Wild child – 12 year-old on ultra mission

Would you allow your 12-year-old daughter have a go at running 75 of the hardest trail kilometres in New Zealand? That was the quandary for trail event organiser, photographer and Hillary Trail legend, Shaun Collins and his wife Madeleine, faced when their daughter Zara decided whatever Dad can do, she should be able to. Just before the 2016 Hillary event kicks off, Trail Run Mag caught up to get an insight from both Shaun and Zara.

[This article appears in the current Edition 19 of Trail Run Mag available for free download at www.trailrunmag.com/magazinesINTERVIEW: Chris Ord // Images: Shaun Collins / Cabbage Tree Photography

Shaun, what was your initial gut feeling when Zara proposed running the Hillary?

Initially I was very hesitant. In fact my first answer was NO! Both Zara and my wife Madeleine had to convince me. It’s a long and hard way for such a little bean with 99% of adults in the world not even capable! We as parents were worried about the impact on her body during and after and long term damage as well.Screenshot 2016-02-26 17.03.42

What worried you the most about her running it?

It was mainly worry around the impact on her body. Not wanting this mission to do any long-term damage to her.

What did you consider as your primary responsibilities as a parent in this situation?

I guess it was our responsibility to have an adult think about it rather than the passionate, kids ‘I can do anything’ think. A sensibility check as to whether this was doable. And in taking that further, explaining these points to Zara in a way that she would understand. This is gonna hurt and there is potential that you won’t make it, you might get injured, or you will be very sore for a week afterward. Then we set the ground rules – she would have to train on all parts of the course, she’d have to listen to what we say during the mission – she’d have to eat and drink when we said, stop to rest when we said and if we said no it’s all done, then she had to listen as we’d be in more of a position to say it than she would be thinking. AND this wasn’t the start of regular ultras from now on. This was a ‘oncer’ that she could have a crack at and then nothing this big for a couple of years so she recovered and didn’t keep going to become injured.

Then during the run it was our responsibility to control as many factors as we could to ensure she succeeded. This in the main was keeping her at the right pace and making sure she was fueled with food and water the whole way.Screenshot 2016-02-26 17.03.54

How did you come to judge her suitability – not just in terms of her running CV, but in general how you felt she would approach the challenge?

This was probably the easier part as we know her well! Nearly 13 years of knowledge on what a determined, gritty little human she is (this is a great attribute for some parts of life but hints at some hard work for us in the upcoming teenage years!). We knew that mentally she had it in her to push through the waves of hurt and bliss that you go through in an ultra run like this. Physically she has run for a number of years now – shorter stuff obviously but she has done the 16km event of The Hillary race we organise twice. We ran with her on different sections of the course to familiarize herself with the route and train up a little. During these runs we gave her tips on running on technical trail and helped her learn how to manage her body over hours of running.

Where is the parental line – what would you say no to?

That’s a hard question – we try not to say no with these sorts of challenges. And it was hard to say no when their parents do some pretty crazy shit too. They have grown up seeing us do things that other adults are amazed at so think it’s normal. Kids are usually limited by what us adults say yes or no to. From something like a massive 1000 piece puzzle at age four to a climbing wall in the backyard to running trail events – we have given all three of our kids a looser reign and they have soaked up the challenges and excelled at them from a young age. So I guess the limit is based more on physical safety and mental protection rather than what society or guidelines say. We would say no to something that places them in danger.

What was the reaction from others before she ran?

I’ll admit we were a bit apprehensive on what others would think so didn’t tell many people. Just close friends. This was in order to keep the pressure off Zara more than anything but I guess we also appreciated that some people would not approve. What others thought wasn’t going to stop us letting her but we’d rather not have to deal with their thoughts before we did it. We knew we hadn’t made the decision lightly. The people we told were really supportive and understood after we’d explained it all – and they would have said if they didn’t.Screenshot 2016-02-26 17.04.16

How did you feel while she was on trail – what journey did you as a parent go on during the run?

