Big Red Run 2016 – The Interviews, Part Two (The Winners)


Niandi Carmont catches with Elisabet Barnes and Jamie Hildage on the finish line of the 2016 Big Red Run.

Swedish multi-stage expert Elisabet BARNES claims victory at this year’s edition of the Big Red Run, 1st overall and first female. Brit living locally Jamie HILDAGE  finishes second overall and first male.


Elisabet: I did the Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun the week before last, 200km in South Africa on the border to Namibia, where we finished the race. I finished 3rd woman and 8th overall. I had a great time. The scenery was absolutely spectacular. The trails were a bit more technical than I was used to. It’s not my strength perhaps so under the circumstances I am happy with the result. Because of the terrain and the amount of ascent and descent, I actually did a lot of hiking in Richtersveld so it’s quite different to the Big Red Run which is reasonably flat, where you do a lot of running so my legs worked in a different way. It probably helped me prepare from a fitness perspective  and I had a week between the 2 races and although a lot of that was taken up by a lot of travel I did have a couple of days on the Sunshine Coast in Australia,  allowing me to relax a little before the race.


I ask her if she had adopted a race strategy before the event?

I took a good lead already on Day 1 because I thought people were running a bit slowly so I naturally opened up a gap, which I managed to hold. In multi-stage racing you take each day as it comes. You can’t think too far ahead and this race was a prime example of that because a lot of things changed during the race due to rain and flooding. If you run one day at a time, it can work in your favour.


Jamie, first male and second overall ran his second edition of the BRR this year and beat his time last year by massive chunks of time, even though this year’s edition was a marathon short because of the adverse weather conditions which meant Stage 3 had to be cancelled and proclaimed a day of rest by the RD Greg Donovan to ensure the safety of the runners.


Jamie: Last year’s race was very hot, dry and arid. It was completely different race to this year. This year there was a lot of bush to run through as it has been wet here in the Simpson Desert. I certainly didn’t come back with some expectation of some finishing place. I kind of came for some fun and I’m just very happy about the way it has worked out. Also last year I hadn’t done a lot of preparation and since then I entered a lot of events to try and improve my focus as I don’t have a coach. I was trying to find a way of concentrating my efforts. I did a couple of 50km mountain races last year, a hilly 20km race, the Two Bays in Melbourne in January and I finished off with the Australia 50km just 6 weeks ago. The preparation i put in for those put me in good shape for coming into this event.


Fun? It didn’t look like fun to me when Jamie crossed the finish line. He had really pushed himself to his limit. 

Jamie: This morning we joked between the 3 of us running out there this morning. Andy Dubois, a very popular ultra-running coach here in Australia, was running with us. He went out very very hard this morning and almost blew all 3 of us up. We were lucky to dig ourselves out and finish in some shape that wasn’t too bad. 

So the three men in the leading pack got checked if I’m not mistaken?

Jamie: (laughs) It’s a regular thing in the ultra world here. I think i’ve done one race only where I didn’t get checked. I think I spent a lot of time in a dip in that race so the lady behind didn’t see me!  I think the distances are a real leveller and Elisabet is incredibly strong and does really well at these events.


And the highlights of the BRR 2016 for both of them?

Elisabet: I think it’s a really friendly race. Experiencing the camp life has been great. From a running perspective, today has been great, just coming in, knowing I had won the race. Today’s course was beautiful as well, although we ran really really hard and it was quite painful.

Jamie: (Laughs) Running with Elisabet was my highlight.It’s a beautiful place to run and just how much different the course is this year both physically, geographically and also for me having put in so much effort trying to prepare myself for it.


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Big Red Run 2016 – Stage 4 ‘Sprigg Sprint’ 31km (revised route)


Day 3 of the Big Red Run unfortunately had no racing due to freak weather conditions during night 1 and throughout the day on race day 2. It left the Simpson Desert a mud bath of sticky clay. However, the runners embraced the day and used it for personal admin a real sense of group spirit came together where everyone helped each other to make uncomfortable camp conditions considerably better. The sun shone all day it is quite remarkable how the earth dried out. Overnight the temperatures really dropped (2 deg) leaving one or two runners with an uncomfortable night. Braddon DB Johnson whilst holding a hot mug of steaming coffee said. “It was in interesting night… I had every item of clothing on and was still a little chilly!”

As the early morning mist burnt off, a glorious day welcomed the runners for a revised stage 4 that left camp via Big Red dunes. A clockwise loop with a couple of dog legs thrown in then re-navigated the runners back to Big Red and the finish line from which they had started.

James Kohler has been trying all week for victory, often leading the stages in the early kilometres only to find in the latter stages. Today though, the 30km racing distance and a days rest played into his hands and from the off he opened just a slight gap from the usual protagonists of Elisabet Barnes, Andy Dubois, Jamie Hildage and Braddan DB Johnson.

As the run progressed, James slowly pulled away but it was a very slender margin and Elisabet made sure she kept him in sight throughout the day, she had said early in the morning, ‘Today is all about being sensible and making sure I don’t extend too much energy ahead of tomorrow’s 80km+ long stage!’

No doubt Andy, Jamie and Braddan had similar thoughts. James though seized his opportunity and ran a great stage 4 to take 1st place in 2:56:03. Elisabet crossed the line 2nd in 2:59:45 and Andy Dubois placed 3rd in 3:01:04.

It was a close day with the top 3 men and ladies all finishing within a 30-minute window. Jamie Hildage placed 4th and Braddan DB Johnson 5th, their respective time of 3:04:06 and 3:08:58. Helen Durand was the 2nd lady 3:20:03, she has performed consistently throughout the race and Anne Bennet seized the 3rd place in 3:33:27.

Tomorrow is the long day and runners will be resting up in camp and preparing for a long day ahead. Weather and ground conditions have improved dramatically over the last 24-hours and although a new route has been planned, hopefully it will include much of the terrain of the original proposed route. Camp will be moved tomorrow and although it may not be located in the original camp 5 location, it will be placed close leaving the final stage 6 ‘fun run’ as close to 8km as possible. After all, there is a very serious barbecue, cold beers, showers and some entertainment planned for post race recovery.


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