The character of a race is partly formed by its course, terrain and distance. Mostly though, it is forged by the aspiration, character and personality of its participants, its real champions.
Central to a trail race of more than 100km are the solo runners, the dauntless adventurers who brave sometimes extreme physical suffering, mental pain and emotional struggles, bending their whole beings to the service of the spirit’s victory. The face of every solo finisher told a unique story of deep courage, intense aspiration and personal triumph. Regardless of time or rank, the fragrance of heroic deeds lingers all around the course: at every summit reached, every mile achieved, ever smile offered, every forward step taken. It was noticeable that those who were most appreciative of the efforts of the finishing solo runners, were the other solo runners: for only those who have been through the fire together can truly understand and appreciate the sacrifice, faith and commitment taken to reach that ultimate summit – the finish line.
In the few brief years of its existence, Pam Muston has embraced this race like her own child. Winning a race from the Over 50s division is a rare and remarkable feat: to do so 2 years in a row is the stuff of legends. Pam’s performance resounded with experience – starting at a more conservative pace, and maintaining that pace throughout. Yet she also showed the value of loving what you are doing: by committing herself wholeheartedly and unreservedly to the course and the race, at the finish she was positively radiating, looking fresher and sprightlier than any other finisher, team runners included.
With what would be described in horse racing as a “heavy track”, times were inevitably slower across the day. The effects of sustained rain in Canberra over several months has left the ground in part soft, sodden and slushy with occasional puddles up to shin height. Mud-clad shoes, a slippery tread and more cautious gait all contributed to a slower pace throughout.
After a wet week, organisers were blessed with two fine days – essential for applying paint to dirt – in which to mark the course, and a cool, fine race day in which the only real hint of rain came in the form of a glorious rainbow in the late afternoon, like a benediction over Mt Ainslie as runners streamed up, over and down this noble sentinel of Central Canberra.
Andy Isbister, hailing from the Megalong Valley and used to ups and downs as well as some slosh, was not planning or expecting to take a major trophy home from today’s exertions: however in a classic movie-script of “nice guy wins”, Andy toughed out some bleak moments to finish exalted with his win. Despite making up 14 minutes over the last 2 legs, Chris Oliver couldn’t quite reel in Tim Shakespeare for second place, Tim holding a 2-minute buffer at the close.
The effervescent Gemma Worland led the women’s race for most of the day, until the twin peaks of Mt Majura and Mt Ainslie loomed Alp-like to thwart her charge. Fiona Renshaw had more left in the tank and took the lead to win the Female Under 50s wreathed in smiles.
Glen Gielissen had set the pace early, leading allcomers, leaving everything out on the course and no “what-ifs”, eventually easing a little back through the field but still taking out the Male Over 50s from a faster-finishing Peter Komidar.
It is somewhat random to single out the category winners for special mention, as every finisher is indeed a winner in so many ways, often overcoming greater obstacles and hardship than the more fleet of foot. So let’s pause and salute you all [cue drumroll…]: Pam Muston, Glen Gielissen, Peter Komidar, Geoff Barnes, Tony Tsoi, Fiona Renshaw, Gemma Worland, Jackie Luethi, Cheryl Symons, Andy Isbister, Tim Shakespeare, Chris Oliver, Daren McClellan, Brett Easton, Aaron Flower, Alastair Lang, Robert Murray, Michael Manfield, Damien Stewart, Stephen Kiley, Jamie Dyball, Adam Edwards and Aaron Bowling.
Meanwhile, in a parallel universe coexisting on the same course, the relay teams were having their own battles, joys and disappointments.
Our vote for stand-out team of the day – and most apt team name of the day – goes to “Mountains are Molehills”, the winning All-Female outfit of Clare Lonergan, Elly Love, Julie Quinn and Leanne Wilkinson. Kudos for defeating ALL the All-Male teams. Second was another fast combo of Sally Parker, Kate Vandenberg, Melissa Carters and Kate Chipperfield, “The Kate’s and Mel the ringleader”.
Line honours – and first Mixed Team – went to the impressive line-up of “Massage One ACT”, with three very fast gentlemen in Sam Burridge, Scott Imhoff and Wayne Corlis being supplemented by former ACT Triathlon Champ, Michelle Wu running the long 30km leg. “Sparrows 1” were next in with Charlotte Burgoyne, Jacob Mugavin, Liam Lilley and Jason Agostino returning a fine race.
The All-Male Teams, as is often the case, produced a great tussle, with “BMMC - Floating Goldfish” (Ben Berriman, Brett Phelan, Tony Kelshaw and Anthony Tuting) and “Once were cyclists” (yes their name is an accurate description) comprising George Bunt, James Meadley, Allan Sieper and Etienne Blumstein-Jones, going into the last leg almost neck-and-neck after 80km of slugging it out, only for the former cyclists to find the extra required in the final push for home.
The one comment heard more than any other at the finish line was: “Please thank all the volunteers; they were fantastic!” We couldn’t agree more – a huge cheer of gratitude for all the volunteer aid station attendants, road crossing marshals and transition officials, including Tom Landon-Smith, Carinna Tong, Peter Lockey, Nic Bendeli, Phil & Belinda Essam, Billly Pearce, Rhian Blackwell, Jon Schol, Rosemary Morgan, Ulricke Schumann, Michael Thompson, Sarah Murphy, Sue & Norm and the many helpers from the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team of Auckland, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. Our very special gratitude to Dave Osmond, who rode the entire course in advance of the lead runner, to check on and replace missing course markings – a critical and priceless service. Thanks also to our medical staff of Bradley Close, Bruce Faraday and Michael Corrigan from Sports Medicine Australia.
Enjoy this video from Peter Komidar, solo runner...
in 2017, Canberra will turn 104 …