‘Burty’ Burt Kennedy recently ran the entire GNW out, then turned around and came back for the return journey. In doing so, he became the first person (and certainly the quickest), to complete the ‘out and back’. In part one of our recollection of his trip, Burty talked about his lead in to the attempt. Now in part two, we cover off more of the detail behind his run including some of the high and low points.
How did you feel when you reached Sydney knowing you had to turn around and head back again?
The moment I hit halfway being the obelisk in Macquarie Park at Sydney Cove, I thought to myself, I can guarantee I feel no better at this point than anyone else who has done this one way. Knowing the return run was never going to be easy! On the flip side this was a huge mental benchmark for myself. The whole time just thinking get to Sydney as quick as possible, then crawl back if necessary, which I don’t think I was far off with my injuries!
I began realising how I got the ascent metres totally wrong believing the total ascent both ways was 13,200m! I had hit 8,600m by halfway, thinking I’ve now got to do the same all over again. I was also happy to hear I had just recorded the fifth fastest time one way, a cool little bonus.
What was the best moment?
It wasn’t the finish itself, but about 25km from Queens Wharf the rain set in. By that point I was exhausted and it was freezing, it really made for an honest finish. As I came around the last corner in the pouring rain, there was Jodie sitting in her wheel chair in the rain with a blanket over her in amongst everyone else cheering me home. Given the weather I didn’t think or expect her to be out in the rain but there she was. And in that moment I had forgot about all my pain and was at peace!
Also to know I had done my team proud and that all the time sacrificed by everyone had the best possible outcome. Knowing I had made Brad proud, he had been there from the start of having this crazy idea giving so much help, time and support.
Conversely, what was the lowest moment?
The lowest moment I think was when I was coming out of Sydney on the fourth day. Being in so much pain I literally could barely walk. I had lost the ability to move my left foot without being in excruciating pain. This pain had started on my way into Sydney the day prior and only intensified to this point. I thought to myself, ‘how am I going to get this finished?’ I’m coming up to Thornleigh, only 29km out of Sydney I could barely walk let alone run. Not sure if it was even possibly to finish in my condition, the physical struggle was starting to become a mental struggle, which isn’t a good place to be!
I called through to my doctor and explained my symptoms. He diagnosed me with either a muscle tear or stress fracture, noting that neither of these conditions weren’t going to kill me and gave ways to manage the pain. So compressions, Panadol and Voltaren cream became my best friends for the next two and a half days.
By the end of that particular day I was in such in excruciating pain. The worst pain was on the down hills and the finish to that day was coming down into Brooklyn – probably the longest continuous steep section on the whole track. I had to lean against Nigel with my poles in my other hand, only going so far, then having to stop from the pain. Then going on a bit more and so forth before finally getting into Brooklyn at 3:30 in the morning. This was a tough day!
Later to discover that the doctor was right having an MRI after the run. It showed a stress fracture in my Talar Neck, a Grade 1 shin splint and severe inflammation of the tendon sheath of the Tibialis Anterior (muscle that pulls your foot up) all on the same leg.
What did you eat and drink along the way?
Ahhhh so I’m going to start with a quote from Brad along the way “you defy what is expected with your nutrition by everyone in the ultra running world, but this is awesome because it goes to proven that everyone is different.” I was actually told by people I wasn’t going to make it because my nutrition was all wrong. But I took the advice of Kirrily Dear and Brad, which was go train and work out what works for you. This was reinforced by my doctors theory of if your not losing weight when training massive km’s, then you must have a good balance.
With that my diet manly consisted of, light fluffy pastries like Lamington’s, banana bread and jam sandwiches and cakes. Along with egg and bacon rolls for lunch with an abundance of BBQ sauce, blocks of chocolate “the family sized ones” as well as mixed lollies and pringles chips for snacks. In the evenings I would have some pasta and mince and a bit of sweet potato.
As for drinks I consumed a good mix of water, Gatorade and chocolate milk. There was also the occasional can of coke and a lot of protein shakes with milk and added milo. Noting, I did not use any energy gels or carbohydrate powders at all during this run. I had them there but once I got to half way and hadn’t used them I figured they weren’t necessary and I was right.
Would you do it again?
At the time I was thinking nope. Not again – never. Once is enough, but once the pain subsided I was crunching numbers with Brad and I could have still easily made the 6 days even with my injuries, just a lot of fluffing around at times. But never having done anything like this before it was all a new experience. After tallying a total actual moving time of only 91 hours and 17 minutes, obviously having to have rest time and sleep over that distance, but with a total of 67hr of stopped time of that 27 was sleeping, so I had 40hrs of stopping.
There’s much to be cut there and it might sound ambitious, but I’m fairly confident I could cut this back to 5 days instead of 6.6 days. Respecting the fact that the risk of injury on this trail is extremely high, but in perfect conditions and injury free I think 5 days is very achievable!
I wouldn’t do it without not having a cause to do it for though, I don’t have the motivation to run hours and hours for months on end sacrificing every weekend and most week nights to train and do organising if it’s not serving a greater purpose then just for my ego, I just simply wouldn’t do it!
I would like to say a huge thanks to the team, all those who helped before, during and after, the supporters and to all who have donated, it couldn’t have been done without everyone 🙂