The second instalment of the Icebug Surf Coast Trail Marathon proved a watershed event for many participants running the half and full marathon distances along the coastal cliff-top trails of south-west Victoria.
From the course record-breaking and back-to-back win by Kellie Emmerson in the women’s, to the course record-breaking competitive comeback win by Mathieu Dore in the half distance, to the multitude of extraordinary achievements by everyday runners in the mid and back pack, it was a day of celebration and trail community come-together.
For those with an eye to the pointy end, the overall win was taken out by Damien Angus, from Brighton, Victoria, in a time of 3:10:04, a quick time on what most regard as a tougher than it looks course. And elite triathlete, Damien is an Age Group Ironman World Champion having won his category at Kona, Hawaii.
It was an early duel up front with Francesco Ciancio – a notable runner finishing top ten at Two Bays and second at the recent Coburg Six Hour Champs – out front early on. He took a mis-step at Checkpoint 3, briefly heading off course. His seven minute disparity to first place indicated it may have been a closer call otherwise, although winner Angus remained strong all day to take a deserved victory. Third in the men’s marathon was Andrew Smith in 3:21:37.
In the women’s, Victorian Kellie Emmerson came off her 19th placing at the World Trail Championships in Chamonix a few weeks prior, to register a new record course time, crossing the line 3:38:31, near-on ten minutes faster than her 2014 winning time. Less than ten minutes behind was Freya Scott, from Bonbeach, Victoria, in 3:47:01, followed in by Karen Sharman in 3:53:59.
Both first place marathoners follow the annual tradition to sign their names and times on the Icebug Surf Coast Trail Marathon Perpetual Trophy, a beaten-up antique surfboard that also records last place, who signs the fin each year.
In the teams division (where two runners take on half the course each, changing over at half way), it was triathletes who conquered again, with elite mixed paring of Annabel Luxford and Mitch Anderson winning the day. A professional triathlete once ranked World’s number one, Annabel is an ITU World Cup Champion, an Australian team representative and off to Kona again this year, while Anderson is a long time professional triathlete with five Kona ironman’s under his hydro-belt. They took the title this year in a combined time of 03:07:11, setting a new overall teams course record, beating last year’s time of 03:25:23 set by an all male team.
While the pace was set by elites up front, behind them all manner of stories and legends were unfolding, including a certifiable legend from last year’s outing, Frank Welburn, who brought up the rear, finishing last but certainly not least in 7:55:14. Frank also finished in last place in 2014 (meaning he has now signed the Perpetual Trophy fin twice!), in a gutsy effort completing the task with a broken foot.
This year, Frank crossed the line to applause and then promptly was charged with presenting a newly established award named after him, the Frank Welburn Award. Local crew, the Surf Coast Trail Runners inaugurated the award this year for the person judged by volunteers to have shown the biggest heart on trail, as Frank had done last year. This year, that award went to Joanna Maidment, who finished her first ever marathon despite ITB issues.
There were plenty more ‘firsts’ out on course with record numbers stating that it was their first ever trail run, half marathon distance or marathon distance.
Special mention also goes to Shaun Hall, who made the difficult decision to run in the event despite the fact that his mum, suffering from cancer, was in palliative care. He tells his story (with permission):
“It has been very hard looking after her,” said Shaun in an email after the event. “I entered with the risk that it may not work out with Mum’s illness. In the lead-up I arranged accommodation for the family as Mum was not doing to badly. Then she went downhill Tuesday leading into the event. We sat by her bed all week, but all agreed I had to run regardless.
“The run was amazing and it was a great thing for my soul after a tough week at palliative care. When I finally made it to the finish line, my wife was there and told me that Mum passed away during my run. It would have been at about the 26km mark, which strangely I experience this big burst of energy and took off for about 3km. Mum really would have wanted me to run as she knows what it means to me and I believe it was a fitting tribute to her. I will now enter every year in her memory.”
Organisers paid tribute to the volunteers and runners alike who through their energy and passion have created what many are saying is a unique event in its supportive, community feel.
“Last year was special as the first, but this year seemed to up the ante in terms of people being so encouraging of everyone, and so damn happy,” says Race Director, Chris Ord, from organiser Tour de Trails. “And the number one feedback we’re getting is that the volunteers were out-of-this-world friendly and made all the difference when runners were hitting their walls! It is they who really make the event experience top notch for everyone, and as an organiser, I couldn’t be more grateful.”
“The whole reason the Icebug Surf Coast Trail Marathon came into existence was to offer an inclusive, supportive event that enticed runners onto the trail and down to experience the stunning environs of the Surf Coast in particular. We believe we have a special place here in terms of the coast and the trails along it and we wanted to share it, while also creating an event that was as much about just participating as the winning. People like Frank Welburn, who is now an integral part of the legend of this race, are representative of the spirit of this race – people who smile and have a go and love the journey along the trails.”
More than 560 runners crossed the line on event day making the Icebug Surf Coast Trail Marathon one of the bigger trail events in Australia. It will return in 2016 on 25 June.
In the meantime, organisers Tour de Trails will present for the second year running the famous Afterglow Twilight-Night Trail Half Marathon on 28 November, also on the Surf Coast. The event became famous in its first year as a night run with a difference, that being plenty of 80s retro music and a truckload of fluoro costumes on course. Entries open 10 July at www.afterglowtrail.com.au.
The organiser has also announced a new Trail Running festival to be held in Tasmania on the Labour Day Long Weekend, 5-7 March 2016. It will highlight the newly established trails in the forests surrounding the township of Derby, in the state’s north east.
“The event will again focus on celebrating the trail running lifestyle and will be an inclusive weekend based on the $2 million network of mountain bike trails established there over the past year,” says Race Director Chris Ord.
Details are yet to be announced, but distances are likely to be 5km, 10km, 21km, 42-50km in the first year, enjoyed across a three-day program, with plenty of off trail entertainment and functions. The focal distance will be the marathon, but an ultra up to 80km is being considered in the second year of its operation.
FULL ICEBUG SURF COAST TRAIL MARATHON RESULTS AT: