Ultra runners from across the country and as far as China competed in the second annual Great Southern Stage Run held on Thursday 16 to Saturday 18 November 2023 in the Great Southern Region of Western Australia. The three-day ultra stage running race covered a 200km point to point course along large sections of the famed Bibbulmun Track, from Walpole to Albany, WA.
The wild and rugged, yet spectacular coastline set the stage for the 113 competitors who participated in relay teams; each running between 10km and 24km over the four legs each day. Whilst four heroic competitors – Alan Fisher, Kate Cush, Xiaolin Wang and JianGuo Yang – ran the entire course solo, doing 70km on day 1, 74km on day 2, and 58km day 3. Kate Cush – a notable ultra distance competitor – put on an outstanding performance across the three days, finishing as the first overall solo winner. Cush returned to the race as an individual runner after getting a taste of the course’s raw beauty in relay team last year.
“That was one of the toughest stage races I’ve done – definitely a big achievement for me,” said Cush. “There are so many beautiful places along this course – you go over the tough sand dunes that would then open up to the most amazing views!”
Organisers Rapid Ascent have a reputation for curating challenging ultra running courses that simultaneously showcase the beauty of the natural environment – taking competitors to places they might not have otherwise experienced.
“It really was fantastic to see so many of our participants relishing in the opportunity to run in an area of Australia rarely visited by people,” said Rapid Ascent Event Director Sam Maffett.
“Over the three-day race we’ve seen limits pushed, horizons broadened, challenges accomplished; and the twinkle of satisfaction at the end of each day!” said Maffett. “Not to mention the genuine enthusiasm and energy felt amongst teams, and the many life-long connections formed at the event.”
The sections of Bibbulmun Track that competitors were treated to encompassed a wild, rugged and incredibly beautiful part of Australia, enroute to the finish line on the Torndirrup Peninsula at Albany on Day 3. Xiaolin Wang was our first Solo Male runner, taking out the overall individual male win and qualifying for the Everest 135 Extreme Race of which the event is partnered with. Wang, who travelled to Australia for the first time for the race, finished just 20 minutes overall behind Cush and was seen out on course constantly taking in the moments on film.
Alan Fisher who finished second behind Wang, said it was the view that kept him going; “The views are just incredible! This place is something very special and to see it the way we see it… just fabulous!”
Local team ‘Same Dame, But Different’ showed their undying spirit and fervour over the three day event taking out the Relay Team of 4 category. The team hails from Albany and included Andrew De Groot, Richard Miller, Rowena De Groot and Richard Leslie.
Day 1 started at the valley of the Giants in Walpole on the elevated tree-top walk, and finished up at Parry Beach. The 70km course was broken up in to 4 legs of varying distance and had competitors run through a mix of terrain along forests trails, wild back beaches, cliff tops, and rock-hopping. Competitors passed many scenic landmarks such as Conspicuous Beach and Peaceful Bay; and also included a 200m river crossing by canoe!
Day 2’s 74km course began at Parry Beach and included an untimed stint by ferry over Wilson Inlet. Competitors described the day as simply spectacular, running on trails that flowed past picture-postcard beaches and popular landmarks such as Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks.
Day 3 was a staggered start from Cosy Corner with slowest to fastest solo and relay teams, with the aim to all finish the event close together in time for celebratory presentations at Camp Quaranup on in Albany. The trails saw competitors swept across remarkable beach-hugging trails with the Albany Windfarm towering above.
“The handicap format was once again well received, bringing everyone together at the finish line, and maximised the celebrations in the sunshine for all!” said Maffett. “We congratulate all runners on their outstanding achievements her in the Great Southern.”
Participants stayed together at coordinated group accommodation at each day’s finish line, which created a social and supportive environment for all runners and supporters. The event finished with a celebratory BBQ, free beer and presentations at Camp Quaranup making it a very joyous occasion.
The Great Southern is the largest and most diverse region within Australia’s South West and is supported by the City of Albany and Tourism WA who have helped Rapid Ascent create such a special event. The event also supports the Bibbulmun Track Foundation and their ongoing maintenance and management of the trail.
For more information on the Great Southern Stage Run including detailed results, head to www.greatsouthernstagerun.com.au.