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2009 Race Report

GREAT OCEAN WALK 100s October 10-11th 2009

Thirty-eight hours and it came down to the last 5 minutes. With just minutes to spare before the cut-off expired, Jane Trumper emerged around the headland and dropped onto the Apollo Bay foreshore running strong with no hint of the two days and 190km of perpetual motion that had carried her to this climatic finish. A small crowd waited nervously around the big white anchor that served as the start/finish line. The crowd was small in number but big on emotion. The anticipation was palpable.  Running faster than she had at any other time in the race, Jane was cheered across the line in 37:55hrs, cementing her place in history as the first woman to complete the Great Ocean Walk 100 mile trail ultra. 

The Great Ocean Walk is an established hiking trail stretching close to 100km from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles. Traversing coastal heath lands, beaches, dense rainforests and wide open pasture the track passes largely through the Otway National Park and finishes in the Port Campbell National Park. Runners were treated to an endless unravelling of panoramic vistas as they wound their way around headland after headland until, if they were fast enough, they were finally greeted by the sun setting behind the spectacular rock formations known as the 12 Apostles. This constituted the 100km race. The return journey reaching around 190km completed the 100-mile event. Given the extensive use of Parks land a partnership was struck with Parks Victoria through local ranger in charge, Peter Burns, making the whole thing possible. 

Hours before Jane’s dramatic finish, Wayne ‘Blue Dog’ Gregory confirmed his place in the records as the inaugural winner by reaching the anchor in 31:06 hrs. The Dog looked strong, undoubtedly fuelled by the euphoria of running over such a tough but spectacular course to first place. All through Saturday Wayne had stuck to his race plan and let the speedster, Tim Cochrane run himself ragged. Tim held a blistering pace, indication that with fresh legs he could really give this course a shake. But by the turnaround at the 12 Apostles, Wayne was well in front and Tim was a spent man, and withdrew. 

Darrel Robins paced himself to perfection and by the second sunrise started nipping at the Dog’s heels. With the help of a strong support crew, Darrel managed the distance with clinical precision and finished second in 31:28.  Third was Kevin Heaton in 34:16. Kevin revelled in the constantly undulating terrain but took several wrong turns adding distance to what is already a well over-distance 100miler. Michael Lovric was the tail-ender at the turn-around but enjoyed a little nap at the Johanna Beach checkpoint at dawn and revived, proceeded to reel in Jane and Rodney Ladyman, who spent much of the night together keeping each other on track. Michael finished in 37:06 with Rodney not far behind in 37:43.  Of course Jane scooped the prizes finishing first female and last outright, securing her both a generous Athlete’s Foot voucher for a pair of runners (same for Wayne) and the perpetual trophy for the slowest runner: a rusty old boat anchor. (Which she even managed to get checked on to her return flight!)

Besides struggling with the persistent undulations and soft sand, a few runners had to contend with a territorial koala. At one point, Ladyman was found running the wrong way back up the track. Asked what he was doing, he turned and pointed to the advancing, growling koala, in the middle of the path! Of course by the end of the weekend the koala was as big as a grizzly with the teeth and claws to match. And he can’t even blame hallucinations, this occurred on the first morning!

Only six of the ten 100mile runners finished, testimony to the toughness of this course. That leaves just 4 runners still eligible for the Australian Grand Slam of Ultrarunning: Glasshouse100, GOW100, Great North Walk100 and Coast to Kosciusko. 

In the 100km race the large field of 26 runners quickly spread across the course. Phil ‘Spud’ Murphy was planning an easy race post Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (165km) in France but soon found himself in the lead with debutante Mike Tong. Tong had the home course advantage having trained on the course with his secondary school students but not the experience to match Murphy who settled into a solid pace, pulling away from the field with apparent ease, indicating he is well recovered and ready to step back up to his regular long course distance. In a display of class, Phil cruised to a 13:07 finish and a great 2XU Performance Clothing prize. 

Tong paid the price for the early pace and faded allowing Gareth Parker and Dan Bleakman to surge through to a solid second (14:22) and third (14:28) place, respectively.
Amongst the women, Kate Sanderson ran a steady and controlled race to be the first woman in the 100km (17:00). Second and third were filled by Michelle Donnelly (18:00) and Kathy Garnett (18:47), making her 100km debut.

Runners were impressed with the level of organisation for a first up race and there was unanimous consent that this is probably the most scenic and spectacular course on offer. Gregory’s off-the-cuff comment at the 12 Apostles turnaround sums it up pretty succinctly: “You kicked a goal with this course!” With the original allotment of 30 runners filling within hours of entries opening online this year, organisers Paul Monks, Brett Saxon and yours truly hope to expand the field to accommodate the expected growth in interest next year. With an extensive website at www.gow100.com runners are encouraged to join the mailing list to ensure they don’t miss out next year. We set out to build a race for people to test themselves over the distance, to experience a truly remarkable piece of this planet and to allow them to live the dream that we ultrarunners love to dream: endless single-track with endless views. 

Andy Hewat