Big Red Run 2016 Race Summary on RUNULTRA

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“A down jacket protected me from the cold wind and the low temperatures, amongst the dunes of the Simpson Desert, the sky was not dark, it was black. A lack of light pollution, a lack of people, I was remote and alone in the outback of Australia. Above me the sky glowed with a series of glitter balls. It was like a child’s artwork creation, you know the ones I mean – black card, some glue and then throwing glitter at the card until it sticks. To say the sky was amazing would be a complete understatement. I could see all the constellations, I could clearly pinpoint stars and for a moment I was lost, overwhelmed by the enormity of my location and my insignificance within the world in which we live.”

Read the full article on RUNULTRA HERE

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Read daily race reports form Big Red Run HERE

View the Big Red Run IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

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RACE WEBSITE HERE

Picture of the Day (Big Red Run) – The Guardian

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Always a pleasure to have a picture in THE GUARDIAN. Here is a photo of Elisabet Barnes taken on the 84km long stage of the Big Red Run, Australia. See the post HERE

View the image HERE

Have to give a huge thanks to Greg Donovan and the Big Red Run team for the opportunity to travel and work in the ‘outback’ of Australia on this race and Elisabet Barnes for a stunning and inspiring run.

Also thanks to my helicopter pilot, Mitch. Great arial photography happens when you have a pilot who understands what it takes for a photographer to capture the shots he wants. Mitch did a great job, no worries mate!

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Big Red Run 2016 – The Interviews, Part One

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Niandi Carmont has joined me at Big Red Run (pictured above), she was originally going to run the main event but a foot fracture after The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica relegated her to the sidelines and recovery. However, injury progressed well and although not up to full speed or endurance, Niandi decided to run the Little Red Run (150km) which is the sister event to the the bigger, 250km main event.

It was always planned that Niandi would accompany my photography with a selection of interviews for web and Talk Ultra podcast. Here are the first two.

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The Turner Threesome: Dennis Turner, Megan Turner and Vicki Turner

Now what a nice day to spend a family holiday! Running 250km in the Australian outback is what I would call an off-the-beaten track holiday if ever there was one. I look at the three tired, dusty, smiling faces in front of me and I think it’s probably not such a bad idea. A father and 2 daughters taking time out to do something different, something that probably tightens and strengthens family bonds in the name of a common cause: type 1 diabetes.

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Vicki’s 9-year old daughter Ella has type 1 diabetes.

Dennis explains: Vicki was the instigator behind all this. She asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. I said yes and here we are. I also spent a lot of time out in the desert in the 70’s with the oil exploration crew and I’ve travelled across the desert 4 or 5 times since then. It’s a beautiful country. It’s very green at the moment and a bit wet compared with what it normally is. Usually it is very  dry and desolate with not much covering the dunes.

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Vicki: Dad loves walking. He walked from one side of England to the other last year. As for myself I’ve never experienced the outback like this.We’re from South Australia.

Younger sister Megan chips in excitedly: I’m here for the fun of it. It’s all an adventure really. Once my father was convinced, he got me into doing this. He phoned me up, told me we were going to go on a trip across the desert but he failed to mention it involved walking 150km. We’ve stuck together so far as he likes to keep an eye on me (giggles).

But then her father goes on to explain that they’ve not taken the event light-heartedly and spend most weekends getting in mileage on the beaches and in the dunes as well as training a couple of times during the week. We get on pretty well. The desert brings out who you are, your character and your stamina. We love the outback all 3 of us, we’ve done a lot of travelling in it over the years.  But it is a real challenge mentally and physically to do it at my age.

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I ask him if he’s proud of his daughters and there’s no hesitation in his reply: Absolutely. I’m very proud of them. 

I can see on their faces that they are touched by the compliments and as I leave then I cannot help but think that the three of them will look back on this privileged time spent together in a remote part of their beautiful country with the conviction that they had chosen the right time in their lives to take up the challenge together.

***END***

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Sabrina Paxton: Thelma & Louise Oz-style.

