Hanny Allston’s Alice Calling

Hanny Allston World Skyrunning Series Dolomites
Hanny Allston World Skyrunning Series Dolomites

Hanny Allston loves running in wild places. The notorious running bug courses through her veins, and when she’s not running, or competing at the elite level, she’s talking about it as a coach and outdoor athletic shop owner.

Allston has been described as an extraordinary runner, with an inexhaustible capacity to run, some of her recent achievements include a new women’s record for the 6 Foot Track Marathon; a podium finish at the World Orienteering Championships in Scotland, Oceania Skyrunning Champion, a top 10 finish overall at the Ultra Trail Australia 50, and recently named as part of the Australian team for the World Trail Championships in October.

Proudly hailing from Hobart, Tasmania, Allston is the only athlete outside of Europe to have won a World Orienteering Title, completing a double Junior World Championship and Senior World Championship in the same year.

But it’s not only records and elite titles; Allston simply loves that chase for the essence of perfection and personal challenge; competitive against herself, and ever curious of what she is capable of. With a long-time love of the outdoors, the swimming focus of her younger years has evolved naturally into a passion for long-distance trail running.

This August Allston is taking on a slightly different challenge, her second ever stage race; Run Larapinta – a 4-day, 4-stage trail running race along the spectacular and iconic Larapinta Trail, Alice Springs. And her Mum Julia Hutchinson is coming along for the ride – not to watch, but to take up the challenge as well, on what will be her 60th birthday, and run alongside her daughter. We caught up with Hanny and Julia recently to find out how the idea came about, and how preparation has been going.

How did you first get into running, and did you always love getting offroad?

Hanny: I used to run amok on our organic hobby farm south of Hobart where I grew up. But I was a competitive swimmer and our coaches used to have us running 3-4 times a week on top of our pool sessions. I guess I realised I had a knack for running and loved wild spaces, this flowed beautifully into trail running, orienteering and athletics. I run because I love to experience the world around me and escape from the busyness of life.

I also get to work with the most extraordinary people doing extraordinary things… from athletes to race organisers, tourism, national parks… I love the Gone Running Tours we conduct but I also love educating people and the challenges of running a business.

Julia: For me running hasn’t been a lifelong passion. I started my sporting life as a swimmer and only began running when our family started orienteering when I was in my early 40’s.

I would try to run the orienteering courses and found that despite my swim fitness, I would finish every weekend race stiff and sore. So I went and bought some running shoes, and started jogging up the hill near home. I found I enjoyed it and gradually got stronger until I was finally able to run my one and only marathon when I turned 50 in the mountains of Ladakh, in northern India.

What are your favourite places to run?

Hanny: Tasmania – anywhere and everywhere but I do especially love Cradle Mountain and our alpine regions. Running the Overland Track last winter with my partner Graham is one of my favourite running memories. Just being out there with him in a playground that feels sacred to us both was incredible… snow everywhere, stars in the morning, warm day, no one on the track… trail running heaven! I would love to spend time on the North-West of Tasmania in the wild regions called the Tarkine. I can’t believe that this area is not protected by any National Parks, Reserves or World Heritage Areas as it has some of the last remaining stands of temperate rainforests, wildest coastlines, heathlands and Aboriginal midden sites.

Hanny and Julia Allston Sustenpass Switzerland in 2011
Hanny and Julia Allston Sustenpass Switzerland in 2011

Julia: My favourite places to run are always in the bush. I cannot manage two steps on the road! I have never run with music or earphones as I just love to listen to the sounds of the bush and the music of the birds. It is always a time for quiet contemplation.

So, how did the idea of racing at Run Larapinta together come about?

Hanny: Mum was my taxi service and huge support through my early swimming days. She was a record holder nationally in swimming too. Then our family all became involved in orienteering. Mum caught the trail running bug and has been adventuring lots, but her main love is mountain

biking. These days she often rolls along next to me on a bike whilst I run. It is her 60th birthday this year and my 30th, so it is wonderfully fitting that she was so eager to come to Larapinta with us!

Julia: I rarely enter sporting events unless they really capture my imagination and offer an opportunity to participate in something that would be hard to achieve on my own. Hanny and I have participated in the same overall event in the past many times, but she is usually in an elite class and I am an age group participant. As Hanny was going already with her partner Graham and their business Find your Feet, the opportunity was perfect for me to come and also share the time with them. Run Larapinta also coincides with my 60th birthday and it struck me as an amazing opportunity to both challenge myself and see a part of Australia that I have not seen but have always wanted to visit.

What are you both looking forward to about Run Larapinta?

