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Race History

2016 will be the 29th running of the "Rooftop Run".
B2H is a classic race with a rich history embedded in Australian trail running folklore. 
Starting at Mountain Creek Campground runners climb the massive Mt Bogong, descend T-Spur to Big River before the next big climb up Duane's Spur to reach the Bogong High Plains. Passing through the main aid station at Langford Gap, runners continue across the high plains before dropping to the Cobungra River and climbing Swindler's Spur on the way to the finish at Mt Hotham summit. Undoubtedly, one of the toughest race mile-for-mile in Australia it offers the most spectacular views, the most amazing experience and a real challenge for trail runners.

Andy Hewat took over the organisation for the 2011 race at the request of AURA. With the cancellation of the 2015 race, there have now been 3 cancellations (2004, 2013 and 2015) and the one abandonment mid race (2012). The race is firmly established on the Australian Ultra calendar and will hopefully bounce back from the 2015 cancellation. While the recent history has been unfavourable, considering the race has been held consistently since 1984, overall the race has been fairly consistently held.

The aim of this page is to capture as much of the history of this iconic race as possible. The format of the race has returned largely to its traditional roots with the single start time and tighter cut-off. The original cut-off at Langford Gap was 5:00hrs but the course went straight down the 4wd track to the road behind Langford Gap. With the introduction of the singletrack to the Aquaduct Track into Langford the cut-off was changed to 5:30hrs. This proved a tough challenge and meant that most years less than half the field made it to Mt Hotham. This became a much prized finish and the reputation of B2H grew as the toughest trail ultra on offer. 

Geoff Hook was Race Director in the 90s and would often comment that the runners were spoilt by being outnumbered 2:1 by volunteers and radio operators. The low-key, grass-roots style of the race developed a cult following and created an aura of mystique and desire amongst the then small ultrarunning community. Mountain Creek would hum on race morning as runners would emerge out of their cars and tents and queue up to enter before lining up on the start line. (Yes you would actually enter on race day!) It gradually became more sophisticated and race numbers were drawn onto a square of canvas material to be pinned to your tshirt. Gear requirements were minimal and there was more reliance on self-sufficiency. The volunteers and radio operators that hiked in would carry in some light provisions and extra water for the small field.

In the early 2000s the race was struggling to survive with fields sometimes less than 20 and the organisation being challenged by increasing pressure to meet administrative requirements. The Race Director at that time, Mike Grayling, enlisted the help of John Lindsay as Communications Officer to help grow the race and ensure its survival. 



The following was forwarded by previous RD Geoff Hook:

BOGONG TO HOTHAM RUN



History of the Bogong to Hotham Event

In the days when technology didn't count for very much, a lone skier, Charles Derrick, attempted a marathon ski trek from Mountain Creek to Mt. Hotham.  An arduous journey at the best of times.  An impossible one in a blizzard.

In September 1965, Charles Derrick set out in a late winter burst of foul weather using equipment that lacks the sophistication of modern day technology.  His endurance and tenacity were supreme as he kept skiing through horrendous gales, fighting fatigue.

Graeme Wheeler, in his book "Walk The Timeless Land", poignantly writes, "He had pushed almost thirty miles of terrain beneath his skis, had gained and dropped over 9000 feet.  Within a mile and a half of his objective the weather had pounded him to a halt, frozen, exhausted".

A cairn now marks the spot close to Mt. Hotham where Charles Derrick perished.


The Footrace

The first footrace was held in 1984 over the same course as Charles Derrick attempted but during summer, not winter.  Traditionally it has been held during late December or early January.  Even so, the weather can still be foul, as it has on a few occasions, and it can just as well be extremely hot where heat exhaustion is a worry.

Russell Bulman, orienteer competitor and organiser, and founder of the Rooftop Runners (a group who like running mountain trails) devised the footrace to follow the Charles Derrick course.  The challenge of the tough course soon drew quite reasonable numbers of competitors.   The Australian Ultra Runners' Association Inc. has now taken over the conduct of the hardest and most difficult footrace in Australia.