A long-legged blonde with blue eyes and a self-mocking, bubbly style, Sabrina is a gutsy lady. You can see she’s an outdoorsy girl. Mother of 2 young boys and a passionate yoga teacher, she loves to share her experiences (and food) with others. Here, have some of these pine nuts in your freeze-dried Mexican rice. Good fats. And here’s a bit of mint dark chocolate too.

I warm to this runner who almost didn’t make it to the start. In fact she DIDN’T make it to the start.

I missed my interconnecting flight. My first flight from Sydney into Brisbane was a bit late. I missed check-in cut-off time. The hostess wouldn’t let me on. I sat in the airport for a while panicking. My friends on social media and Quantas pointed me in the direction of Isa, to hire a vehicle to come down here. So I hired a commercial vehicle with big headlights and I drove across the outback through the night. There wasn’t ever really a moment where I thought I was going to give up, I had so much community support. So many people have gotten behind me to enter this race. I knew when things didn’t go according to plan that I had to explore every possible avenue to get here. Admittedly I was a bit scared, I’d never driven through the outback before, never mind 700km alone at night just before a 250km multi-stage.

I ask her what gave her the adrenaline to think straight and react so quickly.

I guess I was in the frame of mind I had put in so much preparation and there was so much expectation. You just need to draw strength and reserves to pull it together. I was so focussed on getting here. I was pretty wired actually. There was only one point where I was quite fatigued so I stopped and got about 40 minutes rest, I set my alarm for 40min. I drove at about 70 to 80km an hour. It was at least 10 hours solid driving. I had the whole day in Brisbane to plan this carefully and did some research on the internet on distances and fuel stops so I took 2 jerrycans of fuel with me. I flew into Brisbane at 6.30, picked up the car, filled up the 2 jerrycans and even then I only just made it with the fuel gauge needle in red the last 80km to go. 

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This lady is not only gutsy but she can think on her feet. A little perplexed I ask her why she hadn’t planned her connecting flights any better.

I am a sole parent to 2 boys who have never spent a day away from me really so I couldn’t orchestrate any different times where my kids could be looked after by a person they trusted. It was my only option to get that flight. There was a 2-hour buffer time. It is just unfortunate hat that flight landed so late.

Sabrina has other qualities too, which are no doubt very important in long-distance endurance events. She turns negatives into positives and manages her expectations.

Looking back, I really enjoyed that ride into Birdsville, with sun up and all the beautiful landscapes. I felt very privileged. I had missed the start but it was no big deal as the organisers dropped me off at check-point one. Once I got out the car I pretty much put my race-kit on and started running. At the finish they had added a 13km section for me to make up for missing the first part. 

So all is well that  ends well. I believe that you can still do what you want to do even if it feels like life has thrown you a bit of a hard situation.

***END***

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Big Red Run 2016 – Stage 2 ‘Adria Downs Marathon’ – 42.195km

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Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood… follow me follow, down to the hollow and let us wallow in mud glorious mud!

Oh yes, the 2016 Big Red Run had mud and then some today. The overnight pit patter of rain unfortunately increased heavier and heavier and as morning came, the camp site, located on a lower ground clay bed, became a ‘claggy’ mud bath. Within four walking strides, shoes, doubled, trebled and then quadrupled in not only size and weight. It was brutal – really brutal.

The 0630 call for breakfast was a mix of laughter and very worried looks. The rain was still pouring and it was not forecast to dry out until after darkness. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that it was going to be a tough day; not only for runners but all those working on the race.

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Maximum mandatory kit was requested by the race director, needless to say, a waterproof jacket was going to be essential and for once, not something that remained in the pack as a ‘just-in-case’ but something that should be worn from the gun! Thermal layers for the top and bottom were added to packs as a back-up scenario should an enforced rest, injury or stop should occur. It was a good call, conditions were tough.

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Leaving camp, the course was one that would loop on itself several times and finally return back to the same camp for the end of day 2, a classic marathon distance stage of 42.195km.

Early running was hard as the soft clay ground just stuck to the runners shoes making not only the size but more importantly the weight of the shoes considerably challenging. Add to this all grip being removed due to the volume of wet, sticky clay that built up in the soles. Watching the runners almost required a classic 1920’s silent movie soundtrack, you know the ones I mean, fast, comical and high-paced. Off course, the runners were the opposite – slow, cumbersome and with a high potential to fall at any minute.