Julia: I have never been to Alice Springs before, in fact never to the Northern Territory so I feel as if I am going to have a mini adventure and holiday. I am looking forward to experiencing the colours sounds and sights out on the trail. I fear I could be even slower as I will want to take photos en route. I am really just looking forward to being out in the beautiful scenery that is promised and sharing the joint experiences and memories we will take home from it.

Hanny: Central Australia! I have never been there and it just catches my intrigue. I cannot wait. After a winter in Tasmania I will be itching for some sun-on-skin! I am really excited to experience the challenges of backing up day to day. I believe it will be really important to stay fuelled during each race stage and getting enough ‘chill’ time in between. I think there will also be a big mental component so positive self-talk will play a big role.

What sort of training are you doing in preparation for Run Larapinta?

Hanny: I try to just be consistent with my training. I might not do the most or the hardest training but I am very good at being consistent. I am often getting about 10-12hrs per week of training but I place a big emphasis on prehabilitative strength exercises (foundational running strength movements). I do a lot at home or straight out the door from home to be as time efficient as possible. If I had more time I would love to do more yoga, stretching, mindfulness and cross-training for recovery… plus a few more playful missions in the mountains!

Julia: Run Larapinta will certainly challenge me. I have had to pull out my running shoes and get myself jogging up the mountain. I keep myself pretty fit most of the time as I also love to swim and mountain bike so I mainly need to get the running muscles happy. I change activities daily so I never get bored with myself although I probably never perfect any activity either!

Hanny could beat me in the pool before she turned 10, and has been known to push me up hills when I try to accompany her on my bike on what we call ” run rides” ie she runs ..I try to keep up riding. These are my only training “runs” with Hanny. Even then, I struggle to keep up! And as Hanny said, if I was not running, I would be mountain biking.

Julia Hutchinson competing in the Freycinet Triathlon Tasmania
Julia Hutchinson competing in the Freycinet Triathlon Tasmania

Isn’t it usually the kids saying they gain inspiration from their parents, but for you guys it’s the other way around?

Julia: Of course I am proud of Hanny in the motherly way, but she also has inspired me with her drive, determination and her humility. She has translated her incredible capacity to run into a love of bush running, both through orienteering and trail running and it is her passion that enables her to be so successful but also so humble and unassuming about her talent. She is also a wonderful daughter and friend to me.

For those taking inspiration from you – what would you say to them?

Julia: My advice to anyone else thinking about an event such as this, is enter because the idea excites you. Don’t think about “training” but rather “go out for a run to enjoy the experience of having a body capable of doing so and the time and space to do so”. Whatever activity you chose to keep fit with, you must enjoy it and want to get out there and have fun. And you are never too old to start.

And if you weren’t running, what would you be doing?

Hanny: Laying low in Tasmania and running amok in wild places. My heart is out there somewhere…


The Run Larapinta Stage Race is a 4-day, 4-stage trail running race along the most spectacular sections of the iconic Larapinta Trail, in the MacDonnell Ranges around Alice Springs, August 12-15, 2016.

It’s also part of the Ultra168 Supporters Club, where members can grab a 15% discount on this race, a saving of over $100!

Visit: https://ultra168.com/168supporters/ for more information

Each stage of Run Larapinta will start and finish at different locations every day and showcase the many aspects of Alice Springs and the West MacDonnell Ranges. Course highlights include: The old Telegraph Station, Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Glen Helen, Ormiston Gorge, The Finke River, Ochre Pits, Mt Sonder and of course the endless awe of the outback.

Run Larapinta competitors can choose to do the full course or just select individual stages that suit your schedule, which is great for competitors’ partners, supporters and local Alice Springs runners.

To find out more, or to enter, head to runlarapinta.com.au


When: Friday 12th to Monday 15th August 2016

Where: Larapinta Trail in the MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia

What: A 4-day, 4-stage trail running race along the most spectacular sections of the Larapinta Trail with two course distance options:

The Malbunka (the longer course):

  • Stage 1: 19km around Alice Springs to the Old Telegraph Station
  • Stage 2: 39km from Simpson’s Gap to Standley Chasm
  • Stage 3: 29km from Ochre Pits to Ormiston Gorge
  • Stage 4: 45km from Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder and Glen Helen

The Namatjira (the shorter course):

  • Stage 1: 11km around Alice Springs to the Old Telegraph Station
  • Stage 2: 18km from The Old Hamilton Downs Station to Standley Chasm
  • Stage 3: 22km from Glen Helen to Ormiston Gorge via Ormiston Pound
  • Stage 4: 30km from Redbank Gorge to and Glen Helen

Find out more at www.RunLarapinta.com.au

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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.

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