The brief results of each event are:-

Date Starters Finishers Winner Time

    /12/84 5 2 Neil Hooper 7:14
28/12/85 6 6 Neil Hooper 6:58:52*
27/12/86 9 3 Robin Rishworth 8:16:46
27/12/87         16 3 Peter Le Busque 7:57
  8/  1/89         23 5 Jonathon Broxap 9:10:10
  7/  1/90         44         19 Neil Hooper 7:11:10
                Sue Dreverman 10:20:08
 6/  1/91 Cancelled
 5/  1/92       23       12 Neil Hooper 7:16:10
 3/  1/93       32       12 Bruce Inglis 7:44:50

* course records
 
The Course

The course has an overall climb of more than 3000 metres and an overall descent of about 2000 metres.  In a total distance of approximately 60km, this equates to the toughest trail run in Australia.  The start is particularly tough in that after an initial 2km of undulating 4 wheel drive track, the trail climbs over 1300 metres in the next 6km to the summit of Mt. Bogong.  After losing a lot of body fluid through sweat on the way up, the steep descent into Big River down T-Spur wrecks the legs.  The "relatively" easier second half of the race becomes tortuous as the runners push their sore and tired bodies across the high plains, down into the Cobungra Gap and finally up to Mt. Hotham.

The best places to get a feel for the character of the event is at the start at Mountain Creek;  the energy sapping ascent of Mt. Bogong, particularly above the tree line near the summit;  the ankle twisting rocky descent from the summit;  the even steeper descent down T-Spur;  and the Big River crossing normally raging at calf to knee deep.  Other vantage points along the course may not be quite so dramatic but the look of pain or weariness on the faces of competitors is a common sight.

The following reports are a typical description from a competitor's point of view.


BOGONG TO HOTHAM RUN (Vic.)

December 28, 1985

by Russell Bulman



The sun was just rising as the second Rooftop Runners' Bogong to Hotham run began at Mountain Creek near Mount Beauty.  A field of six hardy individuals set out to tackle Victoria's hardest run.  The route climbs over Mt. Bogong, the highest peak in the state, then follows the Alpine Walking Track across the high plains to the summit of Mt. Hotham.  In a distance of 60 kilometres, the runners climbed over 9000 feet.

Possibly due to the mild weather, all six runners finished the event in better times than they expected.   Neil Hooper, three times winner of the Mount Beauty Marathon, led by 20 minutes at the halfway point and went on to break his own record by 16 minutes.  With his face and arms smothered in zinc cream he was an unusual sight as he trotted across the Bogong High Plains.


Results:

1. Neil Hooper 6 hours 58 minutes 52 seconds (Record)
2. Robin Rishworth         7 hours 46 minutes 8 seconds
3. Julian Van Leeson 8 hours 8 minutes 2 seconds
4. Steven Miller 8 hours 12 minutes 40 seconds    
5. Alan Davis         8 hours 24 minutes 38 seconds
6. Jim Ingham 8 hours 37 minutes 11 seconds
 
BOGONG - HOTHAM RUN by Robin Rishworth January 1986

The terrain between the two peaks of Mt. Bogong and Mt. Hotham is often frequented by ski tourers and bushwalkers.  Over the years the more adventurous have combined this into a continuous trip of several days, while those more intent on torturing themselves have attempted it in a single day, covering over 60 kilometres, climbing 3250 metres and descending 1930 metres.

Charles Derrick an excellent cross country skier is one person who failed to complete the journey, he died of exposure when he encountered a blizzard near Mt. Hotham.  Even on a fine sunny day the  weather can change very quickly and visibility be reduced down to only a few metres.

Several runners have attempted the journey over the years with varying success.  Danny Flynn and Clive Vogel completed the distance in 8 hours 15 minutes.  This record stood for over ten years up until Neil Hooper slashed this record on the first official race conducted in December 1984 which attracted five starters.  Only two completed the tough course, three runners withdrew pretty well exhausted.  Neil ran the distance an amazing hour quicker than the previous record in 7 hours 14 minutes.