During the run was the same as when any of us do something like this – a rollercoaster. At the start, wondering if she would actually be able to do it, keeping a really close eye on her food and water intake and that she was pacing herself right. Then when she’d clocked past her longer distance run ever starting to celebrate how well she was going. Then questioning while she was crying and in a low patch if she should stop. Calculating/thinking if this was a normal low patch that ultra-runners have, which I have been in many times, or if this really was a signal to end it. Then celebrating again as she’d pulled herself mentally past the low patch and was on a high again, striding out for the next stop, because she was getting closer to achieving the end goal.

What were the factors in the decision for Zara to pull out at 61km?

The decision was based on sleep and how that would impact her as we ran the last section which is along the clifftops of the Te Henga trail. You need all your wits about you at the best of times and with it being 11pm and having 61km under the belt Zara was starting to feel sleepy tired as well as legs tired. She had just stormed up the mighty Kuataika Hills with a good strong pace so I think she was still going well but she’s probably only been up that late a couple of times in her life, so keeping on going and finishing at 2-3am, would be a bit risky. Also I’d been with her from the start so wouldn’t have been much better cause I haven’t been running much lately! Maybe if we had someone fresh join in then they could have helped get her through. But in the end when we explained our concerns Zara was totally in agreement. And she was just so tired that she didn’t think she could keep going for another 15km.Screenshot 2016-02-26 17.05.09

What do you as both a parent, and runner, take away from her attempt?

I think this emphasised to us how determined and gutsy Zara is. We are so proud that she set a goal and worked towards it and then had a bloody good crack at nailing it. This shows focus, determination and some maturity above her age.

As a runner it is completely inspiring. Watching any runner battle their way through an ultra is exciting and emotional, but watching a 12 year old do it is something else altogether. It really puts all our little grizzles and worries in perspective.

To you Zara, what made you want to take on the Hillary?

I watched Dad do it heaps of times which made me want to try it. I also thought it would be a great way to explore the Waitakere Ranges, which are right beside where we live.Screenshot 2016-02-26 17.04.27

Did you have a strategy to convince your parents if they said no?

Ask again. And again. And again. And again. I also wrote them a letter explaining all the reasons why I should be allowed to do it. And I wrote a plan for doing long runs in preparation to show them I knew it would be hard work getting ready for it.

Why do you think they said yes?

Because they believed I could do it and they wanted me to try. And maybe because they got annoyed with me asking.

What are your thoughts on ‘under agers’ taking on what some would say is an extreme challenge?

Lots of people think that because we are young, we can’t do things but actually we can. People should recognise that. I think race directors should let people under 16 enter big runs. As long as young people understand what is involved and can prepare well and be supported by adults they really can do big challenges.Screenshot 2016-02-26 17.05.18

Why running, why long distances and trail, and why the Hillary in particular?

Running because it is awesome. My body just loves running. Long distance because it is awesome and more fun. Trail because it is so interesting and challenging. And The Hillary because Dad and other people have always spoken about how amazing it is – it is kind of a big part of our family’s lives and I just wanted to go and see what it was like.

We’re old, our bodies hurt ridiculously so doing this stuff, and we can’t remember what it’s like to run like a kid…talk us through your journey? What was it like physically and mentally?

It didn’t really hurt physically but it was extremely tiring. I was sleepy-tired, very long day-tired and every muscle in my body exhausted-tired. My body didn’t get aches or pains or niggles, it just got tired. My tummy struggled from my bedtime onwards.

Mentally it was not so hard until it got dark and I should have been in bed. Then my head started spinning into “why am I doing this?”, “this is such a stupid idea”, “why did I think this would be a good thing to do?”, “I’m so tired” – round and around and around. I think I just needed to go to bed. I did stay up later doing the run than I have pretty much ever stayed up.

Do you still run without thinking, like we all do when we are young, or have you already starting to think about the things like technique?

I’ve kind of had to start thinking about technique because in my Rhythmic Gymnastics training my feet started to get turned out which gave me knee issues running. So I’ve started to think about how my feet land and stuff. Also my mum always goes on to me about using my core to run, especially on up or down hills and when I’m tired so I’m aware of that. Plus I needed to learn how to manage my food and water to get through.Screenshot 2016-02-26 17.04.51

What was the high point of the run?

Getting into Karekare to see Mum’s aid station. I had been struggling a little on the sand dunes and beach and seeing that gave me a massive boost and I couldn’t wait to get going again.

