The Big Red Run is Australia’s only multi-day stage race and takes people into a remote and spectacular part of the country. We caught up with founder, Greg Donovan to get the lowdown on this awesome event.
What inspired you to create the Big Red Run?
I completed the Racing the Planet 4 Desert Grand Slam in 2012, running 250km across Atacama, Gobi, Sahara and Antarctica deserts in the same year, raising funds for Type 1 Diabetes which my youngest son Stephen has. The life changing experience of completing these tough stage races, in stunning remote locations, and getting to meet some amazing people at the same time, got me thinking why we don’t have such an event in Australia. So I looked for the best location here for this type of event and came up with Australia’s most famous Outback town Birdsville, and our most beautiful and iconic desert the Simpson, and started the massive job of establishing and developing the event from there.
I took all of the good things from these overseas events and added and changed some aspects to make the Big Red Run even better. 2015 will be the 3rd time the event has been staged.
The event is named after the largest sand dune in the Simpson, the mighty Big Red!
What’s the course like and what are the highlights?
There is a huge variety of terrain that the run covers. People are usually quite surprised at the variety, which ranges from red gibber plains (small shiny stones sitting on sand), to clay flats, salt lakes, dusty station tracks, and of course there are a few red dunes to cross! Most people look forward to the dunes, as they usually have a walk up them and a new stunning vista of the next dune valley awaits. If you haven’t been to the desert before this event is one of the best ways to experience it. The highlights for me though are the endless blue skies and the stars at night!
Other than the running, what else happens throughout the event?
One of the great things about an event like this is the opportunity to meet and spend time together with other runners going through the same challenges that you are. It’s the relationships that develop over the week, and the amazing bond that develops between people who are all helping and encouraging each other, that really set this event apart. It’s a very supportive environment. We’ve even had our first Big Red romance develop!
There’s also stuff to do like taking a helicopter ride over the desert or simply sitting back and enjoying the amazing desert environment. It’s an ancient and remote place. We also have a 2-day music festival set on Big Red Dune after the event called the Birdsville Big Red Bash. A true Australian Outback experience.
What happens at camp each night?
We have the usual campfires and camaraderie around camp, but also a big outdoor cinema screen where we show pictures of the race, results, and movies. We also have a couple of motivation speakers to educate and entertain runners. This year we had our event doctor, Dr Glenn Singleman talk to us about overcoming fear, using his extreme and amazing base jumping and wing suit flying exploits as an example of conquering your fears.
What are the biggest challenges runners face?
Runners face a myriad of challenges from sore and blistered feet, aching muscles and having to get up day after day and run, as well as what gear to pack and what food to take to sustain them. Each runner has their own “pressure point”. Luckily the weather is pleasant at the time of year we run the event, so heat is not a major issue. But probably the biggest overall challenge is the mental one and getting your head in the right space to complete the event.
What’s the number one piece of advice you have for runners?
This is a race that anyone with determination and the right attitude (and training) can complete. I think if anything is going to stop you it would be foot related problems, so choose the best and most suitable shoes and socks and look after your feet like your life depends on them! Also pace yourself, as it’s a long, long race and the winner will be the one who can best sustain their performance over the whole week.
What does it cost to enter and do competitors need to raise money for a charity?
It costs $2,850 to enter (there are also early bird offers), which compares very favourably to similar events overseas which will set you back over $4,000 before you add your overseas travel and accommodation. We also ask each runner to set a minimum fundraising target of $1,000 and we raise funds for the Juvenille Diabetes Research Foundation to help fund research to find a cure. No one seems to have any problems raising this amount, and this year over $180,000 was raised by the runners.
If people want to find out more about the event, and have any questions we are holding information evenings around Australia in late November and early December. Details on these sessions and how to register is available on the event website: