Runners earn their stripes at Tassie Trail Fest

More than 400 runners – including a healthy interstate and international contingent – descended on the small tin mining town of Derby in north-east Tasmania recently, the influx inspired by the inaugural Saucony Tassie Trail Fest and $2 million worth of fresh trails to be run. [RESULTS AT:]

Tassie Trail Fest 16-0351The three day event was conceived to celebrate a love of single track and the trail running lifestyle with feature distances ranging from 44km through 21km, 14km, 6km and 2km making best use of all-new mountain biking trails created within quintessential Tasmanian wilderness. Keeping runners entertained and informed off trail was a roster of running seminars, a trail running film festival and live entertainment.

In the premier King and Queen of Tassie Trail category, which required runners to complete a 44km marathon, a 14km run and a 2km time-trial, the honours were shared between a local running gun from Launceston and a German itinerant known in his hometown as ‘the fastest moustache in Cologne’.

Elite Tassie ultra runner, Amy Lamprecht, won the women’s crown and a cash purse, registering a cumulative run time of 05:46:48, beating home Yvette Edward (West Hobart; 06:00:34) in second and Victorian, Kellie Emmerson in third (06:07:08).Tassie Trail Fest 16-9849

In the men’s, Germany’s Felix Weber held the King’s of Tassie Trails trophy aloft, but not before cycling all the way from Hobart to attend the event, via Freycinet Peninsua where he ran the long trail circuit (30km) to warm up, and volunteering with event organisers throughout the event in between competing. His total time for the King category was 05:13:54. The short sighted runner known as ‘the fastest moustache in Cologne’ and now ‘the fastest ’tash in Tassie’ has already decided what to spend his prizemoney on:

“Riding up here I lost my glasses. I have very bad eyesight and ‘run blurry’ so I’ll be buying a new pair of specs!”

Also on the dais was American runner who had come all the way from a stint working in Antarctica, Curtis Moore (06:00:38), and Hobart-based John Schuringa (06:10:48).

While the King and Queen was the premier racing category, the most impressive endurance competition was Multiday Madness, a category that challenged runners to run every single event possible across the duration of the event. That entailed a marathon, two 14km runs (a day and a night), another half marathon and the 2km time trial ‘Dash for Cash’.Tassie Trail Fest 16-

The Madness women’s title was swept across the Tasman with New Zealand runner Amanda Broughton running consistently for the win, her performance surprising even herself as a short to middle distance cross country specialist in her hometown of Wellington. Broughton took the win in a cumulative time of 10:24:19. In second was Jessica Collins (Margate, Tasmania; 11:43:43) followed by Victorian, Louise Crossley (13:21:48).

In the men’s Multiday Madness, John Schuringa added to his King of Tassie Trails third place by winning the endurance competition in a total time of 10:12:22. Antarctic Station worker, Curtis Moore, added to his second place in the Kings with another in the multiday in a time of 10:15:37, with Launceston’s John Cannel registering third place (10:33:31).

Of course there were individual distance winners throughout the weekend, with special mention going to husband and wife team Reece and Jacqui Stephens, who juggled parenting duties to run in all events between them, each taking out a half marathon win and Jacqui taking home the $250 for the Dash for Cash title, her husband pipped at the post into second by Jerome Whitley who nabbed a time of 7:07 for the 2km (and likely a smidge) ‘sprint’ trail run.


The inaugural Saucony Tassie Trail Fest brought together trail runners from across the globe, with representatives from Chile, Mexico, Belgium, New Zealand, UK, United States, Netherlands and Germany joining running crews from every state and territory in Australia.Tassie Trail Fest 16-0539

The host town of Derby has quickly become famous in mountain biking circles with the installation of up to 80km of new trails weaving through majestic stands of wilderness.

“The running experience is divine and like no other in Australia in my opinion,” says Race Director, Chris Ord from running tour and events company, Tour de Trails. “The huge stands of ancient forest, moss-covered rockeries, giant fern tunnels, and dam busting views make it a spectacular place to run, while the rollercoaster undulations, switchbacks and a few beefy ascents make the running challenging, especially for those taking on the multiday which is essentially 100km over the weekend.”

Runners were particulary impressed with the trails, the close knit community vibe and many noted the 14km nightrun as a highlight, with runners finishing under an arch erected inside a town hall, beer bar to one side and a live band in full rock mode playing on the stage just in front of the finishline. Impressively, the lead singer, Launceston’s Tim Gambles is also a trail runner and ran in a number of the events during the weekend.Mt Buller

Reviews by participants:

What a privilege to be able to run through that bush and have those epic views!” – Multiday Madness winner Amanda Broughton, New Zealand. 

“I volunteered and participated in the Tassie Trail Fest. It was an excellent and authentic experience with fantastic program on and off the trails. I can highly recommend this event to everyone who love to run in the bush.” – King of Tassie Trails winner, Felix Weber, Germany.

“Loved every minute of the Multiday Madness, stunningly beautiful but challenging course…Wow. Just wow.” Asha Mahasuria, Northern Territory.

“A fantastic event, a big thank-you to the organizers for putting on a fantastic event, hopefully everyone will get behind this wonderful event and it will grow bigger over the next few years.” – Tim Gunton, Tasmania

“Absolutely fantastic event. Loved every minute of it. Lovely people, amazing location, great trails. Thanks so much to everyone involved in organising the event – you guys were fantastic. Roll on 2017!” – Philip Judge, Queensland.

“Can’t wait to do it again! It was a tough course…that’s what made it so good! Thanks guys see you next year!” – Tracy Cron, Tasmania.

“Brilliant event. Well organised. Great facilities. Amazing track. Definitely doing it again next year.” – Kirsten Aylmer, Tasmania. 

“We had a brilliant time. Great festival and a well organised inaugural event.” – Emma Pryor, New South Wales.Tassie Trail Fest 16-9871

“We believe that the Tassie Trail Fest has installed itself as an slightly quirky, challenging, upbeat and iconic trail event for Tasmania and indeed Australia,” says Chris.

Also featured at the festival was Tasmanian local trail running heroine, Hanny Allston, an elite athlete who presented a seminar on training and nutrition, while fellow elite runner, Mathieu Dore, presented a masterclass on strength and conditioning for runners.

Organisers also screened the international Trails In Motion Film Festival as part of proceedings.

The weekend’s run festivities concluded with a 2km final time trial, a virtual sprint event in trail running circles, with the starter setting runners off at 30 second intervals and the winner not decided until every runner had laid down a time. That included the race organisers who downed organisational responsibilities for the morning to join in the trail fun and madness.

Organisers have confirmed the Saucony Tassie Trail Fest will return next year on the same Labour Day Holiday Weekend, which in 2017 will be 11, 12, 13th March. They are encouraging runners to enter once entries open in a few months and, importantly, book accommodation in Derby or surrounding towns early, as it is limited.

See for more details.


Tassie Trail Fest is supported by Dorset Council, Saucony Australia, IO Merino, Black Diamond, The Running Company Launceston, Find Your Feet, Run Goat Run, Cheeta Recovey, Little Rivers Brewing Co., Kooee Snacks Australia, SOS Hydration, Break O’Day Council, Veolia, Weldborough Hotel, VFuel, Wildplans, Adventure Types, The Corner Store Cafe – Derby, S Group and Tour de Trails.Tassie Trail Fest 16-0332

Larapinta strip

Run like a Tiger at new Tassie Trail Fest

A new trail running festival is set to throw the spotlight on north-east Tasmanian  wilderness with the launch of the inaugural  TASSIE TRAIL FEST presented by Icebug, a three-day festival celebrating the trail running lifestyle.

Set to take place in the small township of Derby on the labour day long weekend (Tasmania, Vic, SA), 12-14 March 2016, the event will feature distances ranging from 44km through 21km, 14km, 6km and 2km, the line-up also inclusive of running seminars, a trail running film festival and live music entertainment.

IMAGE: Simon Madden / Adventure Types

IMAGE: Simon Madden / Adventure Types

For those keen, organisers are encouraging multi-day, multi-run sign ups, with All Weekend passes and a Multiday Madness category that has entrants running every conceivable non-clashing event across the three days, totalling more than 95km.

“We have designed the event to offer something for everyone from kids and beginners through to hardcore trail runners,” says event organiser, Chris Ord, from Tour de Trails (and also AU Editor of Trail Run Mag).

“The focus on fun is specifically to be inclusive of runners of all abilities while also celebrating the trail running lifestyle and the amazing trails on offer across Tasmania and in Derby in particular,” says Chris.

