Surf’s up for Saucony Trail Marathon

Sporting a new headline partner, the Saucony Surf Coast Trail Marathon is returning on 25 June with hundreds of runners set to roller coaster along the spectacular cliff tops ranging between the surfing mecca of Torquay and Fairhaven, in Victoria’s south-west.

Surf Coast Trail Marathon 2015

Now in its third year, the event is expected to attract more than 600 competitors tackling a choice of 43km or 21km distances.

Last year’s competitive field saw a record-breaking and back-to-back win by Australian trail running marathon champion, Kellie Emmerson, in the women’s, and a record-breaking win by Mathieu Dore in the half distance. This year, Dore is stepping up a rung to attempt a swipe at the marathon crown while the absence of Emmerson due to travel commitments leaves the women’s title wide open.

In the men’s marathon, racers will be chasing the unbroken record time of 2 hours 58 minutes, set by Brett Colemen in the inaugural event in 2014. The women will chase Emmerson’s 3 hours 38 minutes mark from 2015.

Both are impressively quick times given the course is judged by most as a tougher than it looks on paper, with two beach sections and the undulating nature of the trail testing legs and lungs.

“Of course there’s plenty of coastal beauty to pull you alongthe course in between,” says organiser (and Trail Run Mag editor), Chris Ord.

“In particular the section from Urquhart’s Beach up to and underneath the towering Split Point Lighthouse I think is a great running section with awesome views,” says Chris nominating his favourite stretch when marking the course. Surf Coast Trail Marathon 2015

This year’s event will bring a small but for many, welcome, change with organisers testing a new finish line.

“Traditionally we finish atop the stairs at the Fairhaven Surf Lifesaving Club,” says Chris. “And while for many that is a favourite, quirky if tough finish, we have decided to make this year a little ‘easier’ finishing on the sands of Fairhaven Beach – great for sprint finishers and for the finish line photo, given the lighthouse looms on the horizon.”

Created to put a spotlight on the Surf Coast Walk while also raising funds for the local Anglesea Primary School – last year raising $2000 –  the Saucony Surfcoast Trail Marathon appeals to both trail and road runners, with a high percentage of first time marathoners and half marathoners signing up. The event also injects solid funds into the local economy, with patronage resulting in an estimated economic stimulus spend of more than $135,000 by visitors in a traditionally quiet period for tourism on the Surf Coast.

This year there will be the addition of an after-party sponsored by the Aireys Inlet Pub and local Rogue Wave Brewing Company, with live music featured.

Organisers are encouraging runners to sign up immediately with a cap on race entries and more than two thirds sold.

logoEnter at and stay up to date on event news by subscribing to the Facebook feed at

The Saucony Surf Coast Trail Marathon is supported by Saucony, the Surf Coast ShireIO MerinoBomboras KioskSurf Coast Trail RunnersTrail Run MagThe Happy RunnerThe Running Company GeelongTailwind Nutrition, and Kongo Industries. The event is produced by Tour de Trails.

EVENT WRAP: Surf Coast Trail Marathon

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. Surf Coast Trail Marathon 2015

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.Surf Coast Trail Marathon 2015

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.Mt Buller

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.Surf Coast Trail Marathon 2015

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.”Surf Coast Trail Marathon 2015

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.”Surf Coast Trail Marathon 2015

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

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.Surf Coast Trail Marathon 2015

“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.


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Run to Paradise: Tour de Cooks

How to turn your entire family into trail runners?
Take them to the Cook Islands…and take your time.
WORDS: & IMAGES: Chris Ord

I’ve never DNFed in my life. Without any pride and with much prejudice, I can now say that I’ve joined the quitters’ club.

There are no upsides to quitting. You feel a fool. You hate your body for letting you down. You feel depressed. Maudlin. Morose. Dejected. Guilty. Ashamed. More pointedly, pissed off.

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Rarotonga’s Round Raro Road Race (32km) has to be one of the most spectacular loop runs in the world.

With all that negativity oozing through my body – not to mention the blown VMO (vastus medialis oblique) muscle, which remained silent for the first ten kilometres of the Round Raro 32km run, then started whingeing at 12km before throwing a truly angry, spiteful spat at 15km – it’s lucky that my first ever failure happens to me in the halcyon paradise that is the Cook Islands. It helps take the edge off all that grieving for an imagined achievement scuttled by injury. Or stupidity, depending on how you judge these things. I’d injured my VMO two weeks earlier. But applying at least two of the RICE (Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.) principles, figured I’d come good on race day. Seems two out of four isn’t good enough.

