Kimberley 100km Ultramarathon – RacingThePlanet

By September 5, 2011 Race 3 Comments

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.



Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Andy Hewat says:

    Thanks Samantha for sharing your reflections on what was clearly a horrible experience. It helps the rest of us better appreciate what went on. I echo your thoughts and good-wishes for all those injured during the race.

  • Sydney Ultra Girl says:

    Dear Sam,

    Please don’t beat yourself up about this. You have been through a very traumatic event and it would be wise, when you are ready, to speak to someone like a counsellor so that you can talk everything through. We run because we see how far we can push ourselves. You were not to know what was going to happen. Any number of bad events can happen in a race – including bites, falls etc. Please know that the whole ultra community is thinking about everyone involved and are ready to support you. x

  • Kate Ablett says:

    Well said and thanks for such an honest report. The ultra community certainly is a special one and collectively, I’m sure, there’s a lot of love being sent to the girls recovering and everyone involved.

Leave a Reply to Andy Hewat Cancel Reply