Forty-six year old Stephen Redfern jumped into ultra running fairly quickly, having started (as it would with hundreds of other people) with the aim of completing his first half marathon just over four years ago.
Amazingly, he reached that goal four to six months after starting the sport, and it was after the Sydney Marathon that a good friend of his convinced him to enter his first 100k – the Hume & Hovell 100.
“It was terrifying, especially considering I hadn’t run over 42.2k at that point,” he recalls.
“But it was enjoyable, and from there is where my ultra journey began, because on the drive home we hatched a plan to enter our first miler in another five weeks – the Alpine Challenge.
“I ran it just nine months after I started running.”
You heard right – ‘nine months after I started running’!
“It was surprising that once over the 100k mark, I just completely enjoyed it from that point on to the end of the race, which ended up taking me 36-hours to complete,” he says.
“To date, it’s my longest time in a race.”
Since then, Sydney’s own Redfern has delved into all things milers and more, revealing he thoroughly enjoys a variety of ultra running’s aspects – whether it be a fast 100 mile trail race, a serious mountainous trail miler with incredulous elevation, or a timed 24-hour track race.
For Redfern, these are the places he can test his abilities to mentally strategise tackling the events and achieving goals he has set himself, and just recently gave a fast 100k road race a go where he claims the approach is completely different.
The qualifying race that saw him gain entry as part of the Aussie team for the 2018 IAU 24hr Asia & Oceania Championships was the 2018 Sri Chinmoy 24hr where he achieved a 25k PB and reached a final distance of 245kms.
“It was my fifth 24hr event, and my third Sri Chinmoy 24hr, for which at my first race back in 2016 I’d decided I’d like to see if a qualifying distance could be possible,” he explains.
“Surprisingly, I faired quite well despite the distance, and decided that there was still room to improve.”
“I love how the more you run them (24hr events), the more you become experienced in how to tackle the events, and that is forever evolving when it comes to your set up or preparation,” he says.
“The great people and runners I’ve met on the track are also just so inspiring, and surprisingly have become great mentors to me, helping me become the runner I am today.
“I feel I still have lots more to learn with my 24hr track running, but I’m thoroughly looking forward to reaching those achievements over the coming years.”
The IAU 24hr Asia & Oceania Championships in Chinese Taipei will be Redfern’s first time representing Australia, and to say he was especially ‘chuffed’ is an understatement.
“I was working up on an aircraft engine when I received the call that I’d made the team,” he recaps.
“Having only been running for just over four years, I was so chuffed that I’d been selected and thought worthy enough to be given a chance to run alongside a group of great runners and mentors for Australia.”
And if there’s a runner out there on the Aussie roads-trails-tracks who speaks volumes when it comes to inspiring others, it’s Redfern.
“No goal is too high or unachievable,” he reiterates.
“If there is something you have set for yourself or a goal you would like to achieve no matter what it is, then believe in yourself that you can achieve it.
“First and foremost, which I believe is the most fundamental advice that one can receive, is don’t ever stop enjoying what you are doing regardless of what goal may be – be it in your everyday training or your racing; this is the reason why we run ultras and enjoy them so much.”
Redfern will be racing alongside his Australian team mates at the 2018 IAU 24hr Asia and Oceania Championships in Chinese Taipei the weekend of December 1-2.
Pictured (feature): Stephen Redfern racing. Photograph – Supplied.
Pictured (above left) Stephen Redfern accepting his first place trophy at the 2018 Ned Kelly Chase 100k. Photograph – Ned Kelly Chase Facebook.