Still, if you’re going to forage through the library of self-pity, you may as well do it sitting beside a sparkling pool, across from a reef-fringed lagoon, palm trees swaying, sky azure and tropical mountains dramatic and volcanic in their backdrop.

Looking up, the breeze coming off the mountains seems to be comforting me: ‘There, there, rest up, you’ll run again. Papaya cocktail?’

Yet in their anthropomorphised and wholly imagined whisperings, the sympathetic mountains are in themselves a tease. For they are where I want to be running. Injury-free.

I’d travelled to the Cook Islands for the Round Raro Run, a (blasphemy warning) road run which circumnavigates the entire island using the tried and tested ‘keep the ocean to the right and you’ll never get lost’ route-finder methodology. It’s the only road that goes right round the island so you’d have to be a coconut liquored-up idiot to stuff it up. The event is the trophy outing in a full week of running action that happens annually every September on the Cook Islands. However, for me it was supposed to be the warm up.

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Home stretch on Cook Islands’ Round Raro Run.

The jewel in Cook Island’s running crown that caught my dirty eye was the Nutters Run, an 8.5km trail run that trades the circuitous road for sweet jungle singletrack. It’s the only cross-island route that dares slice wholly through Rarotonga’s mountainous heart. Like a rooty brown artery, it allows passage of human life through an impenetrable body of jungle green characterised by vertiginous mountains striking up from near sea level to 653 metres. While relatively short statured comparable to the planet’s biggest berthas, the peaks are nevertheless impressive last vestiges of Rarotonga’s volcanic origins.

Weaving into the foothills, and sometimes precariously up their flanks and ridges, are wonderland trails ripe for the running, although according to the official maps, there only a few: the cross island being the most well trodden (and generally only run once a year for the Nutters – no locals being nutty enough to run it otherwise); the tough and in parts un-runnable Te Manga and Ikurangi trails; Maungatea, which rises to the cliff above the main town of Avarua; the short Tereora Hill; and the short Raemaru. None will get ultra runners excited, given their lengths are all sub-10km. All, however, will tickle the fancy for those looking to adventure as much as run. No-one will tick off their fastest kilometre on any – in fact, the terrain may just squeeze out your slowest kilometre. For technical runs, however, they rank right up there.

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Technical trail running? You betcha on the 9km Nutters Cross island run scaling the island’s mountainous interior.

Enticingly, there are many more trails not shown on any official maps, according to local whisperings. One such trail whisperer is Dave Furnell from Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours. Figuring that a local two-wheel warrior would know where the best trails are, I join one of his outings, which meld the genteel riding with an ongoing commentary giving insight into the island’s history and culture. As we ride the back roads, Dave explains the Cooks’ farming practises, introduces some fishermen sorting the early morn’s net catch, and then sweeps us uphill to a refreshing swim in a hidden waterfall, apparently with ‘healing’ properties. All the while my eye scans for footpads darting off into the thicket. Dave and his co-guide Rebecca soon tire of my constant querying about where I can find trails in the foothills we teasingly explore on the ride.

Now, my theory is where there are mountains, there are trails. And Rarotonga’s mountains are some of the most majestic I’ve seen. But jungle mountains in particular have a habit of been impenetrable. Unlike other Pacific Island paradises, there are no villages plonked in the belly of Rarotonga. Every bit of civilisation is dotted along the two ring roads around the island, like a donut of habitation encircling a hole that happens to be stuffed full of wilderness and thus potential. So to the untrained eye, the chances of trails other than the few marked on the tourist map may be slim. But as demonstrated in florid colours of failure on the Round Raro run, I’m a stupidly, bloody minded, headstrong bugger (others use more invective adjectives). And so I persist.

Dave tells me that one of his Storyteller guides often walks trails not known to most and definitely not on any tourist map. He also mentions a book: “It describes a bunch of trails, but it’s out of print and hard to get your hands on now.”

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The up features ropes and scrambling, the down on the Nutters’ Run is all about minding your step.

A tease to be sure, but it seems Rarotonga has, for trail runners, a holy grail bible. I try to track it down at the local library, but a rather unimpressed librarian shuts down my quest claiming no knowledge of any such tome.

Of course, Cook Islanders – Cookies as someone quips – aren’t ones for writing things down. Like many indigenous cultures, their traditions going back to 800AD are oral. Chiefs and elders maintain the knowledge of their forebears in their memories and by the telling of tales. They hand down that knowledge through generations, selectively choosing which of their family they tell, those chosen by their aptitude to be trusted with and to remember the knowledge. So while the book may or may not be uncovered in some disgruntled historian’s library, the knowledge may still be found, from the mouth and mind of a trusted one. My mission, then, is to find that person.

