I know I haven’t published my race report for La Ultra – I promise it is coming.
For those who didn’t know I took part in RacingThePlanet’s 100km ultramarathon in the Kimberley’s on Friday the 2nd. This race was not initially apart of my race calendar but I returned from India quickly recovered and couldn’t resist the temptation to head to Western Australia when I was asked to run on behalf of my chosen charity ‘Nutrition Plus’. I joined good friend and founder of Nutrition Plus Louise Ormerod, Kay Burton and Karen Boxsell in our joint goal to reach $20,000 to fund a greater number of Indigenous children to be able to access Nutrition Plus’ health and nutritional programs.
One could say my prep wasn’t ideal for a 100km event and my head space wasn’t as tuned into the race as I would normally be. That said it was a liberating feeling heading to the airport on Thursday morning with only one bag as hand luggage knowing that in less than 24 hours I would be running in the Australian outback. Once I arrived in Kununurra, which took three flights from Melbourne I went on a mission to purchase salt & vinegar chips and get my RTP patches put onto my race top..
We had a pre-race briefing at 8pm on Thursday night where we heard that there were spot fires around the area we would be racing. Being a Victorian and having the events of Black Saturday etched very fresh in my memory I instantly felt uneasy and remember wondering if it was wise to be running in these circumstances. The issue was not deliberated much further so I got swept up in the other concerns being explained by race organisers Samantha Fanshawe and Riitta Hanninen – these included the need to be vigilant to hydration, the potential for snakes to be on the course and the time limits at particular checkpoints.
The race began around 8:30am with further emphasis being placed on the extreme dryness and heat that we would experience on the course. I quickly chugged another bottle of fluid before having a go-pro strapped onto my chest by the media team and the gun banged off to start the race.
I am not going to go into a blow by blow of the race. Most people will know that the race ended tragically with several competitors being caught in a fierce bushfire shortly after they departed from checkpoint 2. The last I have heard was from a conversation I had with Sam Fanshaw at 10am this morning. Kate (35) and Turia (24), are still in a critical situation being based at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne and Concord Hospital in Sydney. Here is a news article published 2 hours ago that gives a recent update on what happened, also including a newsreport from channel 9.
Checkpoint 2 to 3 were considered the most technical sections of the course, with the first 5-7kms virtually un- runnable. I was with my close friend Matt and another competitor from Sydney when we first saw the fire and quickly worked out it was far more serious than a small spot fire. The winds and flames had escalated and we focused on moving as quickly as possible to get through the difficult terrain. During the horrific events I was further along the course and was only stopped at the 72km mark when the top 12 competitors ran into the direction of a second significant fire which had burnt down checkpont 5.
Many people are asking for my thoughts of Friday and to be honest I have been numb and in shock until today. Today I tried to focus on studying for my exams and spent most of the afternoon looking blindly at my notes. I keep replaying in my mind what I could have done differently to have contributed to a better outcome for everyone involved. My close friends and family try and insist that I weren’t to know what would happen and if I were to be rational I know this to be true. That being said I am sure many competitors and people involved in the race will be going through the same thought process as I am for a while to come.
I am always a believer in turning negatives into positives but I cannot think of one positive thing to come out of this experience. I am however reminded through the supportive emails, calls and messages from my family of ultra runners around the world – from people I have run with in the past and from runners I have never even met before, that we are apart of a special and unique network. I hope we can all combine our positive thoughts to Kate and Turia and the other runners affected by the Kimberley bushfires.