IMAGE: Simon Madden / Adventure Types

IMAGE: Simon Madden / Adventure Types

Derby has quickly become famous in mountain biking circles with the installation of up to 80km of new trails weaving through majestic stands of wilderness. Come the March long weekend, two wheels will be traded for two legs as runners explore flowing singletrack rightly regarded as some of the best in Australia.

“Mountain biking trails make for the best trail running experience,” says Chris, who notes that while less technical than big mountain routes, they remain a physical challenge nonetheless.

“Being custom built, they are smooth and flowy for the most part, but that constant undulation, and berm running, really does put a bunch of different forces on the body that even experienced trail runners will find puts the pinch on. Especially on the seventh berm in short succession at 32 kilometres!”

“But the running experience is divine and like no other in Australia in my opinion. They weave through huge stands of forest, moss-covered rockeries, giant fern tunnels, around the back of Cascade Dam, and on up to the spectacular feature that is the decommissioned Paris Dam wall. Plus, for those willing, on the Sunday we head 20 minutes down the road to Blue Tier for a quick half marathon on yet more beautiful, if intense, trails found there.”

IMAGE: Simon Madden / Adventure Types

IMAGE: Simon Madden / Adventure Types

“We believe that the Tassie Trail Fest will quickly become an iconic trail event for Tasmania and indeed Australia,” says Chris.

Featuring at the festival will be Tasmanian local trail running heroine, Hanny Allston, an elite athlete who will present a seminar on training and nutrition, while fellow elite runner, Mathieu Dore, will present a masterclass on strength and conditioning for runners.

Organisers will bring the Trails In Motion Film Festival to town as part of proceedings along with a local Launceston band for Sunday night celebrations in the town hall.

TassieTrailFest_SIMON MADDEN-5951-2

IMAGE: Simon Madden / Adventure Types

“We then have 2km final time trial on the Sunday morning – something that can be done on a hangover fuelled by a morning BBQ.”

Organisers are encouraging runners to enter early and, importantly, arrange accommodation in Derby or surrounding towns, as it is limited.

“Recognising that accommodation in Derby is limited, we are in the process of organising a walk-in-walk-out standing camp in town, with tents, cots and mattresses supplied for those who make a booking. This will add a further 60 or so beds to the in town equation,” says Chris, who also notes that there is also free camping available in town with limited facilities.

Bookings for the camp will be taken online from January. Accommodation options and links can be seen on the event website.

Registrations for the event are now open.
See for more details and to enter.

Stay tuned for more announcements regarding the event by liking the event Facebook page at

Tassie Trail fest is supported by Dorset Council, Icebug, Black Diamond, The Running Company Launceston, Find Your Feet, Trail Run Mag, SOS Hydration, VFuel Australia, Wildplans, Adventure Types, S Group and Tour de Trails.

Trail Run Mag Edition 18

Larapinta strip

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.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 5.29.28 pm

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): /


Mt Buller

Records tumble at Brooks Trail Run Festival

It was a matter of a student overtaking master and a road runner showing up her trail cousins on home turf at the Brooks Trail Run Festival, which took place atop Mount Baw Baw in Victoria over the March long weekend.

Brooks Mt Baw Baw Trail Run Festival


The three day festival invited off road runners to battle it out for King and Queen of the Mountain titles across multiple events ranging from a marathon to 13km and 1.4km ‘technical running’ competitions.

In the women’s category, Australian champion 50km roadrunner Natasha Fraser showed that while her specialty may be on bitumen, she loses no speed running on single track through the mountains. Fraser easily took the Queen of the Mountain title winning the marathon, registering third in a 13km event and winning the uphill outing in the technical run sessions.Brooks Mt Baw Baw Trail Run Festival

In the men’s, it was odds-on favourite Blake Hose, who showed why he is being touted as an international trail champion, despite only taking up trail running one year ago following a successful period spent in the cycling and triathlon worlds. Hose dominated the event, registering course records in the marathon and technical running competitions to take out the King of the Mountain title. In doing so, the 21 year old also surpassed his current mentor and coach, NSW-based Matt Cooper, who set the original course records and won the KOTM crown in 2013.