Rebecca tells me that her Uncle is one such keeper, but the knowledge remains elusive to me, as it is also explained that it’s not the done thing to just waltz up and start haranguing locals for information. Nothing happens in a hurry on the Cooks – one of the islands’ pure charms – and in that tradition, locals take their good time to give over their trust, especially when it comes to the sacred grounds through which I want to run. So while I pass the roadside kiosk run by Rebecca’s Uncle, I know that it’s not culturally sensitive to just barge in there, tempting though it may me. It seems this trip is all about a lesson in the virtues of patience. Slow down seems to be the message on all fronts.

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Running in paradise demands it…

I also happen upon another keeper of trail wisdom who is not a Cookie. Len ‘Poly’ Edwards, one of the chiefs of the local Hash Harriers running club has been living on island and organising Hash runs for years. Hash runs, for the uninitiated, are runs where no-one knows the course before running or walking it. It is set by one person only (on Rarotonga, usually Poly), marked by bit of ratty paper and arrows scrawled in chalk. It is a style of running perfectly suited to the Cooks: uber relaxed.

I track Poly down at the kick off to the Hash Run taking place as part of the week of running festivities. Hash Harriers running is my kind of running.

It’s like joining a Comics Convention crossed with a bad bar joke: Batman, Minnie Mouse, a nun, a leprechaun, a pirate and a viking, walk into a temporary bar plonked in a paddock…. The punch line, however, is that everyone must try to run back-trails around the villages, onto the beach and through farmer’s yards, past goats and pigs, through ditches, following route clues dropped with much sense of humour by Poly, who admits to throwing in a few red herrings.

Those who show up without costume (it’s a welcome all-comers policy – you don’t need to be a member of a Hash Harrier club to join the fray) are supplied with something colourful and wonderfully ridiculous on the spot. For the Hash Harriers, it seems, the joke is on anyone who takes running too seriously, the focus being on fun, frivolity, post-run Pythonesque speeches and awards of ridiculousness and, like any good community that binds, plenty of beer chugging to the chant of ‘downsies’ while wearing a toilet seat necklace. I do like this mob.

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The author running a jungle too good to resist, smashed knee be-damned.

I settle in for the after run feast – known as the best and cheapest ($10) feed on the island ­– and bend the ear of Rebecca, a physiotherapist, who has lived on island for a period. She mentions a 2-3 day trail mooted for overnight camping tourism. The cogs of my dirty mind grind with thoughts of what such a trail may mean for runners.

Back with Poly, I ask him about his usual courses.

“I keep them mostly off road. I try to anyway. I think it’s the best way for those new to the island – or even those who have lived here for a while – to see places they haven’t seen before. It’s a small island but trust me there’s plenty of places to see and the best way to see them is running through them.”

Pushed on his off road knowledge, he gives up the gold: “There are lots of trails out there, In fact, there’s one from my front door. It runs up to the lookout above the hospital, but could easily be extended, and easily turn into a ridgeline run and on…

He had me at ‘ridgeline run’.

The maths was adding up. Lots of locals who talked of lots of trails. There’s dirty gold in them there hills…

But back to the problem of the trail run that we know exists already: the Nutters’ run. I’m here to get a story. This story you’re reading. But how when I can’t run?

After taking on the three or so kilometre Hash Run with my six-year old daughter tagging along (me in a mad hair wig, her in a tiger beanie), I suggest to my wife that I can jog-walk the Nutters with my offspring. We’ll be the ‘mascots’ sweeping the field, I suggest, thinking the experience my daughter will have – “six year old becomes trail runner by default” – will produce a semblance of story.

At this point, I stumble across the Black/White strategy. I say Black, my wife will say White. I say don’t worry about taking my pace on the trail, my wife – now unpressured – leans the other way.

“Okay, I’ll do it. But only to help you out.”

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It’s a difficult place to run, but someone’s gotta do it. Pina Colada, anyone?

And it starts rather begrudgingly like that. I run with it and thank her for the offer but no, I’ll get over the mountain somehow, limping or otherwise. But the seed is sown. Over the coming days, as we explore the island, sometimes venturing into it’s jungle heart along the numerous trails that dive in, that sentiment of ‘doing a favour for one’s husband’ ever so gently transposes to her actually looking forward to the run, it becoming about an experience for and about her, rather than a favour for me. She gets nervous. I drink more cocktails than I should knowing that I’m well and truly benched.

