New Ultra Trail Promises Monster Run

Come April 2017, endurance ultra running and adventure enthusiasts will be introduced to one of the greatest physical and mental challenges ever held on Australian soil.

Nicknamed ‘The Monster’ by its creators, the Down Under 135 (DU135) requires athletes to cover 135 miles (217km) on trails stretching through Victoria’s spectacular Lerderderg and Wombat State Forests in what will be Australia’s longest single stage trail race held over 48 hours.

The out-and-back course begins at Bacchus Marsh, located only 40km west of Melbourne and not far from the international airport making it a prime target for international masochists seeking their next 135-miler challenge (of which there are only few marquee events dotted across the globe).

The foursome behind DU135 aren’t pulling any punches predicting their course will easily be graded as the toughest on the endurance event calendar with an ascent (and descent) profile that goads potential participants with the very notion of what is possible in ultra trail running. This, on a course that against the grain for big ascent trail run events, does not have a ‘hero mountain’ at it core.

“But the first 50km alone has 3000m of vertical gain,” says organiser, Dale Chircop. “And then you still have another 167km to go and somewhere in the vicinity of another 5000m of ascent. The mental challenge for athletes will be knowing that every downhill that smashes their quads on the way out, they will have to run back up on the return leg. That’s a tough mental proposition.”

Created as a labor of love by four passionate trail and ultra runners local to the region, the grassroots event is seeking to make its mark in its first outing with organisers fully expecting a high attrition rate from the likely small but bloody-minded inaugural entry field.

Says Chircop: “We know what reputation we’d like to see evolve but we’ll see what athletes report back as they tackle our monster.”

It is a reputation the quartet is hoping will spark the interest of international ultra athletes in years to come, in a similar way the Barkley Marathons in the United States remains a grassroots event that sits on the top of the bucket list for all miler-plus endurance runners.

Organisers admit, however, that while they are honoured to already be attracting some of the big names in extreme ultras, they are always equally love enticing the Unknown Joe who nobody knows but comes along and grinds out an event like theirs to finish where others fail.

“The feedback to the concept to date has been great,” says co-organiser Dion Milne. “We know of some who are already eyeing it off for their 2018 calendar. We also know there’ll be sceptics when it comes to a distance like this over terrain like this, but the overwhelming response has been encouraging. Sometimes you’ve just got go for it to create a dream and we are!” says Dion.

As if running 135 miles isn’t enough as a runner with support crew, the DU135 is allowing those suitably qualified to attempt this monsterous challenge solo and unassisted. This was brought about through discussions with race ambassador, the Tattoo Runner Mat Grills, from Queensland, who believed there is enough suitably qualified athletes such a solo challenge would appeal to.

Crewed runners will be accessible across most of the course excluding sections of the Lerderderg Gorge. Aid stations for all runners will be set up across the course with food, water and sleeping quarters for those who want to grab a quick kip and recharge the batteries.

Says co-organiser, Anthony Beyer: “The little details are important to a runner so we’ll have a good crew of friends, family and volunteers from our local running groups, the Surf Coast Trail Runners and Melton City Runners, to assist in a variety of roles on course. We want it to have a very strong community vibe, because that’s where the idea and now the event itself sprang from – mates out on trails dreaming up big, fantastical ideas. Or monstrous ideas, in this case,” he smiles.

“Our inspiration has been one of a real passion for the area coupled along with the fact there seems to be 100km and 100mile races popping up every second weekend. We wanted to go the next step. We also see our friends put their names into lotteries for 100 mile races in the USA or Europe and either not get their name pulled out or its not financially viable to get to them. So we wanted to present another option to the ultra running community – something closer to home and indeed, longer in distance to match the famous 135 mile races abroad, being the Badwater, Arrowhead and Brazil events at this distance.

It is not too late to enter the Down Under 135 so if you are looking for your next challenge and want to check out what the DU lads have served up, check out


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Surf Coast looks to trail run century

Over two thousand runners are making the journey to Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road this weekend (3-4 September) for a true trail running festival weekend.

The Surf Coast Century is one of Australia’s iconic ultra marathons featuring 100km solo, 50km solo and 100km relay team events, as well as incorporating the Australian 100km Trail Running Championships. Surf Coast Century - By Matt Hull-30

The action begins on Friday night with the fun 2km Kids Run, continues with the Surf Coast Century on Saturday, starting and finishing at Anglesea, Victoria, and culminates on Sunday with the fourth race of the HOKA ONE ONE Trail Running Series.

This is the fifth year of the Surf Coast Century which has built a reputation as one of Australia’s must-do trail running events.

Defending champion and two time winner of the Surf Coast Century Kellie Emmerson from Melbourne who claimed the prestigious National Title last year in a record-breaking performance of 9hrs, 18min said she was very much looking forward to getting down to the Surf Coast for the event.

“Running the Surf Coast Century over the past two years I’ve learned a lot about myself and my training. After conquering 100km, my perspective changed forever.  I can’t wait to bring some more knowledge back this year,” Emmerson said.Surf Coast Century - By Matt Hull - high resolution-198

“I spent my childhood holidays on the Surf Coast so I kind of feel like it is my home turf. I’m so excited to be coming back to defend my title! This is one of my favourite races, bringing together my love of the beach and the bush.

“I love the beauty of the trails and the challenge of the distance, and even more importantly, the community.”

Runners are travelling from around Australia and increasingly overseas to experience the spectacular landscape the region has to offer and for the ultimate satisfaction of completing such an event.

Leading the field in the men’s event will be 2013 champion Ben Duffus from Brisbane, 2015 runner-up Ross Hopkins (Mansfield), and New Caledonia’s Oswald Cochereau. Daniel Borquez Bastias of Chile who is currently travelling in Australia will also pose a challenge at the pointy end of the field.

“I’ve never been to the Surf Coast but I’ve heard it’s a beautiful place, so I am excited to get to know it,” Bastias said.

“I’ve heard a lot about the Surf Coast Century, it’s a classic here in Australia. Mt Buller

“I try to position myself within the top ten, then amid the race I start passing competitors, since being in the top three is a tremendous pressure, I always leave this for the final stage.

“I am feeling good, relaxed, I’ve been working on physical strength and I have been training a lot in the Blue Mountains.”

Bastias is hoping to compete in as many races as possible in the world, including the Surf Coast Century, Ultra Trail, Mt Buffalo and races in Nepal and Tarawera.

“There are many top end competitions in Australia and I want to be in all of them. I’ve been traveling solo for many years and I like it; going to different races is a good way to meet people with the same interests and passion as me.”Surf Coast Century - By Matt Hull - high resolution-135

The Surf Coast Century is considered to be an ideal event for those tackling their first ultra marathon. The course is challenging yet achievable, event logistics are easy and the event vibe is very supportive.

The course design is a figure eight with Anglesea being the start, half way point, finish and the event hub. This enables great spectator access the whole way around which lends itself to a really supportive event atmosphere.

There is no other 100km course like it in the world; located on Victoria’s beautiful Surf Coast and Great Ocean Road region, the scenery is second-to-none. From towering sea cliffs to amazing tree ferns, competitors will run past lighthouses, waterfalls, scenic lookouts, famous surf beaches, remote wilderness and almost everything in between.Ellie_Emmerson

Those who compete in the HOKA ONE ONE Trail Running Series also get a taste of what the coast has to offer as they run across 7km, 15km and 23km of trails in Race 4.

Each of the five events in The Series include short, medium and long course races offering plenty of carefree, smile-inducing running through some magnificent natural landscapes all within an hour drive of Melbourne.

To find out more about the events visit and


  • When: – Friday 2nd September 2016 (Kids Run)
    – Saturday 3rd September (Surf Coast Century 50km and 100km)
    – Sunday 4th September (HOKA ONE ONE Trail Running Series Race 4)
  • Where: Start/Finish in Anglesea, Victoria – Great Ocean Road. Event Expo: Anglesea Riverbank Park
  • What: 8km, 15km & 23km trail runs, 100km and 50km ultra trail runs
  • How: Do the 100km or 50km solo; or the 100km in a Relay Team of 2 or 4 people.
  • Who: Elite runners from Australia and overseas, through to those tackling their first ultra marathon, groups of friends and corporate groups – all welcome.
  • Entries: Online at until 8am Wednesday 31st August. Online entries have closed for the Surf Coast Century (on-the-day entries available for all events).