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In the early stages many of the day four protagonists ran together, Braddan DB Johnson, Jamie Hildage, Andy Dubois and race leader, Elisabet Barnes. The foursome forged ahead at an excellent pace despite the conditions.

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After the halfway mark, Elisabet Barnes made a move and accelerated away from her running buddies and gave another excellent performance to win the stage outright in 4:17. To run this time in these conditions was extremely impressive, something that Elisabet acknowledged:

“I am amazed at the time. Today was ridiculous in places, my shoes were four times the normal size and weight. It was like running with ankle weights. I was running with my iPod and I just kept saying to myself, one song at a time and one foot at a time!”

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Jamie Hildage (4:26) lives in Australia but he’s a Brit born and bred – he’s used to these conditions and actually revelled in them, so much so he finished 2nd on the day ahead of stage 1 2nd place, Andy Dubois (4:44) and Braddan DB Johnson (4:53) taking the 3rd male place and 4th overall. Interesting statistic when one looks at the results, 3 of the top 4 were born or live in the UK – surely an advantage for the testing conditions.

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Helen Durand (5:16) continued to run strong on day 2 and replicated her 2nd place on the ladies podium and Karla Johnson (5:50) moved up from 6th on day 1 to 3rd on day 2. Amon Sheddon who had placed 3rd on day 1 had a tough day and finished down the field.

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Camp this evening full of stories of mud, sweat and tears. It’s funny how adversity brings out laughter… however, it has been a tough day for Greg Donovan and his team. Greg has had to take the very tough condition of cancelling any racing on day 3. It’s a call that no RD wants to make but currently the camp is bogged down in some of the worst mud I have seen.

 “To break camp down and move it to a new location while racing was underway would stretch the whole logistics and potentially compromise safety. I will update on this tomorrow during the rest day,”

– Greg Donovan

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Big Red Run 2016 – Stage 1 ‘Birdsville Marathon’ – 42.195km

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The 2016 Big Red Run got underway today, Saturday June 25th from the ‘Outback’ town of Birdsville on the edge of the Simpson Desert.

Located in the ‘Northern Territory,’ the Simpson Desert is a large area of red sand and dunes that currently resembles a green pasture due to excessive rain in recent weeks and months. It’s quite a contrast to the Sahara. The Simpson Desert is an erg described as a broad, flat area of desert covered with wind-swept sand. Erg means ‘dune field’ in Arabic and ironically it should have little or no vegetation… not so currently here in the Simpson.

The first European explorer to visit this region was the explorer Charles Sturt and today, Elisabet Barnes from Sweden (who resides in the UK) followed in the footsteps of Sturt and set a blistering pace over the marathon distance to win the stage outright by over 15-minutes. Elisabet’s finish time of 3:59:59 confirming her as one of the most impressive desert runners currently racing.

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Elisabet pulled away from the group of runners before they had even left the suburbs of Birdsville and she never looked back. Opening a gap slowly but surely, Elisabet extended her lead throughout the day to win by a clear margin.

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“I felt very good today considering the extensive travel, jet lag and only racing the Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun in South Africa just last week. But the terrain was very runnable and I was happy to run… maybe too quickly? We shall see tomorrow!”

Andy Dubois had trailed Elisabet with two other runners early on, Braddan DB Johnson and Jamie Hildage but Andy pulled away looking to close the gap on Elisabet. He didn’t make it and over the final 20km from Cp2 Elisabet held or marginally extended her lead.

Jamie Hildage, a previous competitor at the Big Red Run finished 3rd overall on the stage,

“It is so green this year and the ground is firmer making conditions underfoot very good. In addition, we had cool temperature and a constant breeze today; it made for great running conditions.”

Braddan dropped to 5th overall behind a strong run from 2nd lady and 4th overall, Helen Durand.

Completing the ladies top 3 was Amon Sheddon who finished 12th overall.

Official times to follow on completion of the stage.

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Tomorrow’s stage is  the ‘Adria Downs Marathon’ at another classic distance of 42.195km

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