It turns out no-one had 2020 vision after all.
No-one clearly foresaw the bounty of remarkable outcomes of this extraordinary year. When we were sheltering in our homes, borders closing in on us, with events cancelling en masse, there seemed little likelihood of …
… a day (and night) for the record books: a record field in each of the solo and relay races; record number of volunteers to help; overall course records in 4 of the 6 solo age categories and all 3 of the relay team divisions; 6 of the 8 individual leg records for relay teams; a record completion rate for solo runners (75 finished out of 90 starters) – and even a record low number of runners getting lost.
The weeks and days leading into the race were nerve-wracking for runners and organisers alike. Mountains of time, training, focus and energy goes into a 100km trail run for all involved – yet even though permits had been issued and venues confirmed, we all knew that adverse circumstances either locally or interstate could trigger a cancellation at any moment – and all the training and preparation might have vanished as a wisp of cloud on a Summer’s day.
Spring dawned bright in early September, the worrying interstate curves were all subsiding, the lead-up week ticked all its boxes … and the day unfolded, step by step, dreamlike.
Our first and foremost Gratitude is to all the volunteers who served at road crossings, drink stations and transition points from dawn till after midnight cheerfully, encouragingly and tirelessly. You are the beating heart of this event: every course record, every PB, every smiling finisher is your doing – your offering and achievement, as much as any runner’s. We all cheer and thank you!!
Particular thanks also to our ACT Government, whose advice and directions have been clear and consistent throughout. Responsible and safe outdoor activity has been endorsed and encouraged, enabling thoughtful, careful planning for the sensible enjoyment of life. Hooray!
The journey and achievement of every solo runner – including those who, for whatever reason ‘did not finish’ – each embodies an epic of aspiration and inspiration, of depths and richness far surpassing the vision of this humble race report to fathom or venture to recount.
To select a few highlights at random – with apologies to every story and glory transcribed in pounding heartbeats, wincing blisters, churning stomachs, screaming quads and soaring flights of personal and shared joy, yet untold here –
* Gretchen Smith’s astonishment to learn she had won the women’s race, expressing in tears of disbelief, relief and joy;
* Peter Badowski breaking his own Male 60-69 course record, just 3 weeks shy of his 70th birthday;
* Pam Muston cheerily setting an inaugural Female 60-69 best time to sit alongside her numerous F50-59 (and previous overall female winner) titles;
* Brendan Davies’ sheer class – a winner for sure in style and speed, yet an even nobler winner in attitude, gratitude and humility;
* 3 finishers under 10 hours (Dave Hardwicke and Matt Griggs joining Brendan Davies), revealing a new and exciting depth of quality across the field;
* every first-time finisher;
* Justin Hiatt’s elation at lowering his time from 2019 by 2 hours;
* Nicole Siddon’s and Kevin Dodd’s glowing triumph, summiting in the pitch dark in 16:24…
At registration on Saturday, several teams announced their intention to break the all-time race record, the legendary 6:59 set by Martin Dent and colleagues last decade. Some of the pretenders were clearly joking: a few were 100% serious. Could anyone sincerely have predicted not one but THREE teams breaking the impregnable 7 hour barrier, and another just a minute outside? For the all-boy band of “808s and Heartbreak” (Alan Craigie, Matthew Berrington, Harrison McGill & Hugh Williams – who brought the team home with a new leg 4 course record of 1:32:32) to run 6:53:44 was a sensational outing – yet an even more stunning result came next in 2nd place overall; the Mixed Team ensemble of “Big Chungus” (Deon Kenzie, Philo Saunders, Keely Small – who blitzed a new female course record for leg 3 of 1:47:34 – & Bryce Anderson) also breaking the previous All-Male record, powering home in a phenomenal 6:59:11, winning their division by 1 hour and 20 minutes, and thrillingly outrunning the all-male “Beer Mile Athletics Club” (Michael Daly, James Minto, Jacob Grooby & Sam Burridge) who clocked an outstanding 6:59:31. Special mention to “The Belco Boys” (Michael Chapman, Ben Maccronan – who shattered a long-standing course record for leg 2 with 1:42:57 – Etienne Blumstein-Jones & Jade Brady) who finished in 7:01:48 and “Yeah Maaate” (Callum Burns, Jaryd Clifford, Tim Logan & Vincent Donnadieu) with 7:09:29 – all of whom would have won the race easily in almost every other year – until 2020.
With an almost-empty finishing area, most ‘spectators’ were following the race via the “live” results online. This virtual crowd barely had time to collect its collective breath before the dizzying performances resumed, as “Cofit-20” (Elizabeth Humphries – new course record for leg 1 of 2:01:54, Fleur Flanery – new course record for leg 2 with 2:19:54, Tara Melhuish & Alex Grant) ate up Canberra’s hills greedily and gracefully in 8:37:21, digesting the previous All-Female team record by over an hour in the process. “See ya later, elevator” (Penny Deacon, Natalie Budd, Nicola Connell & Isabella Comfort) were next All-Female team home in an impressive 9:19:54, from “KOOL Galz” (Amanda Cook, Ellie Barrett, Narell Smith & Allie Corripio), living up to their name with 9:29:30.
The quartet of “Au Revoir Ankles” (Andy McConnell, Melissa Clarke, Daniel Oehm & Dominique Ferguson) took 2nd placing in the Mixed Teams division through their superb showing of 8:21:10; while the all-round class of “Charlie’s Angels” (Charlie Doherty – who set a new best time for leg 1 with 1:39:50, Laurie Brown, Lizzy Drennan & Mohak Garg) saw them taking 3rd with 8:22:37, despite the unfortunate setback of an accidental detour incurring a 10-minute time adjustment.
Our admiration and congratulations to each and every participant, from first to last, and our thanks, respect and appreciation to the event medical team of Mike Corrigan and Corey Bacon, to Dave Osmond who rode the entire course ahead of the field to check on course markings (miraculously, none appear to have been interfered with this year!), to course sweepers Sean Conway, Tegan Musumeci, Ross Scott and Tim Craig, to Martin Fryer of FlyerUltra timing services, to the personal helpers of each solo runner, and to the confluence of aspiration, enthusiasm, support and goodwill from all supporters and well-wishers, yielding a day that will long shine as a gleaming star midst the gloom of 2020.