To assuage my wife’s nerves, we recce the trail with our daughters and I swing from being thankful for her sacrifice, to being outright jealous. I want to run this trail. I need to run this trail. It is simply captivating and my kind of terrain: tough, technical, where the running involves as much upper body as lower. Ducking under branches and vines, jumping over trees, scrambling and indeed climbing up steep rutted sections rising to ridges. This is pure ‘fun’ running. And for my wife, someone who hasn’t run, let alone run a trail, in six years, it’s a mountain of a challenge. I get nervous for her and order a double Daiquiri.

Come Nutter’s Run race day we drop my wife at the start and then make for the end-point trail head, walking in to capture photos of runners emerging from the foliage. It’s a tense wait: a flip of a coin whether my running saviour will come past and wallop me for the torture I’ve goaded her into, or…

I see the smile before I see the rest of her. Like a Cheshire cat with dirty paws, my wife leaps down the steep trail. There’s no walloping just hollering. She, rather than my daughter, has become a trail runner by default.

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The reward and its idyllic view…

Of course, seeing my wife so amped, I can’t crush the urge to rush into the very same jungle. I ignore the fact that the reason she ran on my behalf is because of a bung leg. I put it on the line, drop the family back at our hotel for another session of poolside lazing, and, in a very un-Cook Islands fashion, rush round the island to the trail head. It is nearing dusk, and I have images of a sunset viewed from atop the Needle. I start off gingerly, mindful of my leg. The trail rises sharply, repeatedly weaving over a bubbling river. If ever there was a trail that underfoot screamed ‘rolled ankle risk’, this is it. But I now have jungle fever and the injury is forgotten as I concentrate on footfall and pump the legs hard to reach the top. I’m doing something very un-Cook like: I’m rushing.

At the Needle, where only hours ago my wife was getting her first true taste of the trail, I scramble up the sheer sides and find what could easily be a sea eagles’ perch. The view over the island and across the ocean squeezes more air from my lungs, just as the sun drops below the horizon. I stop, I breathe. Maybe it was the waterfall with those healing properties, but my leg hasn’t complained once.

From up high, as tropical shadows cast across the jungle carpet, I reflect on what it is to run in the Cook Islands. The secret: slowing down. Time here is all about ‘The Art of Slow’. It takes time to remember, time to know people, time to gain trust, time to drive round the island, time to get served, time, time, time, everything takes time. But in taking time, the Cook Islands gives it back to you in spades. And if you’re not already a trail runner, it may just turn you into one by default. Cook Islands is magic like that.

This article first appeared in Trail Run Mag Edition #16, available as a FREE pdf download from 


Cook Islands Running Festival

Although it’s not officially a cohesive festival, we’ll call it one. It includes the main Round Raro 31km run which loops the island and is run to raise money for local athletes to compete in New Zealand. Even for picky trail runners, it’s worth bustin the bitumen for this one as it’s a beautiful run, passing through all the villages and fringed by palm trees and sometimes crisp white beaches as you trot around. Plus there are several Hash Harrier events including a Round The Rock Relay and of course the Nutters Run.

This is an ideal target for a ‘running family’ be it one family member being the main addict, or all, because there is a run suitable for everyone (as shownb, even a non-runner can knock into the Nutters Run!) and plenty on island to do for the non-runners from diving, walking, riding to cruising the (extensive) cocktail menu. Importantly, this is a perfect family holiday destination as it is safe, logistics are easy, there is a lot to keep the kids entertained, food is great, and the locals friendly. It’s just one of ‘those’ places that locks in as an instant family tradition classic. Get here for it every September (17-23 September 2015, celebrating its 38th year).

Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours

Tour de Cooks: book your run holiday to paradise!

Tour de Trails is looking to organise a Tour de Cooks to coincide with the 2015 Run Festival, with all accommodation, food, on island transport, runs and other activities (including a Storyteller ride) inclusive. We can also arrange flights for you via our partnership with Flightcentre Active Travel if you wish. Accommodation will be a selection of high-end resort and mid range, according to budget.

For more details and/or to register your interest (we need sufficient numbers to green light a trip): /


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Catching the Surf Coast Trail Marathon Bug

A sell-out in its first outing last year, the Surf Coast Trail Marathon, in Victoria, is returning to the trail running event calendar with an updated title and promises of yet another upbeat event designed to lure runners off-road.