Screenshot 2016-08-30 11.11.35

Review: new Suunto Spartan Ultra

When it comes to gear releases, trail running has come a long way – the anticipation surrounding the new Suunto Spartan Ultra GPS watch has been speculatively spectacular. The murmurs. The guesses. The pre-judgements. It’s the trail equivalent to the release of a new Apple Mac. The trainspotters and tech geeks go a bit manic. They wee themselves a little. Luckily we have access to our own ‘Q’ (hello Bond fans) when it comes to inspecting the intricacies of space-aged boxes that can tell you a whole lot more than just how fast and high you run, at what rate, how hot it is, what your heart is doing, is your pace okay, how’s your power output doing, oh and there’s a message from your mum – will you be home for dinner? Yep, a watch ain’t a watch no more. It’s its own life force threatening you with near-AI. And the goal posts just shifted again with the Spartan… here’s the inside line on what to expect when your order does through, courtesy of Paul Day. Trail runner. Statistician. Data Guru. Tech Jedi. He got down and dirty with a pre-release Suunto Spartan Ultra. This is what he found. 


As Beta Tester for Suunto, I have the fun job of testing out the majority of new hardware, firmware and software Suunto release before it gets pushed out into the public. This means I get a product while it still has a few rough edges and I then put it through its paces to report back any bugs, issues, unexpected behaviour or even just things I don’t like. I’m a rather particular guy and I don’t like it when a piece of technology is not working as it should!

Not surprisingly, the last few weeks have been spent in a serious relationship with the new Spartan Ultra Black HR – Suunto’s next major release that went on sale globally on the 15th August. And I’ve agreed to give you all a bit of a preview of this new beast. This isn’t designed to be an exhaustive review – I don’t think I’ve spent enough time with the watch to deliver that.

Despite being a tester for Suunto, I’m not under any obligation to say nice things about them. That said, I’m obviously a bit of a fan of their gear so feel free to consume a small pinch of salt before proceeding!

Most of my testing of the Spartan Ultra was done with an Ambit2 on my right wrist. If I’m such a Suunto nerd, why the old Ambit2? Because the Ambit2 is still a very capable watch and this way I only need to wear one heart-rate strap: the dual BLE/ANT+ Stryd power meter which will talk to both my Ambit2 (ANT+) and a more modern BLE watch like the Spartan Ultra.

Release Timeline

While the public release occurs mid-August, this is really only the start for this watch. Suunto have a solid track record for continuing to supply firmware updates long after a watch’s release and the Spartan is looking to be no different (if anything it’ll be more so). Even the old Ambit2 received an update in June 2016 – 15 months after being superseded by the Ambit3.

Suunto has already released details on a number of new features for the watch that are planned for release in late September including new planning tools and personal bests and there’s plenty more in the pipeline.Mt Buller

The watch I’ve been testing is prototype hardware (almost identical to what’s now going out), has been running pre-release versions of the firmware and is connected to a test instance of Movescount via a pre-release instances of the new SuuntoLink and Android Movescount applications. Long of the short, that means I am dealing with bugs and some missing features – the exact reason I’ve been given the watch! By the time you’re reading this, some of what I’m writing about will already be out-of-date, updated or have had more features added.

Additionally, I’ve only been using the watch for a few weeks now and I really don’t feel that does it justice. There’s plenty I just haven’t had a chance to touch and plenty that I’ve drawn some initial conclusions about but need more time to test exhaustively.


Let’s get physical and yep, it’s gone – the bump is gone.

Personally I don’t mind the GPS antenna bump that sticks out of the Ambit line of watches – I’m out on the trail to get dirty, not win a fashion award. Maybe it’s also the nerd in me that appreciates it for what it is: a mighty fine GPS antenna! More on that later.

That said, I personally think the Spartan is a big improvement in the “good looks” department when it comes to wearing the watch day-to-day. Heading out the door with the wife to a show the other day she asked “are you going to wear your new dress Suunto?”. I think it’s a strong competitor against the better looking Smart Watches now on the market and the suave looks of the Garmin Fenix 3.

Not having a large manly wrist, I was a little worried that the wider bezel (and screen) would result in a watch that’s spilling over my wrist, but it actually fits surprisingly well – better than the smaller Ambit3 Peak. The weight is also quite light at only 73g. Compared to the Ambit3 Sport (80g), the standard Ambit3 Peak (86g) and the Ambit2 (~89g), it’s noticeably lighter on my wrist. It’s also marginally thinner than the Ambit3 Peak it’s designed to replace.

Here’s a few pictures of how it sits on my wrist compared to an Ambit3 Peak (Nepal Edition – same size as the standard Peak, different bezel):

Combined views

LEFT: Spartan Ultra vs RIGHT Ambit3 Peak NE


Another concern area I had was around the new display. I’m not even a fan of the negative display (ie, black background) you can set the Ambit’s LCD screen to because I find the positive display far easier to read when running. I also find my OLED mobile phone screen is sometimes difficult to read in strong sunlight or flat overcast light even with the backlight is on 100%. How will I be able to read a colour LCD screen with the backlight on or off while running?

Surprisingly, quite easily. The reflective colour LCD is easier to read than I was expecting. With the backlight off you do definitely lose some of the colours’ vibrancy, but when out running the display is quite readable – even the new seven-metrics-on-one-screen. With the backlight on (which happens automatically whenever you interact with the watch – although that can be disabled), the colours look similar to an average mobile phone’s OLED display.

I’m not going to try and do the screen shots justice when Suunto themselves have already done a far better job than I’ll ever be able to, so I’ll simply link to this page if you want a better idea of the screens and lay-out:






Images courtesy of Suunto. Source:

Likewise, I was suspicious how well the new touch screen would perform out in the field: sweat, rain and gloves. Like most modern mobile phones, the Spartan uses the more sensitive capacitive touch screen. My mobile phone’s touch screen gets rather confused when I simply breathe on it – let alone add sweat or rain. The screen simply has to be dry to work properly. The Spartan Ultra, on the other hand, works quite well with moisture. Condensation, drizzle, light rain and thin polypro gloves were all no problem for it. Heavy rain (ie, me testing it out directly under the shower head!) was a bit more of a struggle and operating it underwater was, not surprisingly, out.

Navigating using touch interface is quite simple and calibration of the finger movements and taps required is about right.

Should you not like the touch screen or be in a situation where it doesn’t work well (heavy rain or big fat ski gloves), the Spartan does still have three physical buttons on the right hand side of the watch which can be used to navigate all the same functions that you can access with the touch screen. Even compared to some of my newer Suunto watches that aren’t yet full of sweat and sunscreen, the buttons feel very nice – easy to push, no stickiness and a nice positive rebound.


The user interface of the Ambit line has stayed roughly the same from the original Ambit right through the latest v2 firmware release of the Ambit3 series. Moving to the Spartan has not been the same as moving from the Ambit2 to the Ambit3. Suunto have completely re-designed the user interface from the ground up and comparing it to my Ambit3 is more like when I moved my old Nokia Symbian phone (remember those things?) to my first Sony Xperia Android phone.

It took a little while for me to give up on my pre-conceptions based on years of the Ambit but overall the interface is really quite straight-forward and very easy to navigate. The learning curve to get used to it was literally minutes.

After you’ve customised the watch display itself (you’re not stuck with just a digital display), you can navigate down to get to activity tracking, training and then recovery information. Navigate up and you get exercise, navigation, the logbook and settings. From each of these you can swipe right (or press the middle button) to enter them and interact.

The new interface includes adds an upgrade to activity monitoring. Personally this doesn’t tickle my fancy much – I’m more interested in my training – but a lot of users have been asking for it. There are now a screen dedicated to a 24/7 step counter, along with the same calorie monitoring you find in the Ambit3. A 7 day history screen is coming soon.

Sports mode displays have also been completely redesigned and you can have up to 7 metrics displayable at a time. I was worried this would be too difficult to read while running but it’s actually not too bad. If you find the touch screen is being activated while running (eg, from long sleeves) you can lock it by pressing and holding the bottom right button.

Companion applications

Not surprisingly, The Spartan is compatible with the iOS Movescount app at release and the updated Android app with Spartan compatibility is planned for release in late September. As I don’t own an iOS device and the Android app hasn’t been publicly released yet, I’m not going to go into too much into detail here.

Via the Movescount app the Spartan does display system notifications from the smart phone is much the same way as the Ambit3 series did. However, the larger screen and higher resolution does allow for more text to be displayed with is nice.


As with the Ambit3 series, most notifications are supported, including incoming calls.

The Moveslink2 PC and MacOSX application has been replaced with the new SuuntoLink application. Essentially it achieves the same functions: sync moves/settings/routes, GPS pre-caching and firmware updates. Unlike Moveslink2 it does, however, come with web proxy support which corporate users without direct Internet access should appreciate.


GPS Performance

So the first thing I’ll point out here is that the pre-release version of the firmware I’m running doesn’t have the Russian GLONASS system activated, despite the chip in the watch supporting it (SiRFstarV – same as the Ambit3). As with the Traverse and the Vertical, it’s likely this will be enabled in the watch shortly after release. It will improve accuracy a little further than what I’ve noted below, but the benefits are likely only marginal down here in Australia and New Zealand.

