August 15, 2015 – First Official Running
The morning was mild, at least in comparison to the preceding days in the town of Blackwood and the Lerderderg State Park adjoining it. Nervous runners began arriving early, many of them commenting that the venue was much closer to Melbourne than they had imagined. The Start/Finish area – in the carpark of the town hall – quickly became a bustle of activity. Race organisers finished erecting the gantry and started the timing clock on a countdown to 7.30am; volunteers came and went with supplies and marquees, bound for various checkpoints out on the course, in some cases already racing to get set up ahead of the anticipated progress of the faster runners; names and gear were checked and race bibs handed out (with many a compliment from veteran runners appreciating the compact bib format).
With a few short minutes left on the clock, race director Joe Lewis briefed the participants and mustered them in front of the finish line gantry ready for the gun (there was no gun). At the word Go, an almost full field of 39 runners pressed Start on their GPS watches and bolted down the driveway, turning the corner at the iconic Blackwood Pub before speeding on down Golden Point Road towards the trailhead and the forest beyond.
After a few kilometres on Byers Back Track, the still-fresh field turned up Kangaroo Track, finding their first cause that day for cursing the race organiser’s name, as they slogged up the steep incline. The climb continued, though less dramatically, for a few kms. By the time they began emerging on to O’Briens Road, the field had spread itself out, with some of the runners in the shorter, 40km course starting to put some serious distance between themselves and the main bulk of the 70km campaigners.
After being safely marshalled across the Greendale-Trentham Road, most of the runners found it straightforward to follow the parallel track southwards, with the odd one or two wanting to explore an alternative route, until being put straight by the crossing marshal. Before long they were again marshalled across the main road to head down Mt Blackwood Road to the central checkpoint, known as the ‘Party Station’. From here, the two course options parted ways, as the 70km runners continued on down to Mt Blackwood and the Blackwood Range Track beyond, while the 40km runners turned up Square Bottle Track to face some of the more technical ups and downs of the course.
After emerging from the wilds, 40km race leader David Overend sprinted down O’Briens Road to the river crossing, averaging 4:09 minutes-per-km over the 5kms. He was perhaps spurred on by some sense of the leader in the ladies race, Kellie Emerson, practically breathing down his neck. After scrambling along the river briefly, they climbed up to Byers Back Track and negotiated its twists and turns before hardening their resolve for the climb up through town and into the finish line. David recording the inaugural men’s record of 3:24:39 and Kellie claiming both a first female and second overall, with 3:33:21.
Meanwhile, two seriously fast cookies were battling it out for the lead in the 70km run. As they turned up Tower Track to climb Mt Blackwood, race leader Stephen Rennick and Queenslander Martin Hack were still within visual contact of each other. They led the field along the majestic undulations of Blackwood Range Track, stopping briefly at the Swan Road checkpoint in Myrniong, before turning around and doing it all again. After a second climb of Mt Blackwood and another visit to the Party Station for drop bags and love, the 70km runners followed in the footsteps of their counterparts, weaving through the woods along Square Bottle, Vodka and Whiskey Tracks (no doubt evoking thoughts of a post-race wind down), heading down to the river – some of them pausing at the O’Briens Crossing checkpoint for a toasted marshmallow! – and along Byers Back Track to home.
At least fifteen minutes before the race organisers were expecting him, Stephen Rennick came flying up the driveway and through the finish line, setting the first BLR70 record at a scorching 6:16:10. Marty Hack was not far behind, with 6:22:03. Lucy Carter took out the women’s race with a solid 7:51:35, followed closely by Chloe Lane from Adelaide.
As various runners finished, cleaned themselves up and headed across to the Merchant Store or the pub for some well-deserved local hospitality, the field continued to trickle home and the day eventually began to fade away towards the twelve-hour race cut-off, at 7.30pm.
A small number of runners had missed the Tower Track turnoff earlier in the day and added 7kms to their challenge, but this hadn’t lessened their resolve to finish, which they did with nearly an hour to spare. With all but one accounted for, the team at the finish became focused on whether the last runner, local Michael McMennemin, was going to make it home before cutoff. With five minutes to spare, our hero strode determinedly up the drive to claim his well-earned medal. With that, the race was declared a success.
August 15, 2014 – First UNofficial Running
Read the report here.