Now be known as the Icebug Surf Coast Trail Marathon, the event has welcomed aboard Swedish shoe brand Icebug which recently launched its range of trail shoes onto the Australian market.

“The Surf Coast Trail Marathon is an ideal stomping ground to introduce our trail running shoes to Australia,” said Icebug Australia’s Andrew Shaw. “Reflecting the nature of the event, our range caters for runners of all abilities from first time trail runners through to ultimate trail adventurers looking for the very best trail performance,” said Shaw.DANDYRUNNER_SCTM2014_1471-(ZF-3222-77984-1-034)

The Icebug Surf Coast Trail Marathon will again ply the trails between the coastal town of Torquay – famous for its surf culture – and the equally stunning seaside village of Fairhaven, 42km further south down the coast.

The course will remain in most part the same as the 2014 version, with slight course amendments including a new start line at Bomboras Kiosk, in Torquay.

It will then wend its way along clifftops, through hinterlands, along beaches (including world famous Bells Beach), past a lighthouse, and around an estuary, to finish with a sting in the tail: a set of stairs to be climbed, the finish arch perched at the top.

Last year the event sold out with 500 participants taking on either the full or half marathon distances. The latter starts at Point Addis, which is also marks the changeover for those completing the marathon as a team of two.DANDYRUNNER_SCTM2014_0483-(ZF-3222-77984-1-006)

“It’s a cracking course,” said, Mitch Anderson, a pro-level triathlete who used the event to run his 39th marathon on his 39th birthday.

Last year’s marathon distance winner, Geelong-based Brett Coleman, agreed on the course being a stunner, with a caveat: “It’s a beautiful course, but I didn’t expect the rolling clifftop trails near the end, and the final stairs – they are killer.”

Brett smashed the inaugural course to record a sub three hour marathon (2 hours 58 minutes) on what most regarded as a tougher than expected course.

“It offers an impressive variety of terrain with well groomed walking trails, some gnarly single track sections, hills, lots of sand, the most beautiful views, and the whole vibe at the event is so exciting and infectious,” says 2014 women’s marathon winner, Kellie Emmerson (pictured).

Created to put a spotlight on the Surf Coast Walk while also raising funds for the Anglesea Primary School – last year raising $2000 – the Icebug Surfcoast Trail Marathon will appeal to both trail and road runners, with a high percentage of first time marathoners and half marathoners signing up making for some emotional crossings of the line at the stair-top finish at Fairhaven Surf Lifesaving Club.

ENTER AT: and stay up to date on event news by subscribing to the Facebook feed at

The Icebug Surf Coast Trail Marathon is produced by Tour de Trails (a sister company to Adventure Types which publishes this magazine) and supported by Icebug Australia, the Surf Coast Shire, and Visit Surf Coast, IO Merino, The Running Company (Geelong), Runners Kitchen, Tailwind Nutrition, Emma Carney Training, Brewsters Running and Kongo Industries.

IMAGE CREDITS: Erwin Jansen /


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Trail preview: Glenbrook Marathon

42km of trail in the Blue Mountains conjures scenic images in the head…the Jamison Valley with its natural beauty, the inhospitable and stunning country of Kanangra Boyd and ‘Wild Dogs’ or heaven forbid a race that ventured into the wilderness area of the Grose Valley with the most dramatic gorge and canyon landscapes in the Mountains. Possibilities are endless in this vast tableland of sandstone that helps to create the Sydney Basin.

Portal Waterhole

However people often forget the wonderful Lower Blue Mountains or ‘The Blue Labyrinth’. An area that provided many failed attempts for early explorers trying find passage across the mountains, some of them not even making it 15 or 20km past where the Glenbrook National Park gates stand today. It even took three attempts of to find a viable rail route up the escarpment! Surely this area has some hidden secrets?

Glenbrook Marathon in the Glenbrook National Park doesn’t fail to deliver. This race now in Season Five of Running Wild has had four editions also including a 25km and 34km option. The longer two options are qualifiers for The Six Foot Track Marathon, placed in the running calendar as one of the last options for runners to qualify, all within an hour from Sydney!

The brainchild of one of Running Wild’s founding members affectionately known as ‘Rod the Hornet’ was run as a ‘fat-arse’ event. The challenging yet runnable course was popular from the outset. After a few years and large groups of dirty runners gathering in the Causeway drinking beer and cooling off after a hard 42 all within ‘coo-ee’ of Ranger station, concerns grew about the public liability of this event. As timing would have it Running Wild was formed and the rest is history.