Firstly, the bump. The bump on the Ambit3 is a thing of beauty. It’s lovely. It sticks out there saying “I am an awesome! Challenge me with rain! Cloud cover! Thick undergrowth! I will smite them all!”. Ok, so maybe it doesn’t go quite that far but that stellar performance is because in that bump is a very sensitive ceramic patch antenna perfectly located to face up at the sky while sitting on top of one of the best consumer GPS chipsets available. For me, the Ambit3 is the gold standard for watch GPS measurements. But heck, don’t believe me – check out this extensive testing done by fellrnr:



GPS watch comparison by fellrnr. Source:

Some people have commented about the drop in GPS quality of the Ambit3 Vertical – myself included. The pace measurements on the road fluctuate more than the Peak and on the trail the post-processing done by the GPS tends to log points only every 3-4 seconds. On tight winding single track that can lead to corners being cut and distances being slightly under-measured. Additionally, the track does lose a little accuracy in tough conditions (eg, valleys with thick foliage under cloudy skies). Does that make the Vertical a bad GPS watch? No, it’s just not as good as the Ambit3 Peak – which is a very high standard to be held to. The Ambit2 (with the older SiRFstarIV chip) also logs points a little less frequently than the Ambit3, but it’s overall accuracy is still a little better.

It comes down to form over function. Sacrifice the bump to get a better looking watch and you’re sacrificing some GPS performance. There’s simply no avoiding it.

So, how does the Spartan and its no-bump antenna perform? Well, you’re probably spotting a trend here but… surprisingly well. Overall it’s considerably better than I expected given the new antenna, better than the Vertical and probably about on par with the Ambit3 Peak – perhaps a shade below it. It’s generally logging more points and they’re almost as precise as the Ambit3 Peak. Note that in the following pictures one watch was on my right and the other on my left wrist. This seems to create a few meters of offset between the tracks – so ignore that.

Here you can see the higher sampling rate of the Spartan over the Ambit2:

Ambit2 vs Spartan Ultra GPS track

Ambit2 vs Spartan Ultra GPS track

And here you can see where that highly sampling rate doesn’t lead to the same cut-corners as the Vertical:

Ambit3 Vertical vs Spartan Ultra GPS track

Ambit3 Vertical vs Spartan Ultra GPS track

But sorry Spartan, I’m not sure you can’t quite yet compare to the raw beauty of the Ambit3’s track:

Ambit3 vs Spartan Ultra GPS track

Ambit3 vs Spartan Ultra GPS track

The difference in the “smoothness” between the Ambit3 and the Spartan could simply be the software filtering (eg, applying stronger Kalman filtering across the data) rather than the GPS performance itself. It’s not necessarily an indication of one unit being more accurate or better than the other.

By using Suunto’s new heatmaps feature and the rule of averages, you can accurately estimate where a track is: the hottest part of the heat indicates where most people’s watches placed them, suggesting that’s the middle of the track. At the 70km Berry Long Run this past weekend the Spartan stuck to the centre of the heatmaps far better than my Ambit2.

Overall, I was really quite surprised at how well the GPS tracks were recorded.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had a chance to test the new power save 1 second mode and how its accuracy compares to the Ambit’s “good” 5 seconds mode. Feedback from one of the other testers was quite positive.

The Spartan’s distance measurements are pretty much spot-on with the Ambit3 Peak and Ambit2. I have all my watches set to auto-lap (and beep) every 1km and they will reliably beep within a few seconds of each other on anything under 30km – road and trail. At the 70km Berry Long Run trail race on the weekend the Spartan did slowly separate from my Ambit2 by a factor of 0.897%. Which one measured the more correct distance? Who knows! Given the Spartan’s better ability to track the centre of the heatmaps I’m going to award it the medal. I’ll wait for someone to successfully ride the course with a Jones-counter-fitted road bike to give me an IAAF approved course measurement to prove me wrong!

The Spartan’s pace measurements are also considerably better than what I experienced with the Vertical. Based on holding a steady power output on a flat road run I’d say perhaps not quite as good as the Ambit3 Peak – but very close and in need of further testing. Interestingly, the Spartan no longer rounds to the nearest 5s/km like the Ambit series: it gives you per second granularity. If you’re really after spot-on pace, get yourself a foot pod. Like the Ambit3, the Spartan allows you to pair a Bluetooth foot pod. I tested mine with the Adidas MiCoach SPEED_CELL – the same DynaStream foot pod that every company re-brands but with BLE rather than ANT+. People often dismiss foot pods as an inaccurate relic from the past. However, if you calibrate one properly on a typical run of decent length it will out-perform any current GPS watch when it comes to accurate pacing info. Again, don’t take my word for it: fellrnr still lists a calibrated foot pod as the most accurate.

So in conclusion, I was pleasantly surprised and really quite impressed with the Spartan Ultra’s GPS performance given the loss of the bump. It will be interesting to see how much of an improvement the addition of GLONASS and other future firmware tweaks makes to the Spartan Ultra. Perhaps it might completely out-perform the Ambit3, which would really impress me!


With the higher resolution of the screen and colour, navigation is a little easier to follow on the Spartan compared to the Ambits. A real-time bread-crumb trail is also recorded as you move which makes it easy to retrace your steps without having to go into the menu and create a “Track Back” route to replace your current route.


Typical navigation screen

One navigation feature that hasn’t yet been implemented in the current firmware is full way point support. Personally when creating a route I will create way points at intersections telling me which way to go. On the Ambit series this means as I approach the intersection my watch beeps and says “Approaching Left”. As I exit the intersection I get another beep and a dialog saying “Continue to Right”. Currently on the Spartan way points are simply displayed as flags on the map – no notification or dialog displaying the name.

Ascent and descent measurements on the Spartan Ultra are pretty much spot on and very closely match my Ambit3 Peak and Ambit2. As with distance measurements in trail running, it’s very hard to say which one is “right”. FusedAlti works well – after 7h19n on the run and a mild weather change, the Spartan said the finish line was 2m above what it did at the start. The Ambit2 said 10m. Use of a barometric altimeter is old hat for Suunto and even FusedAlti is well and truly tested having been introduced back in the v2.0 firmware of the Ambit2. Pretty much any of the Suunto models with a barometric sensor and FusedAlti is going to give you a very good result.

Battery Life

Ok, so this is one area I will admit I was little let down on (hey, I didn’t want this to be a complete puff piece!). That said, I’m not yet convinced it’s exactly as it appears – I need to do more testing.

When trail running I’ve found all of the Ambit series (other than the Vertical) get very close to their specified battery life on the best GPS setting (the main consumer of the battery). When taking the Ambit3 Vertical out on trail I did notice that despite having the same GPS chip, battery size and specified battery life (10 hours) as the Ambit3 Sport, I would only get a little over 9 hours when out on the trail. Given the only thing that changed significantly was the antenna, my suspicion is that with the slightly less sensitive antenna the GPS chip is working slightly harder to maintain a fix and is drawing slightly more from the battery in the challenging conditions of trail running – tight turns, foliage, hills and valleys blocking the view of the sky.

After Saturday’s Berry Long Run 70km, my Spartan Ultra went from 98% to 40% after 7h19m of running time with the GPS set to best/full power. That implies a total running time of 12.6h as opposed to the specified 18h. The other item to note here is GLONASS is not yet enabled which will likely utilise a little more battery life.

Now this could be a number of things. One suspicion is around the fact that I’ve noticed the battery depletion rate on road (less challenging conditions for the GPS) is much closer to the specified 18 hours. So this could simply be similar to what I noticed with the Vertical’s battery: trail running is more challenging for the GPS than road for the new bezel-mounted antenna and it depletes the battery faster. The other thought I had is that I’ve never run this new watch to empty (LiIon/Pol batteries prefer frequent short discharge/recharge cycles) and the percentage meter may not yet be calibrated properly between “full” (100%) and “cut-off voltage” (0%) to give an accurate linear drop over the full course of the battery life. And finally this move was made with a pre-release version of the firmware which I am aware had at least one potential minor power-hungry bug.

As mentioned above, I also haven’t yet tested the new Power Save mode, but the specifications sheet has it listed as adding an additional 44% battery life at 26h.

So I’m afraid this jury of one is still out deliberating!


Overall I’ve been very pleased with the new Spartan Ultra. Suunto have built an impressive looking hardware platform and I believe we’re going to see plenty of additional features and improvements over the coming month.

Would I use this as my primary watch for trail running over my Ambit3 Peak? Yep, I already am!

It also goes nicely with a shirt, tie and suit.

