excited by the adventure that lays in wait for us.”

The nearest achievement to date has been by Trail Run Mag‘s one-time NZ editor, Mal Law, who made his name running seven of the Great Walks in seven days.

Starting on 8th November, the team’s ambitious itinerary will take them from South to North. They’ll kick off with the Rakiura Track (32km) on remote Stewart Island, before running the Routeburn (32km), Milford (53.5km), Kepler (60km), Heaphy (78.4) and Abel Tasman (55.2km) tracks on the South Island, and then doing the Whanhanui River Journey (145km), Tongariro Northern Circuit (43km), and Lake Waikaremoana (46km) on the North Island.

“We are all average blokes,” says Patrick. “All of us have families, jobs and life commitments – but what we aim to do through NZ9 and our documentary is to show people that, no matter how busy life gets of what challenges you might be facing, you can always find time to get outdoors. And there’s no better setting than New Zealand to illustrate how fantastic nature’s gym is.”

Over the past six months, Ben, Luke and Patrick have been preparing with gruelling training sessions – the ups and downs of which have been covered live on the Global Adventurers Facebook Page. Followers can continue to ‘go on the adventure’ with the lads, once their world record attempt kicks off on the 8th November, by checking out their Facebook Page and website: www.theglobaladventurers.com

For more information regarding walking and hiking in New Zealand please visit http://www.newzealand.com/au/multi-day-hikes/


Run through history

WEB IMG_1756Fact: Aussie Rules Football and the logging industry played pivotal roles in the genesis of trail running. At least, in Victoria they did. And the evidence can be found under the fallen foliage of giant fern trees and towering gums in the mountains nary 80km east of Melbourne.

In history books detailing the early 20th century history of the Upper Yarra Valley, under the chapter ‘Hard Men, Harder Work, Hardest Wilderness’, you’ll find stories of loggers who endured dangerous work felling and milling giant trees – some of the biggest recorded on the planet – in some of the roughest, steepest, leech-infested country imagined. Six days a week they toiled, chopping and sawing timber, loading it onto bush trams that trundled down mountainsides, headed ‘down the line’ on steam trains that had their terminus at the small logging town of Warburton.

Every Saturday, workers would down tools early, grab their footy kit bag and, in order to make the opening siren present and accounted on a forward flank or otherwise, they would run the 10-15 kilometres down into the valley and back into town, just to get a game of footy. There are no records detailing if any ran back the same day having played four quarters, but with a licensed publican in town, it would be fair to bet that most left their return to the working slopes until after Sunday church.

The sawmills among the mountains are now long gone, with scant metal cog remnants being slowly engulfed by rampant ferns and moss. But the legacy of those hardened footballers – arguably some of Australia’s very first trail runners – remains. The tramways on which they shunted huge trees, and the trails that were their highways back to civilisation, today prove excellent singletrack ripe for the pacing.

WEB A Running VTRF (1 of 1)-7Indeed, not only were these trails the Enchanted Forests of my own childhood – I grew up in Warburton – they were also (unknowingly at the time) the genesis of my own trail running affair. So too, strangely, was Aussie Rules. Like the loggers before me I played on the local footy team – the ‘Burras’ in honour of the choir of Kookaburras that would laugh their heads of whenever I got touch of the ball (true story). Unlike the latter day loggers, I did not have to run 10km to take up my place every Saturday (maybe if I did I would have kept my slot as a running ruck rover, short-lived as it was). However, the trails that shoulder the Yarra River through town and climbing up the mountain slopes that envelop it were regular hosts to training run sessions aimed at readying us for the perils of country footy (run fast and nimble or get hit, hard and fast).

No wonder then, as I start trotting out twenty or so years later from the very same oval on which I so perfected the art of ‘invisible man football’ (no one knew I was even on the field), I start to reminisce. The smell of damp fern aromas fills my senses. I am transported back to my youth, but with the rose-coloured perceptions of an adult drunk on eucalypt-tinged nostalgia.

WEB Vic Trail fest (1 of 1)-41I’ve returned not to bathe in the mud and blood-bath memories of my feeble footballing days, rather to recce-run a bunch of trails that, come this November, will again feel the footpadding of runners.  Only this time, they won’t be running to a footy match. They’ll be running for fun. And they won’t be running just 10 kay or so. Rather they will run up to 100km, over three days, in the inaugural Victorian Trail Running Festival (1-3 November).

