In the Spirit – The Kokoda Ultra

The Kokoda Ultra is a little bit out there in terms of the typical ultra you might encounter here in Australia. For starters it’s a multi-day event run over the 96km track, targeted at experienced ultra runners. Now, some might quaff at the idea that 96kms over three days is a relatively simple task. But throw in 6,500m of vertical climbing (and similar descent), along with some extreme humidity and you’ve got a serious event on your hands.

We caught up with one of the organisers, Anthony Thompson to chat some more about the race, what it entails and what you can expect.

What’s the story behind the Kokoda ultra?

We’ve been thinking about the Kokoda Ultra for many years, but we wanted to get it right. Our story begans back in 2004 when we launched our sister company, Kokoda Spirit, and embarked on the Kokoda Track with our very first team of trekkers. Kokoda Spirit has now taken thousands of people safely along the 96kms of the Kokoda Track, giving them the opportunity to experience something really special. To walk in the footsteps of our heroes is a heady experience that blows away our preconceived limitations of our physical ability, endurance and reminds us that the human spirit and our boundaries are only limited by our ability to dream and believe.

We’ve taken our many years of experience on Kokoda to develop world class adventures that will push you to your limits. Kokoda Ultra incorporates some of the world’s toughest jungle adventures that will seriously test your physical and mental strength and give you the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of our heroes and see history in front of your very own eyes.

Tell us a little more about the race

There’s a real false sense of security on arrival as runners check into the five star Stanley Hotel for race check-in and briefing. Day one is 20km and over 1,800m of elevation gain, along with just over 1,400m of descent. That’s some pretty serious climbing for the first day, which sees runners climb towards Imita Ridge, firstly ascending the once know “Golden Stairs” to the peak. Imita ridge was the Australian’s last and final stand. From here runners once again descend the very steep ridge into the beautiful and spectacular Ua Ule Creek area and then start to climb towards Iorabaiwa Ridge. This area was the furthest most point of the Japanese advance. Once at the top of this very tiring climb, they will descend into Ofi Creek for a well rewarded cool off before embarking on a steep climb initially and then steadily ascending the Maguli Range which is the highest point on this section of the trail.

Day two is our ‘marathon day’ with 42kms of running and over 2,700m of climbing and over 1,700m of descent. Runners will climb Brigade Hill and Mission Ridge, which was the scene of a bloody and ferocious battle during the 6-8 September 1942. 101 Australian Soldiers were killed in these battles.

They then embark on one of the longest, steepest and sometimes muddiest climb (pending weather conditions) of the day, slowly making their way up towards Mount Bellamy which is around 2,190m above sea level and highest point of the Kokoda Track. Runners also pass through the “Kokoda Gap”. The Kokoda Gap was the area that Generals Macarthur and Blamey wanted to blow up and make it our own Thermopylae with our troops playing the 300 Spartans part.

Kokoda ultraDay three is all about the descent, with 30kms of running and ‘just’ over 1,000m of climbing but over 2,500m of descending. It will be brutal on the quads! Runners start the day crossing the firstEora Creek bridge just below camp and then making their way through to Templeton’s 2 Campsite climbing slightly until they descend steeply towards the second Eora Creek crossing. This whole area is also know as the lost battlefield which was once a Japanese “Forest Fort” that overlooked the Eora creek.

Runners also pass through the village of Alola to make their way to the Isurava Memorial. Isurava was the scene of a 4-day battle that has been described as the battle that saved Australia. There is a beautiful memorial here with the four Granite pillars inscribed with the words Courage, Endurance, Mateship and Sacrifice. We ask all runners to spend a few minutes for reflection and take in this now beautiful location.

What draws you to the area and putting on a race and so many other tours along the trail?

The Kokoda Ultra Marathon is much more than just a race. Runners really do form a tight bond throughout the three days and it’s these experiences that draws me and the team back year after year. Kokoda is a special place that we’re passionate about, that we care about and respect. We want to keep it special and we try very hard to minimise our impact along the track by delivering exceptional experiences to runners and walkers alike.

*Note to readers: The Kokoda Ultra is part of the Ultra168 Supporters Club. Members can get a 10% discount off the early bird price of the race/trip. For more details on this, contact me directly to discuss:

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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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