These silent-gliding clouds are unaware that for two days, a consortium of kindred souls had been steadfastly circling this curious, empty loop of blue below … The grass now beckoning the sun had huddled under a runner’s tent for 48 hours, patiently staying the course, waiting for an unseen clock to run its course, while runners of course ran their many courses on one, continuously continuing course … The same tall gums now swaying their same almost imperceptible sway, graciously beneficent yesterday as today’s forever today …
For 48 hours, this place, this track became a constantly moving, flowing and evolving town square, theatre, arena, temple, karmic courthouse and cosmic concert hall. Hearts, muscles, minds, legs, lungs, calculations, dreams, aspirations, love, hope, resolution, eagerness, longing – all are swept, exhorted, inspired, dashed and elevated into beaming smiles and throbbing tears, exuberant cries, silent prayers, slow-turning extinguishment, exultant victory.
The track – symbol and agent of Destiny astride its circularity, regularity and inevitability – gathers and commingles all into one; all life experiences, lessons, mistakes, discoveries, delusions and inspirations; all training wisdom and running lore; all dreams and aspirations; all hearts’ goodness, kindness, concern, compassion, shared pain and bliss, sorrows and joys. For 48 magical hours, we – runners, helpers, supporters and spectators – are more than community or family; we are humanity, we are the world, we are one. We strive each and together; ever humbled, we bumble and stumble; ever rising, we succeed and we fail; we try, cry and we fly. With each footfall, we go together, with each lap, we grow together and even now, beyond the track, in each treasured memory, we glow together.
Yes, there is hope for our sorry world. Beyond hope, there is promise. Here, now, circling our track, we have that hope: we are that promise.
Sri Chinmoy 48 Hour Race – the AURA Australian National 48 Hour Championship
48 hours is a very long time to be doing just one thing: so says conventional thinking. 48 hours is the blink of an eye in the ever-unfolding story of life: so proved our actor-athlete-warrior-players, at once earnest students and learned professors of the eternal journey.
Volumes could be written, symphonies composed, hymns sung and epics narrated, portraying this or that detail from the various vast variegated tapestries woven and interwoven amongst hearts, minds and sinews around the track throughout these 48 circling, cycling droplets of time’s ocean.
Most stories will remain felt, lived, ingrained, yet untold. Some burn bright today, only to fade tomorrow; others barely felt now, will doubtless bloom and blossom surprisingly in months or years hence. What we can report here is a skeleton of facts and figures: that Canberra runners, in their home race, have established their city-playground as a preeminent home of ultra-track running (at least, for now!)
Canberrans emerged National Male and Female Champions: Allicia Heron with her phenomenal 329.392km taking the women’s main trophy (and a new Australian 48-Hour record for her W35 age group); while Matt Griggs’ extraordinary 380.863 claimed the premier men’s prize. Evergreen champion, Queensland’s Kevin Muller set the pace through much of the race, and though finishing 2nd overall after Matt, established a superb new Australian record of 370.822km for the highly competitive M50 category. Also running in the M50-59, Ingo Ernst was 3rd outright, finishing with 304km. The women’s podium placings were rounded out by the incredible Annabel Hepworth’s 290.335km for 2nd, and reliable Kris Ryan with 235.629km for 3rd. The ever-smiling Karen Bentley, from South Australia, claimed 1st in the female 60-69s with her 185.135km.
To all who remain unnamed in our report, we apologise: your contributions to this drama are integral to its glory, as fragrance to a flower. We shall lastly note that David Billett and Justin Scholz confirmed their multiple-Centurion (those who have walked over 100 miles in 24 hours) status; and were joined in this élite club by first-time Centurion, the dauntless Joffrid Mackett.
Sri Chinmoy 24 Hour Race
While the 48 Hour Race is unquestionably the centrepiece of the Festival, and holds the prestigious title of AURA National Championship, nevertheless some of the most outstanding performances of the weekend played out in the 24 Hour Race, screening in Lane 3.
Last year, only one runner – Matt Griggs – surpassed 200km in the 24 hour event. This year, that “1” leapt to 6, from a similar number of starters. It was a privilege for all to behold the extremely high standard, focus and application throughout the field, offering equally enthralling dramas unfolding in parallel between lanes 1 and 3, right up to Saturday lunchtime.
Especially riveting was the quality in the women’s race. Sunshine Coast star Chrissy Redwood led from the front throughout, running a disciplined and superbly crafted 206.908km to place 2nd outright. Chrissy also brought with her the best kitted-out and enthusiastic crew of “Team Redmond,” testimony that behind every great achievement there is invariably a ‘team’ of family and community expertise, sacrifice, encouragement and irrepressible goodwill. Though running her own race, the dogged determination of Cassie Cohen brought her within just 2km of Chrissy, yielding a superb 204.923km and 3rd outright by the finish.