TOP: Spartan vs Ambit3 Peak NE – top view BOTTOM: Spartan vs Ambit3 Peak NE – side view.


The editors of Trail Run Mag would like to thank Paul Day for his awesome contribution, time on trail (and in front of screen) in testing and allowing us to run this review of a pre-release test model of the Spartan Ultra for the the benefit of the rest of us gear geeks. He who treads the path first…and all that jazz. Thanks legend. 


13 Lessons: UTA mid-pack perspective

Everyone loves hearing the inspirational feats of the elite runners. Our jaws drop as we hear the winner’s time (9.20…how is that even possible?). But what went down in the middle of the pack? Is there anything to learn from those runners for whom a silver buckle is a distant dream?For anyone who is more likely to crawl up the Furber Steps than sprint, and who maybe had a little meltdown on Nellies stairs, this is for you. Here are some lessons from middle of pack runner Nicki Letts from in the View at the top of Tarros Ladders

  1. Plan nothing else for the day

Stop seeing the run as race, and instead think of it as something you are doing for the day. As explorer Lawrence Oates famously said, “I am just going outside and may be some time”. Okay, he never returned, but the point is 100km is a bloody long way. Accept that this is something that will take all day and night. Once you can get your head around this, the rest of these lessons are a breeze.

  1. Choose accommodation close to the start/finish line

The last thing you want to worry about is how to get to and from the start/finish line. Especially if you don’t have a support crew. We stayed at Katoomba Falls Caravan Park, less than 1km from Scenic World (book early!). Walking to the KCC and Scenic World is far easier than dealing with shuttles, taxis and car parking. And when your brain isn’t functioning pre- or post-race, easy is exactly what you need.

  1. Get tech tips from the second oldest runner in the field

At T minus 24 hours, we were eating our brekkie in the campsite kitchen when Alf walked in, munching on a bowl of cereal. He quickly pegged us as runners and humbly introduced himself as the second oldest runner in the field, at 73 years old. If this wasn’t inspirational enough, he then taught us how to use the UTA app. Alf told us the app is especially comforting for him, as he could pinpoint his exact coordinates if he wandered off course. Who can argue with that? We downloaded the app.

  1. Invest in the right compression bandage

It’s no secret that UTA guys are strict on the mandatory gear list. We enjoyed a very thorough safety briefing explaining why. But there’s nothing quite like a real-life encounter to drum home the message. On a pre-race morning walk along the trail to Echo Point – the very same track we would be running along – we came across a rather real, big anguish. That’s Latin for snake. And very close to the word ‘anxious’, closer still to the word ‘anguish’. Needless to say, we packed a snake bandaged and passed mandatory gear inspection.Gear Check

  1. Devise a bulletproof nutrition strategy

Ultra runs are really all about the food and drink (and not just the celebratory drinks at the finish line). They can actually be won and lost by fuel choices – or lack thereof. We went into this run knowing what we would be eating and why.

We train with Clif Bars, so that was a no-brainer, and a choice of four flavours meant we wouldn’t get bored. Kooee beef jerky for protein goodness. Mars bars for the later checkpoints when everything starts to taste the same. Electrolytes and salt tablets would keep the cramps at bay. And 2 minute noodles would provide the perfect mix of salt, sugar and warmth at the final checkpoints. Admittedly, we don’t train with 2 minute noodles, but everything else passed the high-energy no-reflux challenge with flying colours.

  1. Drink to your uni days

There’s not a lot of nutrition advice I’d take from my 19-year-old self. Which is why it’s probably surprising that there are two things we consume during the run that once only passed my lips as a hangover cure. The first is flat coke – it gives you all the sugar and caffeine you need for a final push, without any unwelcome bloating. The second is Red Bull. We never drink this stuff, so downing a can at the final water stop gave us wings for the last 5km.

  1. Soak in the views

“The colours are magnificent”, said David King in the Welcome to Country. He hit the nail on the head. I’m not saying you should stop and pull out your selfie stick at every viewpoint, but you are in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful spots in Australia – if you don’t bask in the views, you might as well be running around your local footy ground.Beating the Sun

  1. 8. Train on stairs 

Confession: when running this two years ago, I had a meltdown in the middle of what’s best described as the waterfall section (Leg 5). I simply wasn’t prepared for that many stairs at that stage of the race. It didn’t help that we were running in the dark and could only hear what we presumed were very beautiful waterfalls (this wasn’t good for bladder control either!). This time, not only did we train for stairs, we made it our goal to get to this section in daylight. Meltdown averted.

  1. Don’t count the Furber Steps

There are 951 uneven stairs climbing up, up and across the finish line of UTA100. But do yourself a favour: do not count them. Sometimes it’s just better not to know.Mt Buller

  1. When all else fails, dance up the hill 

As trail runners, we don’t run with music. We talk or enjoy the silence and the sound of waterfalls (sigh). But there’s nothing like your favourite tunes for a pick-me-up. I carried it the whole way and only used it to pull me out of my darkest moments (specifically between 85-95km).

That said, I am incredibly grateful to my co-midpack-runner, Mat, who told me halfway up the Furber Steps to turn off my music. I did, and my reward was the sound of cowbells and realisation that the end was really, really close.On top of the world CP1-CP2

  1. Hide a treat at the finish line

After 15+ hours of drinking and eating, more food and drink is usually the last thing you crave. But crossing the 100km finish line puts you into a whole new mentality. You want to celebrate before you collapse into a post-run coma. But being a mid-pack runner, there’s no guarantee the bar will still be open when you rock up. That’s why this year we popped a mini bottle of wine and beer into our finish line bag. And man, did it taste good!

  1. Don’t anticipate a good post-run sleep

The night’s sleep after 100km must be the best of your life, right? Wrong. Your brain is asleep but your legs are still out there on the trail. Get ready for a night of twitching, dancing and kicking. They will even start running at one point. You’ll dream about falling over twigs on the trail and wake up in frenzy. Do yourself a favour, enjoy the finish line for a few hours – stretch, relax and cheer other runners across the line. There’s certainly no sleep waiting for you back at the hotel! Oh and if you usually share a bed, warn your co-habitant that they won’t be getting any sleep either.Into the Wild

  1. Forget what you said at the finish line

 Remember when you swore you would never do this ever again? You lied. You’ll stew for a couple of hours/days/weeks. Then the pain will fade. And only the good bits are left. Like when you were running through Leura Falls and the sky turned purple. Or when the volunteer at the final water stop told you to “get out of here, we don’t want you to hang around!” Or when, halfway up the Furber Steps, you were fighting back the tears and the runner behind gave you a pep talk. Or when you grabbed your partner’s hand and sprinted across the finish line to cheers and bells. Oh yes, you’ll be back. And next time, while it will still hurt, you’ll know just how incredible it feels to reach the end.

Read more of Nicki Letts’ musings on a trail running lifestyle at 


Screenshot 2016-04-11 21.50.21

Ultra Trail Australia – a Hawkeye view

Our last post took a look at an example of the heart and soul of events like Ultra Trail Australia – ordinary people achieving extraordinary things – but of course up the pointy end, there is always some good racing going on to satisfy the bookies and pundits. One of them, writes Dan Lewis, is Scotty Hawker, who registered second place behind international interloper Dylan Bowman in 2015. Will he take a step up this year for the ultimate accolade? Dan also takes a top end quick list-look at who’s going to be on whose heels come race day…

Scott Hawker finishing second in the 2015 The North Face 100, Blue Mountains, Australia.

Scott Hawker finishing second in the 2015 The North Face 100, Blue Mountains, Australia.

When fertility specialists told Scotty Hawker that being an elite ultra-distance trail runner was affecting his chances of becoming a father, he decided to step back from the sport he loves.

The 29-year-old Kiwi, who is now a resident of Katoomba in Australia’s Blue Mountains, gave up the gruelling training runs and the 100km races. And it has all paid off.

Hawker is looking forward to fatherhood and going one better than his effort last year in Australia’s most prestigious trail running event, Ultra-Trail Australia.

He believes that the long break he needed to take from trail running so his wife, Liz, could fall pregnant (their daughter is expected in late July) has also left him with the freshness to take out the marquee 100km race through the Blue Mountains bush on Saturday, May 14.

“It’s really been a blessing in disguise,” Hawker says of the career pause since coming second in last year’s UTA.

It was the proud Kiwi’s best ever result, but he only raced once afterwards, in Italy in June, before specialists told him that if he wanted to become a father he needed to restrict himself to “normal exercise … just doing a bit of walking and a 30-minute jog here or there”.

It was tough for a man who has always loved the buzz of extreme exercise, but Hawker followed their advice and by late last year Liz was pregnant.

Beth Cardelli (AUS) - Winner

Beth Cardelli (AUS)  – a strong contender in the women’s race.

