With the world in lockdown, 2020 will probably end up being the year of the FKT. To start off what may well be the trend for the months ahead, Mike Lichtwark has just taken an hour off the newly created Bondi to Manly walk. In case you haven’t heard of it, this spectacular route links two of the most famous beaches in the country, and along the way you pass the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and other amazing landmarks. At approximately 78km in length and peppered with stairs and hills, it’s no walk in the park! Mike took a tick under 7 hours to complete the journey, and heres what he had to say about it.
What made you want to do the Bondi to Manly walk?
This year the focus for my training was the Six Foot Track marathon in March. However, with the bushfires and then ultimately flooding in the Blue Mountains it became apparent that Six Foot might not go ahead.
I had seen the announcements that various government agencies were cooperating to set up and promote Bondi to Manly as an 80km urban hiking track. Sydney Harbour is an amazing jewel with a surprising amount of beautiful bush preserved around it. So I had in mind that if Six Foot was cancelled I’d have a go running the Bondi to Manly track.
I saw that Brendan Davies set the first “Fastest Known Time” (FKT) of 8 hours in January which was cool to see and set a nice target to aim for given the quality of ultra runner he is. The idea of Bondi to Manly being an official route that you could set a FKT on appealed to my competitive streak.
What was the experience like? Any highlights….and any bits you’d rather forget?
It’s not an easy run. There’s hardly any easy kms that you can just tick off – it’s a lot of stairs and squirrely tracks and things. However, the scenery is amazing and it goes by reasonably quickly because you are constantly moving through changing sections – Bondi to Watsons Bay on the cliffs, through the eastern suburbs, the Bridge to Balmoral via the Zoo, and then the Spit Walk and North Head to finish.
I was a decent way out of my comfort zone as I’ve only run further than the marathon distance once when I did the Kepler 60k in NZ in 2015. There were definitely some dark moments once I got past 40k but still had so far to the finish. Also, because it wasn’t a race there was no one to catch or be caught by, so there were times when I stopped caring about pushing the pace and just wanted it to be over.
Highlights were jogging out of Bondi in the dark wondering how it was all going to go, meeting my mate Anthony at the Harbour Bridge and drinking cold bottles of coke I bought at Clontarf and Manly Wharf. The last km from Shelly Beach to Manly Beach was pretty euphoric as I seemed to shake off the fatigue and was able to kick it home through all the people walking on the busy promenade.
What did you do to prepare for it? Did you know the course well or do any runs on it prior?
I felt like I was in good shape for Six Foot if it had gone ahead – I’d been doing 3 hour long runs on Sundays and run every day in 2020. Then once Six Foot was cancelled I took a taper week and tried to pick a couple of people’s brains on ultra nutrition which I don’t know much about. In the end I went and bought a stack of gels, bars, waffles and tailwind and just tried to get as much in as possible. I also borrowed a friend’s hydration pack to carry all the food and drink.
The course is quite tricky, there’s a lot of little out and backs to lookouts and things. There is some signage, but not enough that you could rely on to navigate. I’ve run most of the course over the years, but there were some parts that were new to me, especially on the southern side of the harbour.
I downloaded a GPS file from the Bondi to Manly website which I had loaded on my watch. I’d never tried using my watch for navigation before so I also spent quite a few hours the week of the run studying maps and trying to visualise all the turns and tracks I needed to take.
Did you have a support crew or pacers along the way to help keep you on track and fuelled up?
I caught a taxi from our place in the Lower North Shore to Bondi at 5.30am and the driver, who was a really nice guy, was pretty interested in what I was doing. I guess I was a bit nervous/sheepish because I didn’t give him a straight answer of how long I thought the run would take. I just told him “quite a while”.
My mate Anthony met me at the Harbour Bridge about 35km into the run and ran with me until Spit Bridge at about 60km. I ended up arriving earlier than I thought I would, so I called him from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and he had to ask his wife to hurry back from the gym so he could meet me – so thanks to Tayla as well.
Anthony brought along some gels and bars I’d given him the day before. It was a big mental help to be meeting someone and then to have company during the part of the run where the hurt was starting and the finish wasn’t close.
My friend Clint was also going to run the last part with me as he lives in Manly, however, apparently his brother was late to a brunch in Bondi so in the end he didn’t do any of the running. I did have an amazing shower and bolognese bun at his place after I’d finished though.
Any tips for anyone thinking of giving it a go?
I would encourage anyone to give it a go – it was a cool way to experience Sydney. Given the world we now live in it may also be a way for people to get a competitive outlet while mass participation races aren’t possible.
To do a fast time, my main focuses were to not get lost, to keep moving and not take too many breaks. Definitely download the GPS track onto a watch if possible or otherwise use a phone to navigate.
If you’re not in a hurry there’s heaps to see and take in on the course and in summer a few swims and ice creams would be great.
For more info on the walk visit: https://www.bonditomanly.com/