Aside from pulling, what was the lowest point?

Pulling wasn’t really a low point because it felt right. Kuataika track was the low point. I hate that track!

How did you feel as it approached the time to call it a day?

Extremely tired. I was quite upset not because I thought I might pull out but just because of how tired I was. It was a really dark night so I think everything felt like it took ages to get through.

At the same time I knew I had done as much as I could and that the distance I had come was a great achievement so I was already feeling really proud of myself. My feet were wet. That was annoying me, too.Screenshot 2016-02-26 17.05.02

In retrospect, what will you take away from your attempt?

My parents really believed in me to let me attempt this run and that has helped me believe in myself. I know now how determined I can be and that I have persistence. I have learnt that you need so much preparation for a challenge like this. But I know I can do it. I’ve already decided I will try again in a few years.


  1. Runner you take inspiration from and why?

SHAUN: Now…it’s Zara! No, really I don’t have a named runner I look at or think about as my inspiration. My inspiration is doing stuff to challenge myself and I get inspiration from watching others succeed at a challenge they have set. It’s partly why I organise events to see people you think wouldn’t be able to do a run, complete it and love it!
ZARA: Claire and Ashley Thomson because they did the full Hillary Trail when they were 13 and a half years old.

  1. Other than the Hillary, long distance trail you most want to run?

SHAUN: The Barkley Marathon
ZARA: The Last Desert Ultra Marathon

  1. What food do you crave on long runs?

SHAUN: fruit, a good burger
ZARA: baby food

  1. Best runner in your family?

SHAUN: Me of course!

  1. Song or artist you would listen to or sing along to in your head to get through the hard times?

SHAUN: I don’t use music in these longer runs. I really should try one day though!
ZARA: Really upbeat songs like Meghan Trainor, Little Mix, The Script, Katy Perry. Songs like that. And Eye Of The Tiger.

 The Hillary is an epic ultra trail run along the Hillary Track, put on by Shaun’s event company, Lactic Turkey Events under the umbrella of the Skyrunning AU/NZ Series. http://thehillary.co.nz/wordpress/ 

Trail Run Mag Edition 18


Landscape_Saucony version

Battle to win first Aussie Vertical K

The overall winner of the inaugural Vertical K – Mt Donna Buang event at Warburton on Sunday 29 November was not a trail runner (unfortunately) but a cyclist, Cyrus Monk. Not for the weak hearted, this unique event pitched man and bike against one of the most notable climbs in Australia: Mt Donna Buang.Ralph_Street_first_runner

Cyrus Monk, who rides for the African Wildlife Safaris Team, had a real challenge on his hands in this new style of event that encapsulates the true essence of the word ‘tough’. The battle was on from the outset with the trail runners and cyclists lining up side by side at the start line in Warburton, eyeing off the competition. Then the race was on!

The cyclists were lulled into a false sense of ease as they got up to speed with 800m of flat riding before ‘The Donna’ climb started in earnest. The road then kicked up to a moderate 5% gradient as it climbed through the magnificent temperate rainforest and the fog.

Overall, the cyclists had to ascend 1,077m throughout their tough 17.8km race, over an average gradient of 6.4% that proved extremely testing for many.

Cyrus Monk and second placed cyclist Tim Beardall had a tight race until the final climb where Monk managed to pull away from him to finish just 4 seconds ahead, in a time of 48mins,27sec.

“The idea was to go hard from the start so nobody could hold on but Tim was right there the whole way so I was starting to doubt myself towards the end,” said overall winner Cyrus Monk.

“Then when I saw the 1km-to-go sign I just thought “I’ve got to go for it” but in the fog it felt like that finish line was never going to come, it was a huge relief to come over the line first. Tim was a really tough one to beat but that just made it more fun,” he said.

In the women’s field, Georgina Beech from Beaconsfield finished nearly 4 minutes ahead of the next cyclist Kate Scarlett however the top 2 female runners (Judith May and Lucy Bartholomew) finished between them.

The trail runners also had a nice warm up for the race, starting out with 1.5km of flat trail along the river before cruelly being turned onto Martyr Road. This is known to be one of Australia’s steepest residential streets with an average gradient of 20% and 31% on the steepest stretch. Ouch!