Hawker then got back into training, but his body wasn’t happy. “I was walking up hills I would normally run up without blinking an eyelid,” he said. “I had all these niggles that let me know I had had a lot of time off.”

But Hawker persevered and now he feels like a stronger runner than ever before.

His training times have been “absolutely awesome” and in his one competitive run since coming back, the 45km Mount Solitary Ultra in the Blue Mountains on April 17, he finished a close second behind his good mate and training partner Jono O’Loughlin – another favourite for this year’s UTA 100km title – “with a bit of fuel in the tank … I think it’s on the card to have a pretty good run [in UTA on May 14].”

Hawker believes tough challenges will also come from the likes of 2012 UTA winner Ryan Sandes of South Africa and China’s Yun Yan-Qiao, who was third in last year’s UTA.

In the women’s field, favourites include Australia’s Beth Cardelli, who frequently trains in the Blue Mountains, and Li Dong of China, the first female to finish in UTA 2015.

Hawker is Christchurch product who was living in flat, hot Perth before deciding to move to the Blue Mountains last year to guarantee a landscape and climate that could help maximise his trail-running potential.

When Hawker raced UTA last year, he was cheered like a local hero rather than a Kiwi raider. If he were to go one better in 2016, they might just hear the roar at the Scenic World finish line in Katoomba all the way over in New Zealand.

As well as the elite fields gathered for the UTA 100km and 50km races on the Saturday, the running festival boasts a new 22km race this year from Wentworth Falls to Katoomba on Friday. It will also be hotly contested by some well-credentialed runners including Brendan Davies, Aaron Knight and Lucy Bartholomew.

Mt Buller

UTA LEADING RUNNER CONTENDER ROLL CALL 2016                                              

100km  > Women                                                     

Fiona Hayvice , New Zealand      

  • 2016: 1st Tarawera Ultramarathon 100km New Zealand
  • 2015: 3rd Kepler Challenge 60km New Zealand
  • 2015: 1st Tarawera Trail 50k run New Zealand
  • 2015: 4th Tarawera Ultramarathon 100km New Zealand

Beth Cardelli, La Sportiva, Australia

  • 2016: 1st Mt Solitary Ultra 45km
  • 2015: 1st Hillary 80km Ultra New Zealand
  • 2014: 2nd Kepler Challenge 60km New Zealand
  • 2014: 11th Western States Endurance Run 100 miles USA
  • 2013: 1st The North Face 100 Australia

Melissa Robertson, Australia

  • 2016: 2nd Tarawera Ultramarathon 100km – New Zealand
  • 2015: 4th The North Face 100 Australia
  • 2015: 2nd Stromlo 50km
  • 2015: The Great North Walk 100 Miles

Dong Li, Salomon, China

  • 2015: 1st The North Face 100 Australia
  • 2015: 2nd Hong Kong 100
  • 2015: 2nd MSIG Sai Kung 50k 100 – Hong Kong
  • 2015: 3rd TNF Transgrandcanaria

Kellie Emmerson, Salomon/2XU, Australia

  • 2016: 1st Buffalo Stampede Marathon
  • 2015: 1st Surf Coast Century 100km
  • 2014/15: 1st Surf Coast Trail Marathon
  • 2015: 1st Maroondah Dam Trail Run
  • 2015: 19th IAU Trail World Championships Annecy

Ildiko Wermescher, Mammut Pro Team, Hungry

  • 2015: 3rd Madeira Island Ultra Trail 85 km
  • 2014: 6th Ultra Trail Tour du Mont Blanc (UTMB) 168km
  • 2014: 2nd Eiger Ultra Trail 101 km
  • 2014: 4th Transgrancanaria 125 kms

Katherine Macmillan, Australia

  • 2016: 2nd Bogong to Hotham
  • 2015: 1st Yo Yangs 50 miles
  • 2015: 3rd Cradle Mountain Run 85km
  • 2015: 6th The North Face 100 Australia

Gill Fowler, La Sportiva, Australia

  • 2016: 1st Razorback Run 64km
  • 2016: 1st Hillary 80km Ultra New Zealand
  • 2015: 4th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 119km Italy
  • 2015: 1st Cradle Mountain Run 85km

Caroline DuBois, Australia

  • 2015: 1st UltraVasan45, Sweden
  • 2015: 1st Les 100 km de Vendée – Champ. Nationaux, France
  • 2015: 1st Les 100 km de Vendée, France
  • 2013: 2nd 100 km du Périgord Noir, Belves – Champ. Nationaux, France

100km > Men

Scotty Hawker, Hoka/Compressport, New Zealand

  • 2015: 4th Lavaredo Ultra Trail
  • 2015: 2nd The North Face 100 Australia
  • 2015: 1st Ultra Easy 100k Sky Run New Zealand
  • 2014: 7th Lavaredo Ultra Trail Italy

Ryan Sandes, Salomon, South Africa

  • 2016: 3rd Tarawera Ultramarathon 100km New Zealand
  • 2014: 1st Madagascar Race 250km stage race
  • 2014: 2nd Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji Japan
  • 2014: 1st Transgrancanaria 125 kms

Yun YanQiao, The North Face, China

  • 2015: 3rd The North Face 100 Australia
  • 2015: 1st Beijing Mountain 50K
  • 2015: 1st Ultra Trail 100K Mt Gongga
  • 2014: 1st The North Face 100 Hong Kong

Jono O’laughlin, Australia

  • 2016: 1st Mt Solitary Ultra 45km
  • 2015: 4th Six Foot Track Ultra 45km
  • 2015: 1st Mt Solitary Ultra 45km
  • 2015: 4th The North Face 100 Australia

Mario Mendoza, Nike Trail, USA

  • 2016: 3rd Lake Sonoma 50 Mile USA
  • 2016: 2nd Chuckanut 50K USA
  • 2015: Runner up at Ultra Race of Champions 100k
  • 2015: 1st Trail Factor 50K USA

Jordi Gamito Baus, WAA,  Spain

  • 2016: 10th Transgrancanaria 125 km
  • 2016: 6th Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race
  • 2015: 5th Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race
  • 2015: 2nd Ultra Trail De Barcelona 100km

Pau Capell, Compressport,  Spain

  • 2016: 3rd Transgrancanaria 125 km
  • 2016: 4th Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race
  • 2015:6th Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix (CCC)
  • 2015: 1st Ultra Sierra Nevada 103 Kms Spain

Andrew Lee,  The North Face, Australia

  • 2015: 7th Hounslow Classic Ultra SkyMarathon
  • 2014: 2nd Yurrebilla Trail 56km Ultra
  • 2014: 9th The North Face 100 Australia
  • 2009 The North Face 100 Australia Champion

Ewan Horsburgh,  La Sportiva, Australia

  • 2016: 7th Buffalo Stampede Ultra
  • 2015: 14th 24 hour IAU World Championships
  • 2014: 1st Alpine Challenge 60 km
  • 2014: 1st Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Run

Ben Duffus, Hoka, Australia

  • 2015: 1st Hounslow Classic Ultra SkyMarathon
  • 2014: 3rd 80km du Mont-Blanc France
  • 2014: 5th The North Face 100 Australia
  • 2013: 1st Surf Coast Century 100 km


Freddy Thevenin, Prudence Creole, France

  • 2015: 3rd Grand Raid Reunion (167km)
  • 2015: 8th Transgrancanaria (125km)
  • 2014: 4th Lavaredo Ultra-Trail

Screenshot 2016-04-11 21.50.2150KM > Men                                          

Vlad Shatrov, Australia

  • 2016: London Marathon – 2:25:47
  • 2015: Berlin Marathon – 2.18.40
  • 2013: 1st The North Face 50 Australia

Mark Green, Australia

  • 2016: 4th Six Foot Track Marathon
  • 2015: 2nd Mt Solitary Ultra 45km
  • 2015: 3rd Six Foot Track Marathon

Garry Mullins, Australia

  • 2015: 2nd Centennial Park Ultra 50 km
  • 2015: 1st Self-Transcendence 100 km Road Race, Christchurch
  • 2016: 6th Canberra 50km Ultramarathon

Craig Dean, Australia

  • 2016: 5th Buffalo Stampede Marathon
  • 2015: 13th The North Face 50 Australia

Sam Burridge, Australia

  • 2016: 3rd Buffalo Stampede marathon

Wes Gibson, Inov8/Hammer, Australia

  • 2014: 6th Knapsack 6hr Australia Day Lap Race
  • 2013: 9th Sri Chinmoy Canberra Centenary 100 km
  • 2013: 4th The North Face 50 Australia

Tony Fattorini, Australia

  • 2014: 9th Six Foot Track Marathon
  • 2013: 1st Six Foot Track Marathon
  • 2012: 2nd Kepler Mountain Run

50km > Women                                                     

Sophie Brown,  Australia

  • 2016: 3rd Six Foot Track Marathon
  • 2015: 1st Alpine Challenge 60km

Maggie Jones, Australia

  • 2016: 3rd Buffalo Stampede Ultra 75km
  • 2016: 3rd Razorback 64 km Run
  • 2015: 3rd Hounslow Classic Ultra SkyMarathon

Hanny Allston, Shotz Sports Nutrition/Suunto,  Australia

  • 2015: 1st Surf Coast Century 50 km
  • 2015: 1st Buffalo Stampede Marathon 2015
  • 2014: 1st Six Foot Track Marathon




101 Reasons to run Ultra Trail Australia

While plenty of attention is garnered by the front runners, we reckon the more moving and inspirational tales of ultra running are found further back in the pack, as with the likes of Brett Sammut whose story from 2015 ran in Edition #17 of Trail Run Mag. With Ultra Trail Australia happening this weekend, we thought it worth a look back at Brett’s experience in the Blue Mountains.
WORDS: Chris Ord

When life becomes too much, some run away to oblivion. Others, like Brett Sammut, reach the precipice but use running as a way to step back and rediscover a reason to live, and then some.

