A Unique Marathon Down Under

Posted: August 16, 2010 in Running

On Saturday (July 31st), my friend Nick and I completed our first Australia marathon.

This was the inaugural (first ever) marathon that would be run in the Outback on a course that would encompass breathtaking views of Australia’s famous Uluru (formerly, Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (formerly, the Olgas) rock formations.

Archaeological evidence suggests that Aboriginal people have lived in the area for at least 22,000 years. The Aboriginal Anangu people are Uluru’s traditional custodians. The famous monolith (that is, it is one whole rock) was known as Ayers Rock, named after former premiere Sir Henry Ayers by European explorer William Gosse, who first sighted the rock in 1873. Uluru was returned to the care and ownership of the Anangu people in 1985 and they now jointly manage the national park with Parks Australia.] This marathon, which was six years in the making by the organizers, offered us the opportunity to run in Australia’s Red Centre on this glorious day.

The start/finish line for the first ever Outback Marathon!

The day started with a slight chill (~50 degrees) as we left our room in the eerily quiet morning that is typical of morning in the desert. After catching a bus out to the start/finish area, we milled around and met people from the US (LA, NY, Atlanta, etc.) and of course many Aussies and a few New Zealanders. The sun barely crested over the horizon to warm us for a bit of time before it was time for the 8:00 AM start of the two long distance runs. There were about 90 people running the marathon and about 50 running the half marathon.

The course was a 13.1 mile loop through a mix of mostly red dirt trails, access roads, and a few paved spots and road crossings (with Police to stop traffic). The trails were soft in places under our feet and the roads riddled with four wheel drive vehicle tire treads. While we felt these surfaces as a somewhat a kind benefit for the stress on our joints, we understood that the inefficiency inherent in these same soft steps might tire us more over time. That was true, but no one comes to the Outback to run a personal record and certainly everyone seemed to understand this well. Along the way, there were several sand dunes to climb on the course. While I ran up these on the first 13 mile loop, and perhaps needless to say, I walked them on the second loop around!J  The weather conditions were ideal with temperatures starting in the mid 50s and rising to about 68 degrees towards the middle of the day. The sun was bright and 10-15 mph wind was steady for most of the day. It was enough to produce a slight sun and windburn but not enough to be a factor for the day.

Despite our respective injuries and both managing to pick up a cold on the flights that week, we both finished the run. Actually I believe everyone successfully dodged the dingoes and completed their race (0 DNF!). After the hip injury I experienced a few weeks before (thanks again for the roller John G.!) along with taking pictures and chatting with many folks along the way, I happily finished at a very comfortable 4 hour 30 minutes. I stayed out to eat, chat, and cheer on the rest of the folks that finished up to the 6 and a half hour mark. After showers and a nap, we celebrated the evening at the outdoor bar with our new friends.

Nick and I standing at the start/finish area with Uluru barely visible in the far background.

This marks the 4th continent that I (and Nick) have run marathons on. We hope to be able to complete all 7 in the near future. As the Penguin would say, Waddle on Friends!

Cheers from Down Under,
Carl Byington

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