Overall, the runners climbed a 1,098m vertical ascent over just 8km, in what was Australia’s first sanctioned Vertical Kilometre SkyRace.Cyslists_v_Trail_Runners

The runners also had a tight race as Ralph Street from the UK and Ben Duffus from QLD battled it out over most of race until Street found some extra oomph in the final 600m, finishing 46 seconds ahead in a time of 53mins,23sec.

“It was absolutely fantastic. I thought the course was marvellous and lovely and green, it was really good,” said Ralph Street, winning runner and seventh overall.

“I was running with Ben (Duffus) most of the way. He got a gap on me in the steep stuff and then I got ahead in the run-able section. Then I saw a sign saying 600m to the top and I thought “I’d better give it a go”.  It was a really good day, thank you to all the sponsors and the organisers and to everyone for coming and competing,” he said.

International skyrunner Ben Duffus finished second in the run and eighth overall.

“He (Ralph Street) was too strong in that run-able section towards the finish. It was just heartbreaking to watch him pull away from me but a well-deserved win to Ralph, it was a great run,” said Ben Duffus.

“It’s quite a narrow single track with the trees right amongst you so it’s quite different to the races I’ve done in Europe where you run well above the tree line, it was probably more technical today,” he said.

In the women’s field, Judith May – a former Australian Mountain Running Champion – got the better of Melbourne-based international trail runner Lucy Bartholomew, beating her by just 34 seconds.

“It was pretty tough. I knew it was going to be steep but it was harder than I thought it was going to be, I haven’t run this type of hill for a long time. I assumed we were going to be beaten by the cyclists but it wasn’t by much, it was good fun,” said Judith May, winning female runner and second female finisher overall.

“It was hard but I loved it. The course is really unique with such a long single track climb and being so steep. I ran probably 70% of it but in some sections it was actually faster to walk. It was awesome,” said Lucy Bartholomew, second female runner and third female finisher overall.

A critical junction in the race was when the trail runners joined the cyclists for an 800m stretch along the road at the 13.5km point in the cycle climb and just after the 5.6km point in the run course. This allowed competitors to gauge how they were sitting in the field before the final push to the summit.

In the final section to the summit the road kicked up to a 10% gradient to really push the cyclists through to the finish and similarly, the runners had to really put their heads down for a final 1.2km push.

“It was as good as I expected; it was phenomenal. It was probably one of the toughest runs I have done and I was actually surprised that we finished so close to the cyclists, I thought they would have been light years ahead of us as parts of the course just weren’t even run-able. It was a great event and clearly everyone has really enjoyed it,” said Cheryl Martin, third female runner.



Overall male winner:          Cyrus Monk, Cyclist 00:48:27
Overall female winner:      Georgina Beech, Cyclist 1:07:02

Top 3 Cyclists:


  1. Cyrus Monk 00:48:27
  2. Tim Beardall 00:48:31
  3. Adrian McGregor 00:51:03


  1. Georgina Beech 1:07:02
  2. Kate Scarlett 1:10:50
  3. Nonie Carr 1:10:59 

Top 3 Trail Runners:


  1. Ralph Street 00:53:23
  2. Ben Duffus 00:54:09
  3. Peter Bray 00:55:29


  1. Judith May 1:09:57
  2. Lucy Bartholomew 1:10:31
  3. Cheryl Martin 1:11:18

Check out the full results from the Vertical K Mt Donna Buang here: Vertical K Result

For more information visit www.VERTICALK.com.au


Blue Sky Dreams – History of Skyrunning

Skyrunning has firmly embedded itself into the Australian and New Zealand trail scene via events such as the Hillary and Mt Difficulty in New Zealand and Buller, Buffalo and the new Vertical K happening next weekend in Australia. While these races do an admirable job emulating their bigger-mountain cousins in the northern hemisphere, the epitome – not to mention the origins – of Skyrunning is found in Italy and within the hearts and minds of founders, Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti.

With the inaugural Vertical K happening locally (Victoria, Australia) in just over a week’s time, we present Talk Ultra’s Ian Corless who catches up with Skyrunning’s godparents on home turf. 