But what happens when the spectre of failure looms large on the trail to redemption, as Brett faced attempting his first UTA (then The North Face 100)? 

brett 3

© Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

The night was a darker pitch than any before. A suffocating weight of blackness tunnelled vision down to transient sweeps of light cast by passing cars. A two-hour walk of wallowing pain echoed as barely ten minutes, but every second of it was unbearable, like seventeen years of pain focused through a magnifying glass; beams of a black sun searing into his mind, charring it like the sun burns a dried autumn leaf.

In that moment, there was a clear, definite and imminent end to this phenomenal feat of endurance for 43-year-old New South Welshman, Brett Sammut.

He was about to quit in the most final way he could imagine.

From his perch on a gutter leading nowhere, on the fringe of a regional city the ex-policeman had served and loved and hated, Brett was preparing to throw himself in front of the next speeding truck that happened along.

His enduring to that point in his life was of a kind more miserable, intense and soul-shattering than any ultra runner – even at their lowest ebb – could ever imagine. Unless, that is, an ultra runner out there has ever been moments from throwing themselves in front of a speeding B-Double, Brett’s preferred method of ending his inner turmoil.

It wasn’t the first time Brett had tried to take his life. A policeman for 17 years, Brett was used to staking out dark corners on the hunt for people who wish and inflict harm on society. He was used to long chases. Long hours. Long nights. Like anyone exposed for an extended period to the raw pain of other people’s lives, Brett suffered. The things he saw, the things he had to do, to deal with while in the Force wore him down to the point where he joined those he usually chased into the gutter, albeit in a more literal sense.

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015 // Aurora Images

“I was an overweight copper,” says Brett whose peak was around 118kg. “I left the police with diagnosed depression and anxiety. I felt worthless. I knew why I’d become depressed: it was a combination of seeing things that people shouldn’t see and doing things people shouldn’t have to do.”

A beer drinking culture within the force where colleagues drank to forget the worst shifts didn’t help.

“I didn’t drink beer so I was a bit of an outcast, but also, I had no real release valve like they did. I’d go home, not wanting to talk to my wife or daughters about the things I witnessed. I just bottled it up.

“One day my bucket spilled and I had a bad (mental) crash. That’s when I first tried taking my own life. I’m just grateful that the truck never came. I would have missed out on so much. It was a wake up call I needed.”

The following day, in a cloud of confusion, Brett sought a doctor and got the help he desperately needed. The solution, however, was a bitter pill to swallow.

“Medication,” says Brett. “I hated taking that medication.”


IMAGE: Chris Ord / Adventure Types

“To me, it was a sign of a failure. I know it was needed to help me. But I resented taking the medication and to get up every morning and take a 10-milligram pill was hard. The the first few weeks I flushed them all down the drain.”

It wasn’t long before Brett was forced to spend time in a psychiatric hospital.

“That was devastating,” he recalls. “One moment I am a policeman, with the power to take someone’s life or liberty in just circumstances, the next minute I’m locked in a room for three months, my own liberty taken, with no power to do anything.”

Brett had hit his rock bottom.

“I got diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, a few anxiety disorders and suicidal tendencies. I also had a diagnosis of a perfectionist disorder.”

Before being hospitalised, Brett had taken to running in order to lose weight. “But I read somewhere that running could also help ease reliance on medication, so I had thoughts of using that as part of my therapy.”

With some skepticism, Brett’s doctor prescribed he go for a run, on an assumption he would fail and they could get back to the medicated course of action.

“He was trying to expose me to a ‘safe’ failure, I guess, as part of my treatment. But he didn’t want me to really use running as part of treatment.”

Despite no training, Brett travelled to run the Canberra Half Marathon, his first.

“I loved it. It wasn’t necessarily what my doctor wanted – me to love the running – but I did.”

© Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

© Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

It’s not unusual to find perfectionists or indeed obsessive compulsives, out on road or trail, monitoring to an inch of their lives time splits, calorie counts, and race pace. Indeed, sometimes for those with personalities locked like a homing missile on the intricacies of measurement in running, the sport can be harmful. Had running just become another mask for the pain, an addiction akin to his beer drinking colleagues back in the force, albeit arguably healthier to all appearances?

“To a degree, yes, but really for me it was about the participation medal,” says Brett. “It was about the achievement, the sense of completing something, more so than being good at something.”

“When I stopped being a police officer I became a nothing,” he explains. “That was how I identified, even though of course I was a father, a son, and a husband. But so much of your being is wrapped up in what you do when you are a policeman. When it is ripped away, you are at a loss. For me, rightly or wrongly, there was no real reason to live. There was no reward. To live, I still needed the thing that was in fact killing me.”

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While running and the medals on offer were no doubt a safer substitute for his achievements as a police officer, he admits to still using running as a way to escape problems, rather than face them.

“Leaving town was the reason I started running in a lot of events. In the first year after getting out of the psychiatric ward, I raced twelve half marathons. It was getting out of Orange. Getting out of town. Leaving everything behind me. I could actually relax doing that. And then driving back home I had that little medal, which to me is someone saying ‘you did well’ which you don’t get in hospital.”

Brett’s journey to the trail and ultimately his first attempt at this year’s The North Face 100, went via some triathlons and road runs, before he signed up to a Running Wild 6-Hour event in the Blue Mountains. The fit was instant, Brett describing how there was something more alluring, more medicating, more comfortable about the trail running scene that plays an important part in his ongoing recovery.


IMAGE: Chris Ord / Adventure Types

“Trail running it seems like a little family. I was accepted straight away. And not as Brett the depressive, Brett the suicidal guy, or Brett the ex-copper. I was just Brett the guy who could run. Like everyone else there.

“There was a sense of not only acceptance, but also community, and I think that is unique to trail running as compared to the road running scene where you don’t know anyone, and no-one wants to know you.”

The friends Brett gained from running quickly replaced those from his policing days who had quickly fallen away when he became ill.

“There is still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness within the police force,” says Brett. “But I’m happy to say that the trail running friends I have gained are a much better, more accepting bunch.”

The environment he was beginning to immerse himself in also played their part, believes Brett.

“It can be so peaceful on trail. I think that helps clear the mind for people like me. There’s no cars, traffic, noise, no clutter…”

Brett firmly believes running and treating depression go hand in hand.

“Trail running in particular amplifies that level of recovery process. My medication levels have dropped the last six months, and I attribute that to the trail. Even when I was running road, I still required my full dose… there’s crowds, cars, people hating on you for being a runner – it remains a place of heightened anxiety. There’s none of that in the bush – just birds and space. Even when you trip over you can laugh it off – you’re by yourself, there’s no one else to blame – and you get back up and run. There’s something about the environmental aspect of the trail that definitely lessens my anxiety, lessening my reliance on medication, which was the aim from the beginning.”

1W3A7203 600

IMAGE: Chris Ord / Adventure Types

Fast forward through Brett falling in love with singletrack, and we’re standing in the crisp night as crowds mill atop the cliffs of Luera, in the Blue Mountains, filing in to collect their race packs place for tomorrow’s The North Face 100. For many, it will be the biggest challenge they have ever faced. The question that hangs heavy in the air anchoring the nervous chatter, is will they achieve it?

For Brett, that weight of expectation has extra gravity. What happens when a man battling mental illness, someone whose daily nemesis is the prospect of failure, faces something as tough as running 100km; what happens when he faces a race where the Did Not Finish rate is one in three?

While others are anxious about how their body will hold up, for Brett – having now been physically fit for two years – the spikes of anxiety are more about how his mind will hold up to the rigors of an ultra.