Race Headquarters are in the central Euroka Clearing of the park. Euroka was formed through volcanic activity around 17 million years ago, leaving fertile soil and the campground and picnic area is the final product.  The Darug people were the traditional landowners here and Euroka is aptly named meaning ‘sun and warmth’ in traditional tongue.

An 11th hour change in the Season 4 edition saw the race start / finish move to Apple Tree Flat. This was the site of Albert Bennett’s Homestead, the last past public land owner here. He ran a thriving orchid, producing varied crops and also a boating business from locally grown trees carting produce down Nepean River eventually adding tourist cruises to his resume. Luckily for us the land was reclaimed as crown land in the 1950’s and added to the Blue Mountains National Park.

Runners for all three races start together and wind their way around Euroka Clearing up a short section of Bennett’s Ridge on open trail. The course turns left through some single trail that reveals the Nepean River and surrounding gorges which is seen from a few times on course. After a kilometre the trail rejoins Euroka only to skirt around the campsite and exit up the ‘Goat Track’ a short sharp climb of around 70m elevation to test lungs early on. Following a single trail past the Portal Water hole, some may be lucky enough to see the resident Black Snake!

Camp Fire Creek

The toughest climb around 5km, averages 19% gradient for around 350 metres on the way to Mount Portal. Before runners hit the Portal lookout the course follows around 2km of open fire trail. The turnaround point is placed on the lookout deck forcing runners to take the breathtaking views of the river flowing into the Nepean Valley and Cumberland Plains. On a clear day you can even spot Sydney Harbour Bridge and Centerpoint on the horizon!

The race turns around and retrace’s its steps, the first aid station appears around 10km on an intersection known by locals as the ‘Five Ways’. The race heads into Glenbrook Walking track for around 2km of stairs, creek crossings on fast flowing single trail. Tar appears here for around 100m heading off the Oaks car park and the rest of the course is trail!

A quick descent through now carved sandstone stair makes the once rock hop into the causeway much easier! A sharp left hand turn up Camp Fire Creek proper reveals 4km of running through the lush forest lined creek, sandy pools, under sandstone overhangs and if you look closely enough you may even find some axe grinding grooves!


Camp Fire Creek Trail is the most technical and beautiful of the race climbing ever so gradually to the culturally significant ‘Red Hands Cave’ containing hand stencils dating back 1600 years. The cave is believed to be a safe place for indigenous women and children; however you could be mistaken for otherwise witnessing runners in the 3rd edition of the race exiting the trail in 40 degree temps! The second aid station has been appropriately located here around 15km.

The course opens up to around 5km of gradually rising fire trail along the seemingly familiar woodland of Red Hands Ridge to the highest point on course. However skirting along the ridge line is Camp Fire and Kanuka Brook Creeks, both could provide days of exploration with variations of fauna and flora. Locals have even been rumoured removing signs to watering holes and trails to keep their location a guarded secret!

Hitting the end of this fire trail, aid station three appears where 25km race turns left, and the 34km and Marathon race turn right. Heading out to Nepean Lookout along the tall gum lined fire trail this section is an out and back for the 34km race. The Marathon has an added extension of 4km after the Nepean Lookout of an out and back along Pisgah Ridge running parallel to the Nepean. Pisgah is a non maintained fire trail enclosing in thick bush as the track progresses, considered by some as mentally the hardest section of the marathon in the morning heat.

glen medal

Marathon and 34km runners join The Oaks Fire Trail where the 25km runners turned left for a gradual downhill en route to the finish line. Turning right into Bennett’s Ridge where the last aid station appears for a fast 5km heading to the finish line in Euroka where the Marathon runners receive a unique finisher’s medal in the shape of a hand with aboriginal art stencil depicting ‘Red Hands Cave’.

Race records for the Marathon stand with local Jo Brischetto in 3.28.19 for the ladies and Ian Gallagher in 3.15.37 for the men.

Running Wild can guarantee that there are some secrets left for you to find… Glenbrook Marathon is the opening race for Season 5 on Sunday 24th August 2014. Runners from every race receive a burger or vegetarian options with a can of soft drink.

Details and entry can be found at


Surf’s up for new trail marathon(ers)

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A newly launched trail marathon will shine the spotlight on Victoria’s stunning Surf Coast Walk, with runners being enticed off road by a course that takes in impressive coastal scenery, including a short run along world-famous Bells Beach.

The inaugural Surf Coast Trail Marathon will take place on Saturday, 28 June, 2014, with marathon runners starting at Torquay, an hour south west of Melbourne, and finishing 42.2km further west on the beaches of Fairhaven, located on the world-renowned Great Ocean Road.