Words and images: Ian Corless / Talk Ultra

NOTE: this is an extended excerpt from Edition #18 of Trail Run Mag. For the full article download the edition for FREE at www.trailrunmag.com/magazines.

Biella, Italy.

A trickle of piano noise from the local music school weaves its way through open window shutters left ajar to allow some breeze, the heat of the day can be stifling. It feels and sounds like a scene in a movie. Cobbled streets, stone arches, a wonderful old square, the chatter of children playing and the smell of freshly brewed cappuccino in the air.

Biella, or should I say, the International Skyrunning Federation HQ (and home of Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti) is atop a hill in a walled village close to the Aosta valley, just over an hour from Chamonix and in close proximity to Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn. It seems the perfect location for the home of pure mountain running. Biella lies in the foothills of the Alps in the Bo mountain range near Mt. Mucrone and Camino.


IMAGE: Ian Corless / Talk Ultra

“We moved here as the sports brand Fila were based here. In the 90’s they were a key sponsor for Skyrunning,” says Lauri van Houten, Executive Director for the International Skyrunning Federation.

“When Fila folded, we were left with a dilemma; should we stay or should we go? Stay we did and it feels natural and relaxed to be here now.”

 Mountains dominate the life of Marino and Lauri. It’s not a job; it’s a passion that dominates 12+ hours of every day. You will see the dynamic duo at all the Skyrunner World Series races every year. In total, that is 15 events in 3 disciplines, VK (Vertical Kilometre), Sky and Ultra. But these worldwide events are just the visible face of what the ISF does. Behind the scenes it’s a frenetic, highly-pressured stream of telephone calls, emails, logistical planning and negotiations that make the Skyrunner World Series tick.

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IMAGE: Ian Corless / Talk Ultra

It’s a scenario far removed from 1989 when Giacometti set a record running from the village of Alagna to the summit of Monte Rosa. 25-years of mountain running and today, iconic names such as Bruno Brunod and Fabio Meraldi are once again being talked about in the same breath as Kilian Jornet.

“Older generations were already Skyrunners. My grandfather crossed the mountains working, for example. ‘We’ as Skyrunners added more speed but in essence it has always been the same thing, Skyrunners have always existed.” Bruno Brunod says.

“What I liked was going quickly to the summit. I felt the same when I was a kid in the pastures, I always ran up and down the summits that surrounded me. It is something I felt inside, something I liked.”

In 2012, Skyrunning went through a revival. After careful and strategic planning, the ISF launched the new Sky Ultra Marathon Series with Transvulcania La Palma and a seminar, ‘Less Cloud, More Sky.’ The sport moved up a notch and became something that runners all over the world aspired to. It’s was dubbed the ‘the next big thing’ but as Giacometti explains, “there is nothing new in Skyrunning. It is just now that everyone is catching up with our vision from so many years ago.”

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IMAGE: Ian Corless / Talk Ultra

Midway through the 2014 season, between Ice Trail Tarentaise and Trofeo Kima, I spend time with Lauri and Marino at their home in the mountains (the Casina) Corteno Golgi to get an inside look at what makes this couple tick and how the calendar and its logistics fall into place.

‘Casina’, Corteno Golgi. Italy.

The ‘Casina’ is a mountain house in Corteno Golgi close to Marino’s birthplace of San Antonio. Spread over two floors it is almost two completely different buildings. Upstairs is all wood, a combination of rustic/ modern and a wonderfully relaxing place that has been heavily influenced by Lauri. Downstairs is the original building, un-touched for years and one that harks back to Marino’s past. The garage is a Skyrunning museum of ice axes, helmets, shoes, race bibs, clothing, videos and old slides.

Surrounded by green fields and mountains on either side I suddenly see Marino in a new light. He is at home. He points at peaks and explains his childhood, his passions and I suddenly feel very honoured and privileged.


IMAGE: Ian Corless / Talk Ultra

The African Attachment (TAA) arrive tomorrow and you are going to be able to spend a couple of days in the mountains with Marino,” says Lauri.

“They are filming a piece on Skyrunning and they want to take Marino back to his childhood, revisit old haunts and film Marino running in the mountains.”