The question was answered at Checkpoint Three, but it wasn’t his head that caved in to the challenge. After 47km, it was his body. Three hours of being violently ill, vomiting, cramping and becoming dangerously dehydrated, Brett faced his inner demon and pulled the pin.

“My first thought was of letting down my family,” says Brett. “I thought about what I had sacrificed for the race, and more importantly what my wife and kids had sacrificed for me to race.”

Those thoughts alone would have cut deep for Brett, or for any family man. But what Brett hadn’t let on was that his wife, Francine, has terminal breast cancer, and he is her primary carer. Time, therefore, is of the essence, and both he and his wife had sacrificed a sizeable chunk of it for Brett to run in The North Face 100. Their family’s collective sacrifice in seeing less of their husband and father in a precious period of life, where death again threatened, was arguably much more of a black hole than your average ultra runner’s time vacuum.

1W3A7231 60

IMAGE: Chris Ord / Adventure Types

“There were tears when I met up with my family. They were waiting at checkpoint four with homemade signs and banners,” says Brett.They, of course, were a bedrock of support. Dad was safe. Husband was alive. All was well.

“That first hug from my wife was heavenly.”

“Quitting was hard. I felt like a failure again. My goal was to finish. I failed at that goal. But I look at it now – I am healthy, I didn’t get injured. A year ago I would have been in worse mental state by quitting. But I’m proud of what I did regardless – I ran further than I have ever run before.”

Determined to turn the situation into a positive, Brett remained on course to help fellow runners who were racing without support.

“The race was meant to be a chance for me to fight my personal demons and score a victory, but while I failed in this instance, I still saw it as a chance to help others to achieve their goals. So I spent the next few hours and into Sunday morning helping strangers to get through checkpoints and lifting their confidence in their ability to get the job done; to be able to keep moving and keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

“It was the best thing I could have done. I never realised how much joy it would give me, especially when it came to seeing the names of people I helped on the finishers list.”

“That’s what I take away, that to me running is not about times, placings, results or, now I have come to accept, even finishing. It is the chance to be a part of an amazing community and the feeling of belonging.”

A few years ago, Brett Sammut felt overwhelming reason to embrace death. On the trail he found reason enough to live. Trail running gave him strength enough to face failure when it visited 53km short of his long-imagined success. And it continues to give him 100 reasons to live: the 100 kilometres he intends to conquer in the Blue Mountains in the future.

“I’m still on a journey and I want to keep coming back to The North Face every year,” says Brett. “First of all to finish, and then keep getting better. It’s my reward that I will keep looking forward to, keep living for.”

Addendum: In 2016, Brett is returning to run the 50km.

(*And the 1 in 101 Reasons headline? Of course, his two girls and wife…his family). 

Brett Sammut’s blog on his The North Face experience can be seen at 

If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or mental health issues, contact:

Screenshot 2016-04-11 21.50.21


Natural Born Hero: Christopher Mc Dougall


He’s the most famous as the author of the-book-every-runner-worth-their-salt-has-read-even-if-it’s-passe-to-now-admit-it: Christopher McDougall, the man behind and featured in the classic run novel ‘Born To Run‘. Travelling to New Zealand for the New Zealand Festival Writers Week being held in Wellington in March (from the 12th), the writer chatted to Trail Run Mag about his new book Natural Born Heroes, his approach to running and its growth in popularity around the world.   

Casting though across your running-related writing, can you talk to the different reasons you have found within others (‘others’ being your subjects of study) as to why they run?Christopher McDougall_Writers Week_Natural Born Heroes

Think about how weird a spectacle it would be if an alien life form could look down from space and see tens of thousands of humans gathering in cities all over the world to run 26 miles in a giant pack. No other creature acts that way — you don’t see thousands of leopards getting together for a four-hour recreational jog. To me, that speaks to our ancestral roots as long-distance runners. No matter what day-to-day reason we give for getting out for a run, I’m convinced the motivation for all of us is the same: running is our native legacy, our first natural superpower, and some internal instinct never lets us forget.

How and why do you think endurance running can ‘touch’ the average person’s life in a meaningful way?

All you have to do is go for one short run and you’ll have your answer. Who ever came back from a run and didn’t feel better — physically and emotionally? I once asked Anton Krupicka why he runs 200+ miles a week, and he said, “I never came back from a run and thought, ‘Well, THAT was a bad idea.’”

Reading your books, the characters (including yourself) all remain ‘forces of nature’ – that is, they all exhibit in various ways strong personalities, hence the fire and chase for life-inspiration through running – but how does (or could) someone not as full of passion and persistence find their way to a running life?

It’s just playtime. The most addicted runners I know get out there every day because it’s FUN. Focus on fun and you can’t go wrong.Christopher McDougall_Image

Running technique is everything when it comes to maintaining a running life. True or false and why?

Yes, just like in every other human activity, the secret to doing something for a long time is learning how to do it right. Imagine you belly-flopped every time you tried to dive into the pool. Sooner or later you’d get sick of it and give up. Now imagine someone corrected your form and taught you a graceful, pain-less swan dive. You’d want to keep diving forever. Same thing with the way you hit the ground while running.

As a sweeping generalisation, I tend to find that runners are readers – what part do you think literature (high and low) has played in reinvigorating an interest in running?

For a long time, the running bookshelf was pretty slim. All you had were how-to books of generally useless or obvious advice. There still aren’t many really good adventure books about running out there. Adharanand Finn is just about the only writer who’s doing something interesting, and of course there’s always Dean Karnazes’ classic, “Ultramarathon Man.” Otherwise, I think the renewed interest in running is coming from the shift into trail and ultra-racing, which gets people out into the woods and brings a new sense of playfulness to the sport.

Born To Run was published a while back now – how have you seen the dynamic in the ‘trail/nature/adventure/endurance running’ scene(s) change since then?Christopher McDougall_Writers Week_Born to Run

Yes, there’s been a huge surge in trailrunning, which I think speaks to an embracing of our ancestral roots as hunting-pack animals.

I recently wrote an editorial in Trail Run Mag, where I stated that technique kept me in trail running and that I was on a mission to die on my feet, of old age, while running through the wilderness. What are your thoughts on the notion of it being possible to run until you drop, be that in your 80s, 90s or older?

I saw Tarahumara geriatrics in their eighties and nineties cruising up switchbacks in the thinnest of sandals. If I’m still moving that way at their age, I’ll be happy. I think it’s all about consistency — do a little every day, and you’ll still be going late in life.

In your latest book, Natural Born Heroes, you travel to Crete to investigate endurance feats of a very different nature to those you covered in Born To Run – can you contrast the lessons you took away from Crete as opposed to those from the Tarahumara?

Really, it’s all the same lesson: as humans, we have far more latent strength and endurance than we realize. Once we remember how to release it, we’re ALL capable of remarkable feats.

What has your journey been since Born To Run reached its crescendo of popularity (and must-read status) among the running crowd, in terms of your life journey but also your personal running journey?

I’ve become a lot more like Barefoot Ted, who only runs for fun. I once asked him how on earth he could run a 24-hour Leadville Trail 100 on only 25 miles of training per week, and he said, ‘Because most people are busy practicing pain. I practice PLEASURE. All my runs are enjoyable, so I’m always ready to run more.” That’s become my motto.

A thematic in your latest book is about ‘unlikely types’ becoming heroes by undertaking physically demanding journeys, and also the ability of an individual to find a ‘hero’ within – “The art of the hero is the art of natural movement.” – what lessons have you gleaned about how ordinary folk can go about finding their hero within?Christopher McDougall_Writers Week_Headshot

The first step is to forget about competition and focus on skills. We tend to get all worked up about instant achievement — we all want to get faster and stronger immediately — but I’ve learned that the best way to really access our greatest talents is to forget about instant results and instead focus on the slow process of mastering skills.

How can an Ordinary Joe runner start the journey towards awakening their fascia profunda?

Take off your shoes. Learn how your foot wants to move naturally, without all that cushioning and motion-control gunk in the way, and go from there.

In Natural Born Heroes touch on nutrition and a return to the ancient fatty-meat, low-carb diet which sustained our ancestors until agriculture came to the fore? How do you answer critics crying ‘another fad diet on repeat’ and what does it matter to runners?

It’s not a fad if it’s been around for 2 million years. Humans have thrived on a high fat diet since the dawn of time. The true fad are the white flour/processed sugar which have only been prevalent for the relative blink of an eye.Mt Buller



If I could only give one piece of advice to a runner, it would be… Focus on fun.

My most treasured experience while running was… Pacing Barefoot Ted over the last four hours of his Leadville Trail 100. We had a fantastic party in the woods, and I grew to appreciate him more than ever.

