The Southern Highlands Challenge was always going to be a bit of an unknown for me. I’ve been gradually building the volume and fitness since sustaining an injury in May that saw me sidelined for 6 weeks. The lack of trail specific training and my longest run in a while having been the week before (30km) I was a tad bit concerned about how the knee would handle the race. Originally I had been entered in the 21km event, but then the night before while enjoying some great company at the pre-race dinner in the Bundanoon Hotel, I decided that if I was serious about running 100km events in the year ahead, then doing a 50km run had to be the bread and butter.
With that semi-flawed logic in mind I rose at 5:45am to get to the start line for the 7am kick off. The weather was sensational, which was a relief after a month of rain. Thankfully I received the usual motivational heckling from Marcus Warner on the start line. Words to the effect of “Nice pink shirt Dave. You’d wanna run well wearing that…and what’s with those legs, or complete lack of!?” But that was the last I heard from him as immediately after the gun went I was off with long time mate Chris Truscott, running down the fire trail chatting about the trails to come.
The course proved to be considerably tougher than I expected. It was a mix of fire trails and single track, with no massive climbs but consistent ups and downs across the circuit. Running along the bike trails was a touch tricky, as the constant switchbacks tested the joints well and truly. But once on the more open sections it was possible to open up a little and stretch the legs.
The first 12km passed nicely, as Chris and I chatted while running together through the bush. But reaching the top of one of the larger climbs I discovered Chris had dropped off and I was now on my own, and that’s how it remained for the remainder of the run, with the exception of passing through hundreds of cheering folks that were at the finish line as I passed through lap one!
Reaching the end (3.19:30) I was greeted with much the same, and a sense of relief. Not just from having won, but also from making it through the race free from any real soreness or injury.
Afterwards I was able to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere at the event hub. There were lots of families and runners enjoying the festivities that included great food, loads of giveaways, a farmyard friends zoo, sponsor displays, wood fires and lots of other fun! Overall The Southern Highlands Challenge proved to be a sensational event. It’s the perfect introduction to off road running and a really nice way to spend a weekend and support a small community. Next year it will be on again, on the first Sunday in September. To keep up to date visit the website (www.southernhighlandschallenge.com) and join the facebook page.
Finally I just wanted to extend a huge congratulations and thank you to April Palmerlee, the event organisers, sponsors and volunteers. The event was a massive success and will no doubt be bigger and better in the years ahead.