I met Dean Leslie and Greg Fell from The African Attachment at Transvulcania La Palma back in 2012 and since then we have kept in-touch and often crossed paths at races all over the world. I am excited at the guys arriving and the opportunity to work alongside them and shoot stills, a real perk of the job. Photographer, Kelvin Trautman is directing the film and although I haven’t met him before, we soon hit it off and I realise what is in store: two awesome days in the mountains.

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IMAGE: Ian Corless / Talk Ultra

The evening turns amazing. The sky is adorned with clouds and as we climb with cameras, Marino runs to the instructions of Kelvin. Looking for ridges and technical lines, Marino embraces the challenge and is arguably having the most fun he has had in ages. Days don’t get much better than this… at the summit of Monte Padrio the light is incredible and as the sun disappears for the day we are rewarded with a colour palette of orange, red and gold. Marino is in silhouette on the Skyline and I realise I am in a moment, a moment that I won’t ever forget.

The following day starts early with a short drive and we are suddenly looking at Marino’s childhood home. Marino laughs as he recounts boyhood memories.

“I used to go mushroom picking in this area.”

Following him up the trail, Kelvin wants Marino to go back 50-years to those mischievous days as a boy. Immediately Marino finds a mushroom, he removes his Buff and ties a knot in one end to create a cloth bag. Moving left to right on the trail, the bag slowly fills with the rewards from the land.

“In the Valle Campo Vecchio I would go skinny dipping in the river.”


IMAGE: Ian Corless / Talk Ultra

Marino may well have regretted this sentence as just an hour later he was running along grass banks barefoot and then submerging himself in the ice cold river water from the mountains.

The warmth of the log burner in the Casina provided that ultimate feeling of contentment that one longs for after a day in the mountains. Marino’s body was aching, his legs heavy from the repeated running but beneath a tired façade I knew he had had a good day.

“We have plans for some very exciting races at high altitude that will be very technical in future years. 2012 was an important stepping-stone. Less Cloud. More Sky was an important phase in the development of Skyrunning. One thing that was apparent is the desire from runners for technical and high altitude sport. So, here we are following our heritage for a new era.”

I wondered: was it a happy coincidence that the revival of Skyrunning coincided with the rise of Kilian Jornet?

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IMAGE: Ian Corless / Talk Ultra

“It is no coincidence!” says Lauri. “Bruno Brunod was Kilian’s hero. Kilian followed his dreams from the inspiration Bruno provided, Kilian is now the epitome of Skyrunning.”

Kilian first arrived on the scene in 2006 and impressed immediately. He was a natural Skyrunner. As the profile of Kilian has grown, so has Skyrunning. It seems a natural process of evolution of the sport and to that end Marino confirmed his plans for the future.

“We need to expand, to grow and introduce Skyrunning to a new audience. We will go back to our roots moving forward. We would love to do a race from Cervinia or Chamonix to the summit of Mont-Blanc but this is not for everyone!”

As the day comes to an end, final preparations are made for Trofeo Kima. Kima, as it is affectionately known, is a shining beacon that personifies Skyrunning.

…continued. READ THE FULL ARTICLE by downloading you free edition (18) of Trail Run Mag at www.trailrunmag.com/magazines.


IMAGE: Ian Corless / Talk Ultra


Trail Run Mag Edition 18


Larapinta strip


Skyrunning for Australia: the Stampede

You’ve all seen the term bandied about: Skyrunning. And you’ve seen the world’s best smash themselves up the steepest of steep mountains, towards said sky, with pained expressions on their face. That’s because the courses are usually brutal in their ‘up-ness’. Now, Australia has its very own Skyrunning challenge with the launch of the new Buffalo Stampede, an outing that also represents a foundation stone in the planned Australia-New Zealand Skyrunning series.

Buffalo Blue 02Featuring a 75km Ultra SkyMarathon and a 41.4km SkyMarathon, The Stampede will take place on Victoria’s Mount Buffalo, at the gateway to the state’s high country. Hopes are that it will join the hallowed ranks of other Skyrunning World Series events the likes of Mont Blanc Marathon in France, Speedgoat 50 in the USA and the Mount Elbrus Vertical Kilometre in Russia.

Skyrunning as a recognised discipline traces its roots back to Italian mountaineer Marino Giacometti and fellow enthusiasts who started pioneering races and records on famous European peaks like Mont Blanc in the 1990s.