The worst mistake I ever made on a run outing was… I get lost ALL THE TIME, but I’m not sure I’d call that a mistake. More like regular blessings in disguise.

A place I have always wanted to run but am yet to get to is…Auckland, where Lydiard created the entire sport of recreational running, and Percy Cerutty’s old Stotan camps in Australia.

My next big run adventure is…Getting lost all over Wellington when I’m there for the NZ Festival’s Writers Week. I expect to spend half my time wandering happily around with no idea where I’m going.

Postscript: Christopher McDougall is a guest at the New Zealand Festival Writers Week in Wellington in March. He will discuss extraordinary feats of endurance with journalist Rachel Smalley on 10 March, and the true limits of human potential with four-time world champion adventure racer, Nathan Fa’avae, ultramarathoner, Lisa Tamati, and record-breaking Masters runner, Roger Robinson, on 12 March. See for details.

McDougall will also be leading free fun runs open to runners of all abilities on 9, 10 and 12 March. See for start times and meeting points.

GIVEAWAY: We have TWO Writers Week Bookmark Passes (worth $200 each) to giveaway to Trail Run Mag readers. The Bookmark Pass gives you 15 tickets to Writers Week sessions at the Embassy, BATS and Circa theatres, with 40 events to choose from. Bookmark Passes may also be used to secure multiple tickets to a single event; so why not experience Christopher McDougall’s events with your running group?

The first two readers who:

  • email with the answer to this question:
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Muir poised to make Tarawera Ultra history

New Zealand’s Ruby Muir is set to make history this weekend if she wins the 100km-long Tarawera Ultramarathon and becoming the first three-time winner in the race’s eight-year history.

Ruby Muir in action at Tarawera 2015. IMAGE: Lyndon Marceau

Ruby Muir in action at Tarawera 2015. IMAGE: Lyndon Marceau

Muir first won the race in 2013 and returned last year to win the 2015 event in an impressive time of 9:02, smashing the previous course record by 90 minutes.

This past year she has been on terrific form, winning the Kepler Challenge near Te Anau in Fiordland, the Wellington Marathon and the Hounslow Classic in Australia’s Blue Mountains.

In Muir’s way this Saturday, February 6, stands 102.7km of trails and forestry roads, with nearly 3000 vertical metres of climbing and even more descending.

“I’m not feeling too anxious about Saturday. It’s a good race with a great community feel and I’m really happy to be coming back for a third year of racing,” says Muir.

“What really motivates me is having a good race with a good competitive field. I’ve had an injury for the past two months but had a great winter before that, so it’s a great achievement to have made it to race week.”

Tarawera Ultra Race Director Tim Day says Muir is somewhat of an enigma.

“The Tarawera Ultra course features a number of long climbs, technical roots and rocks over DOC tracks and forestry roads. Usually a runner might excel on one part of the course and be comparatively slower at others.

Ruby appears to have absolutely no weaknesses at all. She has a fearsome reputation as one of the best runners of technical terrain in the world and her Wellington Marathon win (her debut road marathon) shows she can excel of the flat roads as well.”

The Hawke’s Bay-based athlete does much of her training in the hills behind her home and in Tongariro National Park with her husband and mentor, Kristian Day (no relation to Tim Day) himself a top-ranked ultra distance runner.

As a Kiwi ultra runner ranked on the world stage, Muir is in good company. New Zealand women have excelled this past year in the sport of trail ultra running. Taiwan-based Kiwi, Ruth Croft, placed second at last year’s Tarawera Ultramarathon and went on to win the Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix 100k race in the French Alps – once of the biggest races in Europe. Dunedin’s Anna Frost won the Hardrock 100 mile race in Colorado USA – considered to the toughest mountain ultra run in the world.

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The mountains of the United States await Ruby this year as well, having been selected to run in the Western States 100 mile Endurance Run in California.  Western States is the oldest trail ultramarathon and the most prestigious.

One of Muir’s toughest challenges is likely to come from Wellington’s Fiona Hayvice, a runner who has consistently climbed the ranks in the sport and the winner of November’s Tarawera Trail 50km race.

The men’s field again has some depth with names like Jonas Buud (Sweden) toeing the line. Bud is better known for fast and flat (2015 IAU 100km World Champion), but has proven chops in the mountains, too, with a a second place UTMB (2012) and a bunch of in-New Zealand mountain running down in the lead up.

Big name ultra runner Ryan Sandes will be on trail, how he goes with a lacklustre back half to his 2015 season including a DNF (Transvulcania & UTMB) and DNS (Western States) in big races due to sickness. Maybe Tarawera is a comeback? He’s been in NZ for a while now, with the Red Bull Defiance adventure race in his legs (5th in Mixed Teams). Mike Warden will also be a contender, knowing the course well with two years at the event behind him (8th and 5th). Kiwi Vajin Armstrong is never to be underestimated on his day, too, with seconds (2011/12), thirds (2013/14) and a fourth (2015) – he has the consistency and with a good run could take his first title.

Other names to watch include Jason Schlarb (USA), Yoshikazu Hara (Japan), Ford Smith (USA) and in the Aussie camp David Byrne has been pinged as the strongest contender fro across the Ditch.

The Tarawera Ultramarathon is a 100km trail run from Rotorua to Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty and is part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, a series of the 12 most prestigious ultra-running races in the world. More than 600 runners are entered in the 100k race.

Follow race week on: facebook | facebook group | twitter | live results on the day | finish-line live video stream

See more at:

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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

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.


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.”


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.


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


IMAGE: Ian Corless / Talk Ultra


Trail Run Mag Edition 18


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Duncan’s Run 100: event preview

IMG_0734 medBEFORE his life was tragically cut short in an accident early last year Duncan Orr – a keen ultra-marathoner with a love for trails – had an ambitious plan to stage Gippsland’s first ever ultra, on the scenic Gippsland’s Grand Strzelecki Track.

Though running expeditions with his wife and fellow ultra runner, Anna, had led Duncan to some remote pockets of the world, he’d acquired a particular affinity for the iconic Gippsland track in his home region. In more recent years he had encouraged others, many of them fellow Traralgon Harriers, to join him in exploring its beauty.

Though the shock loss of Duncan – who packed his 31 years full of accomplishment and experiences – still weighs heavily on family, friends and fellow club members, the successful staging of Duncan’s Run Hundred in December last year bought some solace.

IMG_0623 medThe idea of staging an inaugural ultra-marathon on tough trails through the Strzelecki Ranges less than a week before Christmas had the hallmarks of an insurmountable challenge from the outset, but Anna and her crew – among them more than a handful of dedicated distance runners – are partial to the odd challenge and so the date was set.

An impressive effort by a dedicated committee, with support from AURA, Traralgon Harriers, a range of sponsors and volunteer groups including the Grand Strzelecki Inc, oversaw permits and approvals, risk management processes, course markings and the multitude of other tasks required of a run event featuring a solo 100k, 50k and 28k as well as a 100k team event.

Their efforts were well rewarded. Duncan’s Run Hundred was a genuine success with 86 runners participating over the four events, including 18 taking on the 100k solo. Those who ran, and the hordes of volunteers who made it possible, embodied the spirit for which ‘Duncs’ was so well known and the overwhelmingly positive response was enough to convince organisers to do it all again.

IMG_0835 medRunners keen to experience the stunning Strzelecki Ranges in Tarra Bulga would be wise to mark the 19th December in their event calendar. Duncan’s Run Hundred takes place over diverse terrain through spectacular eucalypt forest providing some steep technical single trail and fire trail, plenty of up and downhill and it boasts Mount Tassie (740m) as the highest point.

IMG_0897 medReflecting on the inaugural race a few year back now, Anna – who tirelessly headed the event as Race Director – was overwhelmed by the support Duncan’s Run Hundred had attracted.

“All this was for Duncs,” she said. “So many people loved him, were influenced and inspired by his positive outlook on running and life, and everyone wanted to be part of it in some way.”

In the words of Duncan himself, as he once reflected on the ultimate challenge of the ultra:

IMG_0637 med“When you enter an ultra of this distance most people ask ‘why would anyone want to run that far?’ and I would have liked to have replied ‘because I can’, but for me it was more along the lines of ‘because I don’t know if I can’.

“I’d encourage anyone to have a go at an ultra-trail race. Take it from me; you don’t need to be a super athlete to complete one of these, just a bit of determination and belief in yourself goes a long way.”

IMG_0738 medDuncan’s Run Hundred details

When: Saturday 19th December 2015.
Where: Grand Strzelecki Track, Tarra Bulga, Gippsland, Victoria.
Solo 100km: start 6am
Solo 50Km: start 6am
Solo 28k: start 9am
Solo 5km
Teams 100K (50km, 28km, 25km): start 6am



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