Conditions were ideal for the 45 runners who toed the start line of the ‘Convicts and Wenches Marathon’ on 23rd March. It was a cool and calm 10 degrees as the field set off at the 8am on the out and back course.
Now in its fifth year, this 50km ‘fun run’ winds its way through Narawntapu National Park, on the north coast of Tasmania, a 50 minute drive from Launceston. It is a true trail ultra-marathon, run completely on pristine Tasmanian beaches and coastal single-track. Dubbed the “Serengeti of Tasmania”, Narawntapu is also one of the best places in Tasmania to view wildlife. The National Park boasts a rich array of animals such as the Forester kangaroo, Bennetts wallaby, common wombat, a plethora of birdlife, those slithery things that runners would prefer not to see, and even the famous Tasmanian devil. Along with the 50km ultra-marathon, teams of two can enter as a relay (out then back), with the day also offering a 25km, and 12km race.
After claiming line honours in the 25km race for the past two years, 23 year old David Bailey decided to take the step up to the 50km race in 2014 and from the start made his intentions clear. David, along with Queenslander Anderson Mocquiuti set the pace early along the first 6km stretch of the course which winds its way around West Head. This section of the course sees runners hugging the coastline along pine needle covered single track, rising up onto the headland and past some impressive sea cliffs, before dropping down to the first aid station and then onto Badger Beach.
The beaches along the course are flat, hard, and fast, with the race start being timed to coincide with low tide. After 5km along Badger Beach, the runners arrived at the 11km aid station ready to then begin the 7.5km stretch of trail across Badger Head.
This next ‘middle section’ of the course (7km) is a real treat as the trail rolls up and over the headland firstly to Copper Cove, then asks the runners to climb up and out of Copper Cove, over Little Badger Head, and finally drop down the switchbacks onto Bakers Beach. It is a truly remarkable trail to be meandering along with the ocean over your shoulder and taking in views of the beaches, coastal cliffs and rock formations, whilst also being able to look further afield at identifiable mountain peaks such as Mount Roland, Black Bluff, and the Dial Range which are inland to the west.
The field worked into a slight headwind as they covered the 7km length of Bakers Beach and headed out to the 25km turn point which saw David Bailey and Anderson Mocquiuti reach together. For the females, last year’s winner Amy Lamprecht was looking really strong and wasted no time at the aid station before returning for the back half.
As the clouds blew off and the temperature rose to a balmy 25 degrees, the wind also picked up slightly giving the runners a very handy tail wind to push them back along the course for the return 25km.
Leading from start to finish, David Bailey ran a near perfect race and took line hours in 3:51:55 whilst also setting a new course record, nearly 4 ½ minutes quicker than Aub Henricks’ 2013 winning time. After turning with the competition on his shoulder at the halfway mark, when crossing the finish line David had put nearly 15 minutes between himself and his nearest rival, that being second place getter Jonathan Worswick (4:07:35), with third place then going to Jarrod Shaw (4:11:37)
For the females, Amy Lamprecht was never challenged and smashed her 2013 course record by nearly 17 minutes in a blistering time of 4:16:35 (7th overall). Rounding out the top three for the females were Jennifer Boocock (4:50:30) and Kirra Lewandowski-Porter (5:12:12)
With 42 finishers in the 50km race for 2014, and now also offering the 25km and 12km versions which saw 61 and 17 runners compete, the Convicts and Wenches Marathon has grown in each of its first 5 years and is quickly becoming a ‘must do’ on the Tasmanian trail running calendar. Make sure you’re there for 2015!
IMAGES and words: Phil Beeston