Surf Coast Century Preview

This weekend sees the running of an inaugural Surf Coast Century, another 100km event that gets added to our list of scenic races here in Australia. Run along similar coastline to the Great Ocean Walk, the views are stunning and the line-up of contenders up front is pretty strong with the likes of Rowan Walker (Australian marathon champ 2:18), Andrew Tuckey (Australian Mountain running rep) and Jonathan Worswick (all round awesome trail runner) among some of the top guns competing for the winners purse.

The other news to hit this race is that a group of 14-16yr old girls from Geelong High School are entered into the race and already debate is raging on the interwebs as to whether these girls should be allowed to race. It’s certainly an interesting move from the race directors to allow these girls to enter. The argument for suggests that in a world where TVs and video games keep children indoors, shouldn’t we be encouraging them to get outside and be part of the sport we love? The other side of the coin is that anything involving under 18s in an official organised event is just too great a risk given the unknowns of letting under 18s enter events that require a high degree of training and when so much is unknown about your body and how it will respond.

It’s a delicate situation, and what we want to do here is ensure that we’re focused on the right issues. Members of Ultra168 have our own personal opinions on the matter, but our job is to create a forum for open discussion. There are countless things to talk about here, most of which are being discussed on Facebook, so I want to keep this simple. This is not about saying that these girls can’t run 100kms and indeed do this in their own time. Indeed, we’re sure many of them are fitter than some of the other entrants. We also believe that yes, some of them could and will easily complete the course. However, this is not a debate as to whether they can do it, this is a debate as to whether they should be allowed to enter into a race that has rules, regulations and indeed legalities around insurance of the girls and also the overall responsibility that the race director has for their safety and welfare.

We understand that the race organisers are taking many precautions to ensure that everything is looked after for them e.g. medical checks at each checkpoint, the girls are pretty much walking the entire way. We checked in with them to understand their rationale, “Rapid Ascent’s (the race organiser of the Surf Coast Century) policy has always been to have no minimum age for competitors competing in any of our events. This was borne out of the fact that when I (John Jacoby) entered my first kayak race, aged 15 I was not allowed to enter. So I did what any determined kid would do, I went paddled the race unofficially anyway.

“We believe that people should not be restricted from tackling an objective simply because of their age and that they should be given the opportunity to test themselves and give it a go in a safe, controlled environment.

“Surf Coast Century safeguards include  mobile medical teams monitoring competitors at each CP, a course that allows for easy access to competitors along its entire length, mobile phone reception along the entire course, considerable race food and hydration provided free of charge around the course, supervision by race officials and support crews (plus parents), cut offs to limit those who are struggling to stop them before they bonk, and in this case – having an experienced adult teacher and their own peers with them every step of the way. We believe these measures make it safer to test yourself in an event environment than by yourself.”

No matter what your viewpoint is and despite all the questions of whether they are too young, the insurance, care of duty, setting precedents, getting kids out and about and into trail running etc… there is just one question we should all ask ourselves to understand whether we feel this is right or wrong:

“If this was your race, is allowing these girls to race a risk that you would take?”

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

14 thoughts on “Surf Coast Century Preview

  1. The Kokoda Challenge has been letting kids into their “adult” race for years. These girls appear to be taking all reasonable steps to ensure their success and safety, and shouldn’t be impacting any other runners’ races. I say go for it – more power to strong young women.