Hose, from Geelong, Victoria, registered a course record marathon time of 4:02:13, running from the historical gold mining town of Walhalla to Mount Baw Baw, taking on a vertical ascent of more than 2500 metres.

Brooks Mt Baw Baw Trail Run FestivalHis win over highly regarded trail runner, Joel Fitzgerald, who placed second 18 minutes in arrears, and South Australian Sean Sweetman (04:38:36) set Hose up for the KOTM title early on for the three-day festival, which is touted as ‘Australia’s biggest celebration of the trail running lifestyle’.

Hose went on to win Sunday’s 13km day run (01:05:55) , before registering the fastest descent and ascent on Monday’s ‘Free Mountain’ technical course (00:04:57) for the 1.4km / 300 metre ascent/descent) to ensure his crown was never in doubt.

A winner of the Great Ocean Walk 100 trail run and one of only four runners ever to record a sub-seven hour for the brutal Bogong to Hotham ultra trail, is regarded as a rising star of the growing trail run scene. Meanwhile Queen of the Mountain winner Natasha Fraser heads of to Doha, Qatar, to represent Australia at the 50km road World Championships. Both runners came away with a $1000 winners’ prize courtesy of Brooks and Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort.

LM_140309_MBBDayRun_0002_MEDres (logo)The festival also hosted Round One of the Victorian Orienteering Series, with many orienteering competitors giving hint to the endurance talent that lies within their community when they discard the maps and compass. In the 13km night run, first to fourth men’s and first place woman were all orienteering competitors while first place in the half marathon was all secured by an orienteer runner. Interestingly, the winner of the 13km night run, Rob Bauer, beat even KOTM champion Blake Hose’s day run time, despite the disadvantages of running in the dark with only a headlamp to guide the way.

The competition across the Festival shifted up a gear from the inaugural outing, with course records falling across most categories. New times to beat were registered in the men’s marathon, both the men’s and women’s half marathon, and in all of the short course technical runs across men’s and women’s, down and uphill.

LM_140309_MBBDayRun_0129_MEDres (logo)Overall, more than 400 competitors turned out over the long weekend to celebrate and participate in the trail running events, which also included a 3.5km family and kids’ fun run showing off the Baw Baw summit views, and numerous off trail sessions including nutritional seminars, technique clinics and a premier sneak preview screening of the Desert Runners feature film, a documentary featuring Festival ambassador, adventure runner Samantha Gash.

Runners travelled from far afield with entrants registered from Townsville, Adelaide, Brisbane, France, Germany, Estonia and the United Kingdom, the English competitor having flown specifically to attend the Brooks Trail Run Festival.

Engaging stories abounded amongst the field, with one marathon competitor knocking off his 92nd marathon at Baw Baw, it being only his fourth on trail. The winner of the uphill technical run is Estonia’s best orienteer runner. Several competitors had also never run a marathon previously, choosing to take on one of the country’s toughest off-roaders for their first outing. All debutants made the distance.

Brooks Mt Baw Baw Trail Run FestivalThe Brooks Trail Run Festival will return next year, once again on the 7-9 March Long Weekend (Victoria, Labour Day).

All details at



1. Blake Hose 04:02:14 (CR) // 2. Joel Fitzgerald 04:20:12 // 3. Sean Sweetman 04:38:36

MARATHON – Women’s
1. Natasha Fraser 05:09:22 // 2. Kellie Emmerson 05:30:26 // 3. Angela Harris 05:58:10

1. Kerrin Rattray 01:54:35 (CR) // 2. Joel Claxton 02:08:26 // 3. Cameron Goodison 02:10:39

1. Claire Boulange 02:16:14 (CR) // 2. Lucy Bartholomew 02:31:07 // 3. Bridget Wetherell 02:32:08


13KM DAY RUN – Women’s
1. Claire Boulange 01:15:55 // 2. Fiona Gordon 01:17:19 // 3. Natasha Fraser 01:17:35

13KM DAY RUN – Men’s
1. Blake Hose 01:05:55 // 2. Tom Crosby 01:12:01 //3. Vincent Kerbarh 01:12:22

13KM NIGHT RUN – Women’s
1. Jasmine Neue 01:21:29 // 2. Fiona Gordon 01:27:49 // 3. Genevieve Blanch 01:36:05

13KM NIGHT RUN – Men’s
1. Rob Bauer 01:03:29 // 2. Rob Preston 01:03:29 // 3. David Brownridge 01:10:22