Following the success of the '84 run, enough interest was aroused for another run at the same time of the year in 1985.  Several months planning resulted in increased safety measures:  three manned check points were established at Ropers hut, Watchbed Creek and Pole 333 and a tough 5 hour time limit was set at Watchbed Creek for those wishing to continue, so if any difficulty was encountered the runners could be accounted for.  Runners were also encouraged to carry a jumper and some food.

On the 28th of December 1985 at 6.30 a.m. six fool hardy rooftop runners were set on their way by race co-ordinator Russell Bulman, from Mountain Creek car park at 590 metres on the second Bogong - Hotham run.  Jim Ingham sprinted to the front but it didn't take long for Neil Hooper to overtake him.

The run followed Mountain Creek for two kilometres and six creek crossings, then a 1300 metre climb up the Staircase spur to the summit of Victoria's highest mountain, Mt. Bogong at 1986 metres.  The views were magnificent, Neil and Robin Rishworth passed over the summit in 1 hour 16 minutes.  While Julian Van Leer who had completed the journey many times before was next over in 1 hour 26 minutes, followed by three runners Jim, Steve Miller and Allan Davis a renown downhill runner.

It was a chance to rest those weary muscles and strain some different ones.  Neil rocketed downhill just as if the run had just begun, this was a 1010 metre descent to the Big River far below, great care had to be taken not to loose the track and stay on two feet.   At least ten bushwalkers had to scamper from the track.

The swift flowing Big River was crossed knee deep with aid of a chain, a 900 metre climb up the Dunne spur through tall mountain forests.  Sections of this spur had to be walked.  A large tiger snake laid across the track and refused to move.

Neil made such good progress that after 3 hours he had beaten the first support party to Ropers Hut.  The five other runners were more fortunate, they passed momentarily for a drink and to hear words of encouragement.   The toughest section of the run had been completed and there was only 40km to run, most of it being high altitude running between 1800 - 1600 metres on the treeless Bogong high plains.

The snow poles were followed over the shoulder of Mt. Nelse at 1860 metres downhill to the major check point at Watchbed Creek 32km from the start.  This was the only drop out point, the runners that ventured beyond were committed to finishing at Mt. Hotham a further 30km off.  This was an opportunity to eat some food, Neil Hooper was first through in 3 hours 41 minutes followed by

2. Robin Rishworth         4 hours 7 minutes
3. Julian Van Leer         4 hours 19 minutes
4. Allan Davis 4 hours 22 minutes
5. Jim Ingham and Steve Miller 4 hours 37 minutes

A luxury for 2km a descent trail, the main high plains road but then its back onto the rough Alpine Walking track.  A head wind doesn't help, either does the numerous cattle which roamed freely across the high plains and weren't too willing to move off the track for a weary runner, they have also made sections of the track muddy.  Other parts of the trail are extremely rocky.

Many more bushwalkers were passed along the run, some were impressed, others not amused at our antics.  On Pole 333 another manned check point and Mt. Hotham loomed on the horizon.  Only the Cobungra River separates the runners from this peak.  However your legs don't feel too good after six hours running to encounter a 500m descent.

The Cobungra river was crossed on a slippery log and it was hard to maintain balance.  Then its up the even more demanding Swindlers Spur, a 500m climb, sections are walked and snakes avoided.  Derrick Hut is passed and it's easier running.  Mt. Loch car park is passed and only a kilometre to go.  A scramble to the trig on the summit of Mt. Hotham.

Neil had increased his pace with his sight set on becoming the first person to complete the distance in under 7 hours, a further 50 minutes and the other rooftop runners start completing the course.  Steve Miller had made his move recording the second fastest second half just failing to catch Julian.

Results:

1. Neil Hooper 6 hours 58 minutes 52 seconds (Record)
2. Robin Rishworth         7 hours 46 minutes 8 seconds
3. Julian Van Leeson 8 hours 8 minutes 2 seconds
4. Steven Miller 8 hours 12 minutes 40 seconds
5. Alan Davis         8 hours 24 minutes 38 seconds
6. Jim Ingham 8 hours 37 minutes 11 seconds




Keep watch for updates. All 2011, 2012 and 2013 entrants are already on the mailing list but if you are considering entering for 2014 you should send an email to andy@trailrunningcompany.com
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