  2. Safety and safety management are the primary issues in assessing risks. Age is undoubtedly a factor in that assessment as are many other criteria, but it should not be THE sole determinant, or prism through which ALL other factors are considered. My 14 year old daughter lead 4 x 12 and 13 year old young boys on a 3 day self sufficient wilderness hike as part of her scout medallion award (highest award in scouts) (no adult leaders present). One girl / 4 boys…. At face value many people prejudicially were horrified that we would even consider this. Wrong question. the kid had spent the previous 6 years building skills towards this outcome, had safety management plans signed off by adults / had back up plans / remote first aid training / Epirb’s etc… We invested trust her to make the right judgement calls. She did.
    After that it is all about what policies the Race owners / directors decide to apply. If they apply them, they also are taking on board their part of the responsibility, which can of course require the girls and responsible adults to fulfil minimum race requirements / to satisfy them they have done so etc…

  3. I chatted with Dan about this earlier today. Having thought more about it I have no problems with it and none from a directors point of view either. Just because they are 14 does not mean they can’t make sensible decisions, just as a 35 year old isn;t guaranteed to make smart ones. Medical Checks are pretty much a waste of time as the Medics will have at best limited experience of dealing with a long event.

    When setting ag limits for events, who or what dicates a particular age is appropriate for things. Women weren;t allowed to run the Marathon at the Olympics until 1984. Why?? no good reason, certainly none based on any evidence which is the same for limitations based on age. At best they are put in place for some idea based on physical maturity and the potential to damage the body. Really, where is the evidence of this given that it is only recently that humans have lead a more sedentary life and that children going to school past the age of say 15 before going to work for a living is only a recent adaptation. And that’s in a western world.

    The human mind and body is capable of far more than we give it credit for. Stepping stones to longer distances is a falacy. We only need to look at the deprivations of the world wars to see the pysical demands that were placed on humans. I for one congratulate the very very experienced and gifted John Jacoby for allowing others to explore their boundries.

  4. Not a detailed race preview so I thought I should mention something. I feel like the fact that the Australian Marathon Champion running this race is flying under the radar or being overlooked due to other discussion. This is super exciting for trail running in Australia. There hasn’t been a runner as fast as Rowan over the marathon (except Nick Harrison) run ultras in Australia. When runners of this calibre are being attracted to trail 100’s it really says something about the progression of the sport. Maybe it’s the small scale Aussie example of the Run Rabbit Run with the $1000 prize money and $650 watch..?
    In terms of the race, Andrew Tuckey is a proven stud over 100km. He is coming off a great mountain race so form is good but maybe has some fatigue in the legs….who knows? The good thing for him is that the course is pancake flat compared to what he has been running. It will be verrrry interesting how the race plays out. Certainly Rowan will be entering the unknown (and struggled with pretty extreme trail conditions in B2H this year) but this ignorance can sometimes be a blessing in disguise.
    Anyway, as you can tell I’m a little bit excited about Saturday 🙂

    (Author’s footnote Julian or Lance his online alter ego 🙂 is a race ambassador for Surf Coast Century)

    1. Similarly Lance, we have a sub 2:30 marathoner Chris Truscott lining up at Centenniel Park on Sunday aiming to qualify for the World 100K Championship by running sub 8. I am very excited by this as Australia is looking at having formidable teams next year (Eadie, Truscott, Cochrane, myself and other bolters). In the ladies, we have trail queen Beth Cardelli also aiming to qualify and join Nikki Wynd who has already qualified at the Tan on the team for next year (with other ladies interested too). A couple of others looking to qualify on Sunday in the 50K race for the World 50K Champs as well by going sub 3:20. Yes, the ugly stepsisters of the ultra world but ultras nonetheless and deserve some coverage.

    2. What other ultras has Rowan run Lance? I remember him running B2H this year and going off course in a shortened race.
      I got very excited when Mona lined up to do Kepler a few years ago. He struggled big time and said it was the toughest thing he had ever done.
      Rowan’s race will be very interesting. Hope he does well.

      1. Not much Charlie I believe… I think Bogong may have been his first foray.. but I could be wrong. SCC is flat-ish, will suit the marathon runners down to the ground… should be some fast times…

      2. Yeh Rowan ran B2H but got destroyed by the conditions. He isn’t the most technical of runners but this won’t matter on the SCC course. It’s certainly not brutal like the Kep course but there is a definite unknown as to how the body responds once you get past 4 hours. I would love to see him have a crack at a road 100km. This is where I reckon he would excel.

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