1. Blake Hose 00:04:57 (CR) // 2. Rob Baker 00:05:00 // 3. Rob Preston 00:05:24

1. Liis Johanson 00:05:50 (CR) // 2. Jasmine Neve 00:06:00 // 3. Margaretha Fortmann 00:06:46

1. Rob Baker 00:12:19 (CR) // 2. Blake Hose 00:12:29 // 3. David Fraser 00:14:10

1. Natasha Fraser 00:14:46 (CR) // 2. Lucy Bartholomew 00:16:36 // 3. Liis Johansen 00:16:43




Trail Run Fest returns: entries open

IMG_7826_low2Following a highly successful inaugural event earlier this year, the acclaimed Brooks Trail Run Festival will return to the flanks of Mount Baw Baw on the 8-10 March long weekend in 2014, with entries to the three day celebration of off-road running now open.

A unique three day outing on the trail running event calendar, the Brooks Trail Run Festival is the only trail event that combines a fantastic line-up of competitive runs with plenty of off-trail activities in the form of seminars, presentations and trail running films along with a uniquely social atmosphere, with most participants staying for the duration in Baw Baw village accommodation.

IMG_0724_lower“We want to not only showcase what we believe to be some of the best single-track running there is to be had in the country,” says Event Director, Grant Seamer, “but also to celebrate the holistic aspects of the trail running lifestyle and the passion people have for it as their chosen sport. With that in mind we will be jamming the event program with a bunch of great activities from technical training sessions to nutrition seminars, inspirational talks and trail running films.”

For competitive trail runners out to make their mark, there will be a cash purse on offer of $1000 – one of the largest in Australian trail running, paid to the Brooks King and Queen of the Mountain title-winners. To be eligible, runners must participate in the Walhalla to Mount Baw Baw Marathon on the first day, and then choose from a 12km night or 12km day run the next day and then vie to be the fastest free mountain runner in the 1.5km technical downhill and uphill challenges on the final day.

IMG_0908 -lower“Of course, while we expect to see some of Australia’s best trail runners shoot for the money and glory, the event is first and foremost about enjoyment of running in mountains, so people can enter as many or as few events as they like: there is also a half marathon that is 99% singletrack, and a 3km kids and family fun run. Or people can just come up to watch some of the action – the free mountain running is spectator friendly being so short, sharp and spectacular – and maybe join in some of the break out sessions,” says Seamer.

The Brooks Trail Run Festival will again feature a line-up of Australia’s best competitive and adventure runners presenting and offering advice on mountain, with notables yet to be announced.

Says Brooks runner and event ambassador, adventure runner Samantha Gash (pictured running in the inaugural event, below right).

“The Inaugural Brooks Trail Run Fest ranks up there on one of my most enjoyable trail running weekends I have had. The energy of the whole weekend was extremely positive and uplifting, as not only did we have plenty of time to race hard but the three day format allowed everyone to get to know each other on a social level – which is part of the beauty of the trail running community in particular, it’s very welcoming and I think the Festival epitomises that.  It’s definitely one to prioritise for the 2014 running calendar.”

Affordable self-catering accommodation is available on the mountain, with runners able to enjoy the benefit of having comfortable lodgings to rest and recuperate all within a few hundred metres of the finishing line. Also on mountain is a bar, café and restaurant, along with an Adventure Hub store, all open throughout the weekend.

Families will be catered for with a jumping castle and other kids’ activities to keep them amused while Mum or Dad runs, and there’s plenty else to keep everyone happy including mountain bike hire (XC and downhill, selected times) and of course walks, including to the summit of Mount Baw Baw for spectacular views across the Gippsland valley.

Information at: (Events)

Brooks Trail Run Festival

Saturday 8 – Monday 10 March (public holiday long weekend)

Confirmed line-up (more to be announced)


  • Marathon – Walhalla to Baw Baw village, 43km
  • Half Marathon – Mt Erica Car Park – Baw Baw village, 21.5km
  • + seminars and activities


  • 12km day run
  • 12km night run
  • 3km kids and family fun run
  • + seminars and activities


  • 1.5km free mountain technical run descent
  • 1.5km free mountain technical run ascent
  • + presentations

Entries are now open at:
Information at: (Events)