Buffalo Green  06“[It’s] the purest form of mountain running … getting to the top of a mountain and back down again as quickly as possible,” says newly anointed President of Skyrunning Australia/NZ, Marcus Warner. “It’s the athlete versus the mountain. It’s not for the faint‐hearted. It’s definitely a significant challenge and the athlete needs to know what they are doing.’’

“Nearly 5000m [of elevation gain] over 75km is up there with some of the best races in the world. [Elite overseas runners] are going to go away pretty sore and pretty beat up from this race.’’

So, too, will Regular Joe runners, it’s assumed. Which is exactly the attraction, isn’t it?

The Buffalo Stampede is expected to attract a bumper field of talented local and overseas runners and will, says Warner, finally “put Australia on the map’’ of Skyrunning because it will finally convince overseas runners that Australia possesses the terrain to stage a serious mountain running challenge.

Buffalo Green  02“Elevation is really what drives the difficulty of it. [The organisers] have really sought out the most extreme mountain in Australia that really embodies Skyrunning because of how steep it is.

The Buffalo Stampede has been organised by Sean Greenhill from Mountain Sports.

A passionate trail runner himself, Greenhill already stages popular trail running events like the Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon and the Sydney Trailrunning Series. He chose Mount Buffalo National Park in Victoria as the venue for the Buffalo Stampede Ultra SkyMarathon (75km) and Buffalo Stampede
SkyMarathon (41.4km) because it is one of the few areas in Australia where he could satisfy the exacting Skyrunning rules about vertical gain.

Buffalo-Blue-01No other runs in Australia over similar distances will have as much climbing as the Buffalo Stampede Ultra SkyMarathon (4545m) and the Buffalo Stampede SkyMarathon (2924m).

“I can’t think of a marathon in Australia that comes within 500m of gain of the Mount Buffalo SkyMarathon,’’ Greenhill says. “They are, in terms of elevation gain over distance, the most difficult events of their kind in Australia.’’

And because it is the eroded magma chamber of an extinct volcano, Mount Buffalo boasts a spectacular granite terrain like no other peak in the Snowy Mountains. [Trail Run Mag can attest to the striking landscapes of Buffalo as a unique trail playground – on a recent outing to audit and rate trails across seven alpine peaks, we came away feeling Buffalo had that extra dose of trail magic that made it really stand out in terms of pure enjoyment of terrain – the chamber run through a huge rock slot the stand out feature, and apparently included on the Skyrun course].

Greenhill also chose Mount Buffalo because it allows him to start the Buffalo Stampede events in the beautiful town of Bright, which he loves for its alpine scenery, fine food, local produce, boutique beer and outdoor sports culture. [Trail Run Mag again attests to the beer in Bright – that was the nightly ‘audit’!].

Buffalo Blue 04Clayton Neil, the manager for economic development with Bright’s Alpine Shire Council, said: “We see the Buffalo Stampede as a really strong addition to our events calendar that really aligns with where we are heading. It embraces being active in nature and living life outside. Bright has always been a popular place for people who love the outdoors and this event takes that to another level.’’

Although the Buffalo Stampede races will be among Australia’s toughest, they are open to entry from anyone, with no qualifying needed.

Up for grabs in the Buffalo Stampede are tickets to the 2014 Skyrunning World Championships to be held next June in the famed French alpine resort of Chamonix, at the foot of Mont Blanc.

A three‐day Buffalo Stampede training camp based in Bright will be hosted by top Australian trail runners Brendan Davies and Hanny Allston from January 17 to 19.

Davies raced in the Skyrunning Mont Blanc Marathon this year and will be competing in the Buffalo Stampede Ultra SkyMarathon in April in the hope of winning a ticket back to the slopes of Mont Blanc for the Skyrunning World Championships.

“The Skyrunning label brings with it a lot of credibility,” said Davies. “It puts [Australia] on the world map as a destination for the world’s elite trail runners. For Australian runners, it gives us the capacity to dip our feet into the Skyrunning series without having to travel overseas. It’s just a plus for the sport. I see it as a real positive for everyone. I’m going to be going all out for that race.’’

Buffalo Stampede
5-6 April 2014