There is also a half marathon course being offered, beginning from Point Addis, and a relay team option allowing two runners to complete half of the marathon course each.

“This is the perfect event for any kind of runner eyeing off one of the two quintessential running distances,” says Chris Ord, from trail running tour company, Tour de Trails, which will manage the event. DISCLOSURE: Chris is also the Australian editor of Trail Run Mag.

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“For road marathoners, it offers a first taste of what trail running is about, without being intimidating as it is a relatively non-technical, non-remote, non-mountainous course. For experienced trailites, the route still features stunning wilderness with coastal viewpoints and it represents a truly go-fast course with plenty of twists and singletrack turns.”

The event is expected to attract both the trail running and road running fraternity along with Ironman/woman and triathlete competitors looking for a target run in their off-season.

“This is an inclusive run where the inspiration is more about participation and enjoyment than winning, per se. It’s all about celebrating the trail running lifestyle and the fact that we are lucky enough to have such beautiful trails at our doorstep to run on.”

From iconic Bells Beach to the clifftops of Point Addis and Anglesea and on to Split Point lighthouse at Aireys Inlet, Chris believes that the course will become renowned for the sheer experience of journeying through the unique Surf Coast environment.

“We thought that a run along the Surf Coast Walk, encapsulating its entire length from Torquay to Fairhaven, was a good way to highlight just how good the walk itself is. Hopefully runners and their supporters will come back to the coast to enjoy it again and again,” says Chris, who believes his home region offers up some of the best non-alpine trail running in the state.

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He notes that the Surf Coast has already been put on the trail running map by established trail running events the likes of the Surf Coast Century Ultra, Bells Bash, Tim Gates Memorial Run and the Roo Run in Anglesea.

The Surf Coast Trail Marathon will benefit local organisations with a percentage of each entry fee going towards three Surf Coast beneficiaries, including the Fairhaven Surf Lifesaving Club, where the event finishes, and the Anglesea Primary School.

“I wanted to ensure locals benefited,” says Chris. “My daughter goes to the Anglesea primary school and they are constantly having to put on fundraisers to pay for things like teachers aides, school garden food programs and the like. I wanted to do my bit. And the Fairhaven Surf Lifesaving Club has been kind enough to host us at the finish line, and they do amazing work keeping the beaches safe in summer – they deserve to be supported, too.”

Some funds will also go back into supporting the trail and environs via the Great Ocean Road Coastal Committee.

Entries have opened for the Surf Coast Trail Marathon and can be purchased through ticketing partner Eventbrite at

Runners can stay in touch on Facebook at

What:              Surf Coast Trail Marathon, 42.2 + 21.1km off road marathon

Where:           Surf Coast Walk, Torquay – Fairhaven, Surf Coast Shire, Victoria

When:             Saturday 28 June, 2014


The Surf Coast Trail Marathon is supported by the Surf Coast Shire, Patagonia, The Running Company (Geelong), Runners Kitchen, Kongo Industries, Lisa Tamati Bespoke Jewellery, Adventure Host, Adventure Types, Trail Run Mag, Tour de Trails and Eventbrite.

DISCLOSURE: The inaugural Surf Coast Trail Marathon is being sponsored by Trail Run Mag and its publisher, Adventure Types, and in part is has been created by Trail Run Mag Australia editor, Chris Ord.

That mountain glow: the worm has turned

In 1907 the police at Newnes arrested a local who was running naked through the bush shouting he was Jesus Christ come to deliver justice to the bustling little mining community in the wild Wolgan Valley, in New South Wales, Australia.

68 (2) Never heard of Newnes and its nudie run? Apart from the old pub, which still operates as a kiosk serving campers and bushwalkers on weekends, old Newnes is now a collection of haunting industrial ruins abandoned to nature. In the towering cliffs above the town, the legacy of a railway line bravely built into the valley is a 600m tunnel that is now home to a colony of glow worms so brilliant it looks like a subterranean Milky Way.

It is a place where nature now utterly dominates man, part of the vast Wollemi National Park that is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

But back when Ted English made his naked bush bolt, it was home to many hard-working souls. Beneath the narrow valley’s sandstone escarpment, they manned the Wolgan’s oil-shale mining and refining operation, which was established in 1906 and continued until the 1930s, producing products like paraffin and kerosene.