Both women were surpassed in distance only by the indefatigably cheerful (or cheerfully indefatigable?) Thomas Allen, whose 216.052km was the standout performance among the men – in his wake, 3 more crossed the 200km barrier: Ashley Colquhoun (204.043km), Scott Connolly (202.805km) and Luke Thompson (200.733km). Paul Gay meanwhile took out the M50-59 category with 125.053km.
Sri Chinmoy 12-Hour Race
One of the wonderful characteristics of ultra track racing, is that everyone – from absolute beginner to the highest élite – runs, walks, dines and talks together, literally on the same track, passing and encountering each other time and time and time again. You’re sharing the journey with friends, comrades, competitive rivals, perhaps even (in another life) worst enemies. Every high and low is there on display, every emotion plays out on stage, every tactic is signalled, every step a public statement.
The field in the 12-hour race was a snapshot of the ultra running community – from some of Australia’s all-time best performers through to novices treading the track for their very first time. And they got to share the inside track – lane 1 – with the 48 hour runners, at the mid-point of their pilgrimage. Spanning most of the daylight hours and into the night – from 10am to 10pm, during which the 6-hour race came and went – the 12-hour offers more than just a taste; a substantial serving of ultra-running world-reality.
Tia Jones is in a class of her own, with a swag of National age group records to her credit. Today Tia displayed all her quality in winning the women’s race outright from her F50-59 category, AND claiming 2nd place overall with a formidable 110.801km. The only runner ahead of Tia was Manly Runners’ Joe Ward, the consummate professional whose calm demeanour somehow made the coverage of 126.623km look easy. Andrew Leigh was next MU50, running the longest run of his life in his ultra track debut to cover 106.988km, with Susan Marshall taking out the FU50 1st prize with her impressive 104.205km, ahead of Niboddhri Christie’s 2nd placing 101.317km.
Chloe Skewes-Weir lit up the track for the first 8 hours of the race as she flew in pursuit of a special goal. Her 50 mile time of around 8 hours and 12 minutes should soon be ratified as a new Australian National F20-24 age record for 50 miles. Pausing at her record and with mission accomplished, Chloe’s knee suggested it might be prudent to leave the track and return for more next time …
Other age category winners included Greg Ponych (M50-59) with 94.412km; Peter Badowski (M70 and Over) with 81.332km; and Michael Thompson (M60-69) with 77.157km.
Sri Chinmoy 6-Hour Race
The 6-hour race is the natural landing point for runners keen to extend themselves beyond the marathon, into the limitless realms of ultra distance track running. It’s far enough beyond most runners’ Sunday ‘long run’ to constitute genuine transcendence, yet not too far to pose an existential threat to body or mind. Slotting into what can easily become for the 48 hour runners, a Saturday afternoon ‘doze zone’, the race brings an added impetus to the circumambulating track community, an outer circle of focussed enthusiasm acting as a protective layer surrounding the sometimes-vulnerable focus and motivation of our 48 hour troupers.
While Tim Altamore and Ben Grimshaw set the early pace, it was the experience of M50-59 winner, Baden Reynolds. who bided his time and ran the most consistent pace to take line honours with an impressive 68.795km; Ben taking 2nd outright with 67.9km and Tim 3rd with 66.352km, ahead of 2nd in the M50-59, Gregory Jenkins’ 64.658km. Enthusiasm personified, Gemma Worland was 1st woman home in 49.423km, from Rosie Reynolds’ 48.286km. Lib Smith, meanwhile, took out the F60-69 category with her solid 41.199km.
The Sri Chinmoy Midnight Marathon
The smallest field assembled for the shortest race of the Festival. Whether seen as a novelty, a decent training run, or a chance to notch another certified marathon under the belt, the Sri Chinmoy Midnight Marathon holds a unique place in Australia’s running calendar.
Once considered the pinnacle achievement of long-distance running, in the context of this Festival, the 42.2km distance is a relative ‘sprint’, perhaps confirming something Einstein postulated about relativity. The Mongolian pair of Sarankhuu Jargal and Bayarkhuu Batbayar led the charge into the early hours, followed by Scotland’s Lindsay Hamilton setting the pace for the women’s field, bringing fresh energy and enthusiasm to the 48 hour runners on the inside lane. Bayarkhuu took line honours in 3:05:25, followed by friend and training partner, Sarankhuu in 3:11:01. Lindsay took 3rd outright with 3:35:04. Rick Patzold led home the M50-59 with 4:16:32; Ray James the M70 and Over with 6:12:15; and Lib Smith (having completed the 6 hour race a few hours earlier), the F60-69 in 6:37:58.