Some people like to head up the coast and do a spot of camping, others like to relax with friends and family. Others like to try and run 250kms over the weekend!
There was more to this than a run between Newcastle and Sydney along the Great North Walk with a couple of mates. This was about running through three consecutive sunrises and exploring how quickly a two week hike can be completed over a weekend. It was also about how if focused properly, the mind can convince the body to continue on and even surprise itself sometimes.
Terry, Andrew and I (Darrel) gathered at the bottom of the Obelisk in Newcastle at around 11.45pm on the Friday night, getting our packs ready to carry us through this amazing journey. Joining us was ultra stalwart, Allison Lilley, along with ultra veteran, ‘Louie de Fly’ who rocks up shorts and singlet, and says “Hello” and “I am ready” as we look on in disbelief! We gather ourselves at the Obelisk to take the mandatory photos and wait for midnight to strike.
Day 1 was our “set up” day. This meant that we had to put ourselves in the best possible position for the journey ahead. By being in control we can give ourselves more options down the track. The first few hours were relatively easy except for the odd navigational issues, which you may expect when running in the dark. However we managed our way through to Teralba in good time, and then back to familiar territory and a course that each of us has run a few times before as part of the GNW 100mile race. We knew that the next section was the time to get the mind focused and that the hills were coming. We pushed on through the night to arrive at Freeman’s Waterhole at 7.00am, and right on schedule for our crew, who were waiting for us with egg & bacon rolls and coffees all round. As they say, onwards and upwards and that’s exactly what we did for the next few hours with some big climbs for measure! We hit a slight snag as we rolled into Watagan Camp Site expecting water to be there but the tank was dry. Splitting what water we had between us, we set off towards Congewai and some beautiful running in the Hunter Valley. This section is relatively easy in running terms so we cruised along at a good pace, arriving at the Farmhouse gate right on 2.00pm, approximately 75km from Newcastle and all feeling pretty good. We had not seen Louie since Teralba and found out later he ran 10 hours and called it a day.
This was our last crew stop for the day so we took our time, ate plenty and took enough stores to last us into the night. This section is a bit of a grind as you climb, then you relax on a nice gentle run, before climbing again. We were making good progress and amusing each other with some very bad jokes. We even started to name Australian rock bands starting with certain letters of the alphabet – it is amazing what you can’t remember when you’re under pressure.Our running was very much on track, and we arrived at the 103km point within 30 minutes of our estimated time. Unfortunately the crew had been unable to locate us, so we pushed on towards Cedar Brush and finally stopped for the night on the side of the road, 7km out of Yarramalong at approx 10:30pm. Setting up tents whilst eating and packing for the next day took quite a bit of time and it was 11:30pm before we finally laid our heads to rest. At this point, Allison decided to go home with the crew and call it a day. We think the missing ropes and tent pegs were too much to handle having just run for 22.5 hours! With just three hours rest it was time to get up and get going for Day 2.
This was known as “moving day”, and we had to consolidate our position. None of us had known how we would feel after running 110km the day before, but when we did start to move, we were surprised as to how good we felt. There was around 6 hours of running until we met our crew at Ourimbah Creek road for breakfast, and the running along the road into Yarramalong was great – the moon had lit the valley up and it was simply stunning.
We met our crew for some more bacon & egg rolls and coffee before setting off again. There was a “work” like feeling to this day. It felt as though in order to enjoy the final day we had to slog hard all Sunday, and slog hard we did. Running with Matthew from Somersby to Patonga provided us with a big lift. Any outside influence, no matter how normal or boring provided us with hours of entertainment. Matt really helped us get to Patonga faster than we would have if it had just been the three of us, and we had a lot of fun along the way. We left Patonga around 8pm and arrived at Brooklyn for 9.30pm.
At Brooklyn, we met up with Clifford to run the remaining 77km into Sydney. By the time we had organized ourselves, it was 10.00pm and time to move. We decided not to sleep at Brooklyn and try and go the rest of the run with only food stops. Martin never missed a beat and was great company and help in keeping us going. Our logic for carrying on was that we would be tired whether we slept or not, so we chose to carry on. Logic however didn’t allow us to realize that by carrying on we were turning Day 2 into a 40+ hour running day with no sleep after already running 110km in 22 hours the day before with only 3 hours sleep. We picked up Allison again at Cowan and ran pretty well to Berowra. If there was a low point of the run it would have to be Berowra to Crosslands.This really got to us, it wasn’t physical it was purely mental. The three of us weren’t talking much, and we were complaining at anything we could put some blame on! We were cold cranky and had enough. A text to Loz (Andrew’s wife) pleading for breakfast gave us something to look forward to and we ran Crosslands to Galston in 90 minutes as the sun came up and crushed the mental fatigue that crept up on us between 4am and 6am on the third night.
45Km to go and we were once again back in control. Galston Gorge to Thornleigh Oval is a great bit of trail and we moved well here, with lots of jokes and mucking around. Quite simply the three of us were in a state of sleep-deprived drunkenness. Nothing was making sense, and we were taking the piss out of each other even more than usual, but we were still running and still surprising ourselves that we were able to do this after so many hours and so many kilometers covered. There were times during this section when we could sprint along the trails without a trace of fatigue, running hills, chasing each other and there were times where just staying upright was a challenge. This was enlightening to me and I want to find out why it was able to occur.Hitting Lane Cove started to get bored again, but still had 15km to go, so we made the best of it and picked up Loz and Marcus along the way. GNW is still difficult to navigate through Woolwich and we ran like lunatics with Ron, through the streets in hope of making the ferry. We climbed onto the ferry exhausted and deliriously ecstatic in equal measures. We touched the Obelisk in Macquarie Place in 66 hours and 36 minutes after leaving the Obelisk in Newcastle just on 250 kilometers ago. Running some of the best country in Australia, it seemed like it had taken 2 weeks. Lots of people to thank including our two major sponsors, REBEL Erina who supplied our entire running needs and Rays Outdoors Erina for supplying our camping equipment. Without the support of these businesses it is very difficult to achieve these goals. We would also like to thank our family and friends for their support.
- Length…250 kilometres
- Time 66 hours 36 minutes
- Crew Stops…7 supported stops
- Gu’s consumed by the 3 of us 88 in total
- Sleep 3 hours each
- Allison Lilley…Ran 180 km’s of the 250 possible to help us through
- 2 loaves of vegemite sandwiches
- 22 up and go’s
- 27 Energize Up & Go’s
- 24 bags of chips
- 26 tins of creamed rice
- 1 fruit loaf
- 13 tubs of fruit salad
- 2 kg of mixed lollies
- Plus egg and bacon rolls, coffees, oranges, coke, water, Powerade and McDonalds