Big Red Run 2016 – Stage 5 Marathon 1 “Mohan Marathon” Marathon 2 “Roseberth Marathon” – 84.39km

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Elisabet Barnes nailed it today, no question, no doubts, she showed the boys how to run a multi-stage race and she also showed them how to pace and judge an 84km stage. Elisabet is the Queen of the Simpson Desert.

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An 0430 wake up call really did have everyone walking around a little goggle eyed this morning, particular with the very low temperatures and biting wind. It was 2 degrees but it felt below freezing standing around waiting for the 0600 start.

A roaring fire is a key element of the Big Red Run, irrespective of the time of the day, this morning was no different. A huddle of runners crowded the fire, arms outstretched, I am sure they think, if I can get my hands warm, the rest of my body will follow.

Trackers were attached to packs, compulsory reflective vests were handed out (for the dark hours) and just after 0600, the runners departed for an 84km double marathon over the Simpson Desert.

A hour of darkness soon had holes of sunlight punched through it as sunrise came, it was an incredible start to the day and it was a wonderful sign that a full day of clear skies was ahead. The chilly wind continued to blow, some would say, they were perfect running conditions.

Andy Dubois lying in 3rd overall gave it everything today, it was an all or nothing scenario and one that I love to see and applaud. He could have rested and be satisfied with his podium place but no, he tried his best to take 2nd from Jamie Hildage and lets face it, had he had a good day and Elisabet Barnes a bad day, overall victory may well have been a possibility?

Andy pushed and lead over the first marathon but Elisabet kept him in sight, gaining no more than a few minutes, he tested those behind and Elisabet summed it up on the line, ‘The pace early on today was fast, right from the gun Andy went hard and he wanted to test himself and us. I held on not wanting to ket him out of sight, you may think my time margin is a good buffer going into a long day but it can soon go!’

Jamie Hildage echoed Elisabet’s comments, ‘I had a 20min margin over Andy and he wanted to take it back. I had to keep an eye on him but in all honesty, the early pace was far faster than I would have preferred to go for an 84km day.’

Andy pushed but the wheels started to come off and he paid for the early pace, Elisabet and Jamie passed him just as the first marathon concluded and then Elisabet made a move and slowly pulled away from Jamie. Once Elisabet had the lead, she does what she does best, put her head down and knock out a metronomic pace to take not only her 3rd stage victory out of 4 but the overall 2016 Big Red Run victory.

This terrain, the desert, multi-stage days and relatively flat terrain are Elisabet’s domain and she really did dominate this event, ‘So it’s been a good week in the office! Today was the final competitive stage of the Big Red Run, the long stage of approx 84km and it was TOUGH! Some of the boys decided to race very hard from the start and despite my lead going into the stage it was a case of holding on and hoping for the best. Luckily their wheels fell off and not mine so all ended well. I am really chuffed to have won the race outright!’

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Jamie held on for 2nd place arriving 30 minutes after Elisabet. A previous Big Red Run competitor, Jamie had improved his time considerably after his last effort and he was very happy. Andy crossed the line 3rd and looked equally ecstatic, he raised his arms, cheered and well truly embraced the tape. ‘I had to risk all today and hope that I could possibly break Jamie and take back his time advantage. In reality, I had nothing to loose as 4th place was well behind me and I would have had to well and truly explode to loose my 3rd place. My strategy was to go hard over the first marathon and see what happened. I did what I could and I am happy with 3rd place.’

Braddon DB Johnson has run well all week, always around the top 4 and today was no different, he finished the day with a huge smile content with his Simpson Desert experience. Equally, Helen Durand has been an extremely consistent 2nd lady, she too crossed the line looking incredibly happy and surprisingly fresh with her days running.

At the time of writing this, the runners have been out on course for just under 13 hours (1900 hours) and they have till 0400 on Saturday to complete the distance. With darkness, the temperatures are dropping and the pitch black sky is coming to life with an amazing display of stars.

It’s going to be a long night, wish everyone well and we will post results and times tomorrow. Now let the slide shows begin, let the fire roar and lets cheer the runners in!

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Big Red Run 2016 – Stage 3 ‘Arpilindika Marathon’ – 42.195km (Cancelled)

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‘Arpilindika Marathon’ – 42.195km – cancelled

Adversity brings out the best in people, it’s the ‘Dunkirk’ spirit where everyone rallies around to make individual hardships a group hardship and with a little commitment, dedication and tenacity, woes and problems are taken away.

This is very much the spirit this morning on day 3 of the 2016 Big Red Run.

Race day has been cancelled due to out of the extraordinary weather during the night of day 1 and throughout day 2. In summary, the rain came in during the night and turned the Simpson Desert into a mud bath of some of the most sticky clay I have ever witnessed or in certain places, flooding!

Yes, the desert has become something akin to a UK Lakeland fell or Yorkshire moor.

They are freak conditions that have left the race team and runners in somewhat of a dilemma.

A night of reflection gave Lucas and Greg (race directors) an opportunity to look at options and an early departure from camp to recce the surrounding area confirmed several things:

  1. Racing would not happen on day 3.
  2. Camp would not be able to be moved due to excessive flooding, boggy ground and unpredictable roads that would potentially leave numerous vehicles bogged down.
  3. Day 4 will have to be a ‘new’ route to avoid some of the worst conditions and to ensure that vehicle access is possible at certain sections of the course for safety and checkpoints.
  4. Day 5 will hopefully still remain a long day of 80+ km but due to camp not moving, it will have to be re-worked to allow for the new start and end locations.
  5. Day 6, the final day is yet to be confirmed.

Greg confirmed at his early morning update that all of the above could change as they work through plans to make things happen. However, the sun has come out, the skies are blue and the conditions are already starting to dry out.

In camp, the Dunkirk spirit is at it’s best with groups of runners grabbing spades and clearing walkways to help alleviate everyone from the muddy mess. Clothes are being dried on make-shift washing lines and bushes, feet are being warmed by a fire and in an amongst all this there is a great deal of laughter as music fills the camp. The only real downside is that the flies have returned…

Today, the Simpson Desert and the Big Red Run is turning into a scene of ‘Survivor’ and on reflection, although everyone would have preferred a full racing day, the experience will be one to remember.

Greg and his team are now working flat out to make things happen and in the last 5-minutes I have had an update on plans for the coming days.

  • Tomorrow, stage 4 will be approximately the same distance as planned with a re-working of the route to miss the most affected areas and allow vehicle staff for crew access and safety. Overnight camp will remain in the same place.
  • Stage 5 will be a long stage of 80+ km (tbc) and the route will have slight modifications but it will finish at the original camp site as planned. This will allow Greg and his team to move the whole camp from it’s current location to the originally planned location while the runners are out on course.
  • Stage 6 will be as originally planned, a short un-timed run into the town of Birdsville.
  • The Big Red Bash – an open air concert originally planned to take place next to the Big Red Dunes has now been moved to the town of Birdsville. With over 7000 people travelling to the concert, the risk of vehicles getting stuck in the outback was far too high.

All-in-all, Greg and has team have done a remarkable job to pull all this together at such short notice. As I said, the 2016 Big Red Run will be one to remember!

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