That same wild valley, with its stunning scenery and fascinating industrial history, is now the host of a unique trail running weekend in 15-16 June. Sean Greenhill, from Blue Mountains-based Mountain Sports, loves the way the Glow Worm Tunnel Running Weekend combines his passions for tough trail running, unique landscapes and fascinating history.

And in honour of Ted English – ”a prime example of a pioneer of trail running in the Newnes area at the turn of the century” – Greenhill is now offering the inaugural Ted English Bolt as part of this year’s Glow Worm Tunnel Running Weekend: a 6km fun run through the extensive industrial ruins of Newnes, where you can see the likes of the beautiful old coke ovens and the brick terracing needed to house the industrial complex on the steep valley side.

The Ted English Bolt is a way for runners to see the sights and stretch their legs ahead of the nexTake Offt day’s marathon and half marathon.

Greenhill organised the first Glow Worm Tunnel Running Weekend in 2012, attracting 276 runners. It is back again this year with a bigger program of events (see the breakout on the Mystery Mountain Dash). The marathon – which starts and finishes at the Newnes Hotel – is a magical run through the bush on narrow tracks including the bed of the old Wolgan Valley railway, through the glow worm tunnel and across the high Pipeline Pass along a track which follows the old pipeline route to another oil-shale industrial relic, the town of Glen Davis.

Glen Davis lies in the neighbouring Capertee Valley, a giant canyon recognised internationally as one of the world’s top bird-watching places.

Brendan Davies, one of Australia’s (and now the world’s) top male trail runners having just won The North Face 100 (and beating Kilian Jornet’s record time), said of last year’s Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon: ”This is definitely one of the most beautiful and physically challenging courses I’ve ever done.”

The marathon course, however, has changed. Last year’s runners found the race beautiful but brutal in parts and this year the punishing passages of Pipeline Pass will come at the start of the race rather than at the end.

”We’re turning the marathon around,” Greenhill said. ”Last year the marathon ran up through the tunnel first then the second half of the marathon was up over Pipeline Pass to Glen Davis. Pipeline Pass is extremely steep and hard and we found that people who were slow or were injured were coming back down Pipeline Pass and it was already almost dark because it’s winter, so for safety reasons this year we’ve turned it around so first they are coming up over the pass and back and then they run up to the tunnel afterwards. Pipeline Pass is now the first thing they’ll tackle rather than the last thing.”

Runners must carry a head torch with them to tackle the glow worm tunnel and can only walk through it, not run, to ensure they don’t disturb the thousands of glow worms that line its walls. There’s a 10-minute time penalty for anyone breaking the rule. If the weather turns bad there is other compulsory gear runners must also carry with them because they will be in a remote mountainous region in winter.

glow worm runnersAnd some people don’t like being told what to run with.

”You hear plenty of people complain about it … people saying ‘we don’t have to carry all this stuff, we’re serious runners’,” Greenhill says. But he doesn’t agree with them. “The compulsory gear is to keep people warm and dry and alive when something goes wrong and they are forced to stop running.

”In the mountains, once you get a sweat up on a cool day, once you stop [running] you could get cold really easily and become incapacitated quite easily. I’ve gotten hypothermic in mountain runs a couple of times and let me assure you at that point you are glad you are carrying [protective clothing].”

Luckily Ted English did his naked bolt in April, when the weather is more balmy.

For more information about the Glow Worm Tunnel Trail Running Weekend (June 15-16) and to enter go to

It was the fabled Greek soldier Pheidippides who ran the 42.195 kilometres from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to establish the ancient legend that made the distance the most celebrated in world running. Horizontal running, that is.
These days in the trail running scene the ”vertical” kilometre is developing its own mystique. It involves a course that rises by an elevation of 1000m in as short a horizontal distance as possible. In other words, the steeper the better. While some vertical kilometre (VK) races in Europe and North America cover as much as five horizontal kilometres, the prestigious VK race at Fully in Switzerland boasts just 1920m of horizontal distance.

The Australian landscape doesn’t have the topography necessary to stage a decent vertical kilometre race, but the Glow Worm Tunnel Trail Running Weekend boasts a pretty good compromise. When you stand on the wooden balcony of the Newnes Hotel – the last building from its industrial heydey still standing – you look across the Wolgan River and need to crane your neck to see the top of Mystery Mountain, an imposing edifice that rises steeply from the river bank. Running the rough trail to the top from the pub balcony represents a 370m elevation gain over a horizontal distance of just 2.4km. The fastest recorded time for running the mountain is 22 minutes. Runners will tackle the course two at a time and the fastest male and female to get from the hotel to the top and back will win $200 each.