This race report is featured in Ultramag Vol.33 No.2 – the quarterly magazine of the Australian Ultra Runners Association (AURA).
The 2017 Trailsplus Princes Park Running Festival was held on 1st & 2nd April, with the timed events (6-hour, 12-hour & 24-hour) on Saturday and the distance events (100km, 50km, 42.2km, 21.1km, 10km, 5km & 2.5km) on Sunday.
The course is a 2.5km loop around Princes Park stadium (where Carlton Football Club used to play) & surrounding parklands, which is located 3km from the centre of Melbourne CBD – readily accessible to all. Half of the loop is bitumen, and the remainder is dirt path, and it is as flat as a tack.
The day dawned on a mild Autumn morning – the weather forecast looked favourable, overcast and a maximum of 20 degrees, with a possible shower in the late afternoon.
All three timed events started at 10am – there were 11 of us taking on the 24-hour, another 11 running the 12-hour, and 13 runners in the 6-hour race.
Although this was a lap course, the scenery was ever-changing – there were plenty of other runners out for their weekend runs as well as dog-walkers, families out for a walk, and cyclists heading into and out of the city. There are soccer pitches and tennis courts in the parklands, which had a steady stream of matches on throughout the day. These were welcome distractions to keep the mind off the monotony!
At 4pm, the horn was blown for the completion of the 6-hour event, which was won by Peter Van Wijngaarden with an impressive total of 80.5km and Heather Marasco (Mum Can Run) who ran a consistent and measured race to finish with 58km. Personally for me, it was also great to see my good mate Matt Fullerton take out 2nd place with a distance PB of 65km.
For those of us still running, it meant a change of direction. Instead of constantly turning left, we were now turning right. It’s the little things that can make a difference, and it felt like a completely new course!
Afternoon soon turned to dusk – my expectation was that it would get cold pretty quickly after the sun went down. However, with the event having moved from mid-June in 2016 to 1st April this year, it ended up being a mild night, only dropping to mid-teens throughout the night.
The course was reasonably well lit so I opted not to don a headlamp through the night. Once I had reached the 100km mark, I chose to walk the bitumen section every lap, which also was the slightly darker section of the course and the bitumen footpath was also a little uneven, so it made sense to walk it, and once I got back onto the dirt path, I picked up the pace into a run again.
Another blow of the horn at 10pm signalled the finish of the 12-hour event. John Yoon and Mal Gamble were neck and neck in the end, with both reaching 120km, and Vanessa Heuser ran 84km for 1st female.
Changing direction once again, the 24-hour runners were left to keep plodding on through the night. Pretty soon, it was down to just 8 of us out there – 6 if you consider Annabel was having her 8-hour nap on the sidelines, and Henry (who had flown in from the U.S.) went and had a nap in a motel room!
Throughout the night, there were a couple of patches of light rain which lasted a few minutes, but nothing that had us ducking for cover and heavy rain gear, so we got lucky in that regard.
There was one truly unique feature of this event – after we reached 2:59am, our clocks ticked over to 2:00am as a result of daylight savings ending…there were quite a few comments of it being the longest hour ever! Luckily the race clock kept ticking forward so we didn’t have to run that extra hour!
A final 6-hour direction change came at 4am and we were on the home stretch! As night became day, the rising sun ignited some renewed energy into the mind and body to push on for the last few hours.
The distance events started at hourly intervals from 6am so it was great to see new faces out on the course throughout the morning – everyone was full of encouragement for those who had been running for 20+ hours.
Finally, the horn was blown for a final time to signify the end of an epic 24 hours of running. I achieved a personal milestone – a PB for total distance run of 198.265km, up from 175km in this same event last year, and it was good enough for the top step of the podium. I was happy to share the podium with my mate Stephen Corner who picked up 2nd place! The ever-consistent Cheryl Symons ran 175.5km to finish 1st female.
Race Results: 2017 Trailsplus Princes Park Urban Trail Run – Results
Strava data: https://www.strava.com/activities/924119346