For event owner, Greg Donovan, the concept was simple and in keeping with his other events such as the Big Red Run: find a beautiful part of the world where there was enough trails to run for three days; set up a camp to encourage an community vibe where celebrating the trail running lifestyle is as core to the experience as trying to dry your muddy sock by the fire will be.

Not far from my first childhood home, the camp paddock he has chosen as base for the event sits aside the Yarra River and in a bowl of towering Eucalypt that step up the mountain on all sides. It is where I will finish my first recce (and the Festival’s Day One) run: a 34km loop with two out and back sections, mostly routed along an old concrete aqueduct, set high above town on the northern valley slope.

WEB A Running VTRF (1 of 1)-3Starting from near the footy oval, the course traces the river before edging up the valleyside through the grounds of what was originally a Sanatarium when it opened in 1912, and was then variously a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, a wellness centre, and a fully-fledged emergency hospital. As a kid, I never met any of the recovering drinkers there but I did have plenty of stitches sewn over cut knees (an early clue to my running co-ordination) in the hospital and I admit to breaking into the indoor basketball court and heated pool as a teenager. If nothing else, Warburton is freezing in winter, so the November timing for the festival is a smart choice.

Above the hospital grounds, runners quickly reach an old aqueduct. Built from 1911-15, it once streamed drinking water from O’Shannessy Dam (after which the aqueduct is named) downtown to Surry Hills. Today, it is covered in moss and dry, a concrete remnant of old-school water transportation (perhaps it was the constant dead wombat carcasses caught in grates and spoiling the water supply that made them finally shut it down, although not until 1997).

WEB IMG_1691

Here, Greg and his Race Director, Adrian Bailey (of Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon fame) runs competitors out east along the mostly flat double track trail that parallels the aqueduct. Although a ‘road’ as such, it remains a wild experience as the track weaves in and out of the mountainside contours. Above are walls of ferns and messmate stands, rising up towards Mts Victoria, Boobyalla and Donna Buang above. The latter is a well-known target for many trail runners and trekkers looking to get some vert training into their legs. A trail darting up from the township rises steeply with a total ascent profile of approximately 1400 metres in 7.5km. Not a worry for those running the Festival’s first day as the course turns around out past East Warburton, heading back above the Warburton township for another out and back to a magnificent lookout just above the township of Millgrove.

On the return leg of the recce run, the night closed in and I was reminded of yet another link Warburton has with my trail running life, this one notched after I had left town and as an adult. The Oxfam Trailwalker also uses this same aqueduct in the latter stages of its Melbourne edition. Running my first (and to date only), I reached the aqueduct stretch above Warburton in the pitch of night, exhausted, hurting, and to be honest, not 100% compos mentis. Checking my mobile phone in the dark while continuing the continuous forward motion thing (lest I collapse), the earth suddenly opened up beneath me. With stars in my head and grazes on all limbs, I came to realizing I had in fact stepped straight off the edge and fallen into the dry aqueduct. Nearly ninety kilometres into the Oxfam, and on my last legs, it was the last thing I needed.

WEBRunning VTRF (1 of 1)-9But now my legs were in full swing, with only 28km in them and my Ay Up headlamp brilliantly lighting up the danger of the aqueduct drop to my left. Instead I dropped down the Donna Buang Trail that the vert-freaks love so much, negotiating the slip-n-slide mud fest, to run back into the centre of Warburton, picking up the brilliant singletrack that weaves alongside the Yarra River, which I follow to the far end of town and the paddock cross river. As a starter day and distance, it’s a sweet introduction to what the Festival is all about: enjoyable running.

Day two of the recce, and of the event, is the Big Day. This is the marathon effort that has runners being transported over the other side of the southern range, via Powelltown (another old logging town, the old mill there still hanging on to existence). The race directors lull you into a false sense of security…

Cover TRM14 medThis article continued in Edition 14, which you can download for FREE now, here

Check out the VICTORIAN TRAIL RUNNING FESTIVAL – three days of awesome running, in beautiful mountain country only an hour outside Melbourne. ENTRIES ARE DUE NOW. It’s three days but achievable distances, and a great introduction to what multi day running – and the great community vibe it engenders – is all about!