Although this year there were only three runners, no aid stations, no support crews, no medals, it is my intent that next year I will have in place enough infrastructure to support a field of 30-50 runners, preferably with AURA certification (and maybe even medals for the finishers!)
Raising money for charity is great when it’s a local charity you feel connected to, who are doing great things to improve people’s lives. Last Friday was the inaugural running of the Berry Long Run, which raises funds for Berry Street Victoria, who have been supporting families and children impacted by neglect or abuse since 1877.
To our sponsors – from David Overend, Ben Phillips, myself and Berry Street – a BIG thankyou! So far we’ve raised just over $1,500, which is fantastic. We were extremely chuffed at the level of support, and were excited on the day to see some coming through real-time, in those rare moments of mobile coverage, which buoyed us along the way.
Of course, this event wasn’t entirely altruistic – we had an awesome journey!
By some miracle, the weather gods decided to smile down on us, producing a flawless spring day in winter. This highlighted just how beautiful were the forests, gorges, hills and trails we passed through, which was new territory to all three of us. I would greatly recommend the Lerderderg State Park as somewhere to head for a hike, or even just a stroll with the family of a weekend.
Sunrise came quickly, and much of our first 10kms was constantly interrupted by the burning need to attempt group selfies with the landscape in the background. Nonetheless, we somehow got ourselves to Mt Blackwood, and then up its steep slope to the less than inspiring mobile phone tower at the top. The view up here was amazing, with rolling hills and gorges falling away from us to the horizon, clouds hanging in the valleys. The cameras got another good workout.
As chief navigator I have to take some responsibility for missing a key turn not long after the Mt Blackwood climb…and then attempting to rejoin the course via two trails that led to dead-ends…and then deciding to continue on past the second dead end and through the virgin bush, discovering that no less than three steep gorges separated us from the trail we were attempting to intersect. At over 40 minutes, that was definitely the slowest kilometre we covered! (even if you include the ones that involved multiple photo stops and other shenanigans)
Once we had regained the elusive Whiskey Track, it wasn’t long before we reached the river at gorgeous O’Brien’s Crossing, where a couple of high-viz gentlemen graciously rummaged through the toolboxes in the back of their ute to find cable-ties, helping Ben properly secure his front-pack and continue forward without the constant bouncing of gear against his abdomen. I believe his day improved greatly.
From here, the course followed 11kms of stunning, AWESOME single track, winding along the side of the gorge above the river. This was a pleasure to run, although needed some concentration to retain a vertical orientation, as I realised when I was rudely brought to a halt, finding myself horizontal atop some wallaby poo (this was actually my second fall for the day, as the extended bush-bash had already yielded slapstick fruit).
Halfway through this section we spotted an old mine entrance leading into the hill, and were compelled to pull out the headtorches (from the early morning start) and investigate. The tunnel was brilliant – and reasonably stable/safe, we concluded – but unfortunately only went for about 50 metres before ending in a cave-in.
Arriving in Blackwood, we took a big step back in time. This is a you-beaute, dinky-di, no-BS historical gold town. We loved it. Despite our odd appearance, the pub did concede to serve us, just, and the hot-chips and coke were beyond luxury.
The time lost from the aforementioned nav issues, coupled with my ongoing knee issues, which started kicking in after 35kms, meant that a course variation on the return reduced our overall distance to 72kms. However, with the unexpected detours, the total vertical climb was much higher than expected, at around 2100 metres.
Overall, a real adventure was had and we were pretty happy with the result. We definitely achieved the Fastest Known Time for the course we ran – a record that I am confident will remain unbroken for eternity, given the navigational near-impossibility of repeating it!
If my knee could talk, I doubt it would have quite so positive a spin on the whole thing. I am still in a lot of pain walking, and will be getting scans this week. With only 4 weeks now until my big race for the year – the GNW100 Miles (175kms with >6,000 metres vertical ascent) – a quick shake of the magic ball suggests “The outlook is not good”.