Contributed by Gavin Jackson, Run Queensland & Race Director for Blackall 100
Blackall 100 (Sunshine Coast, Qld)
19 October, 2019
The beauty of ultra-running is that it’s full of surprises, challenges and bloody fantastic moments. The Blackall100 2019 was all that and more, with surprise podium winners, challenging weather conditions and so many unforgettable and enriching experiences shared on course.
From humble beginnings with just 180 runners at Blackall100’s first race in 2014, this year was the most epic to date with more than 650 entrants, a 40 per cent increase on last year.
We had double the number of entrants in the 50km with a constant stream of runners crossing the finish line well into the afternoon. The race precinct was absolutely buzzing with runners and supporters celebrating the achievements of every person who crossed the line and rang the Blackall100 cowbell. Everyone had their story, whether it was coming back from paralysis to run their first ultra, sharing a running journey with a partner or winning the 100km event after taking up ultra-running only a year ago.
The lead up to this year’s event saw some dramatic bushfire weather in south-east Queensland and the very real prospect that the Blackall100 could also be affected in some way. However our race directors have a close working relationship with Queensland Parks and Wildlife and received encouraging assurances that the event would be able to go ahead. Of course we also must thank Garage Grinder for his rain-inducing rain dances that brought the wet weather – but perhaps he danced too well.
Blackall100 Day dawned with cool cloud cover after a hot week, a good sign for possibly some fast times on course. As the day progressed we saw thunder, torrential rain and fog which forced the cancellation of other events and sports on the Sunshine Coast. Ha! But not this race. Our runners powered on through whatever Mother Nature threw at them and we even saw the 100km course record fall.
The excitement was intense from the outset as trail-running newcomer Ryan Crawford, a Muay Thai fighter who only took up the sport last year, charged out of the starting chute and hit the first checkpoint in only 36 minutes (7.8km). The trail-running grapevine was in overdrive as Ryan kept up his pace and flew through checkpoints with seemingly barely a sweat. We knew we were about to witness something very cool. Meanwhile, the 50km race was also being watched with anticipation with Ben Duffus a chance of breaking his own record of 4.19.36 from 2018.
But it was not to be for the defending champion and instead local Sunshine Coast boy Josh Corcoran, hot on his heels, powered ahead to take out the title, surprising even himself with his inspiring achievement.
Sunshine Coast runner Cecelia Mattas continued her winning streak to take out the women’s 50km, cracking under five hours by one second, and already planning to return next year and break the course record held by Angela Speight 4.57.41. The pocket rocket had planned to go out easy and come home hard, but said she ended up starting fast, easing off in the middle and then racing it home!
The men’s 100km was a finish to behold as Ryan Crawford tore up the chute after a cracking day on the course setting a new record of 9.53.53 (previously held by last year’s winner Yun Phua 9.57.21). Ryan said he enjoyed the solitude of the race but also the amazing support of volunteers and runners who lifted his spirits with a few simple ‘Well dones.’
Ryan was powerful as he crossed the line, looking as though he could run another 60. His journey to the Blackall100 has been one of discovering his abilities and testing ever longer courses.
The women’s race was another nail biter, with defending champion Alana Vought facing stiff competition from Jess Schluter and Chrissy Redwood. The Blackall100’s women’s record holder Shona Stephenson was also making a return and looked strong from the beginning until the others crept past. In the end Jessica Schluter took out the title, fulfilling a dream in her fifth Blackall100 race, after returning from injury to cap off a stellar year. Choking back emotion at the finish line, Jess said it was ‘an amazing day.’
Of course, it’s not just about the winners. We bang on all the time that Blackall100 is all about community. And from all the feedback, social media posts and observations over the weekend, the feeling of community was intensified this year. Starting with the Welcome to Country, with special human Uncle Al reminding us of how important it is to run or walk across country and offering the opportunity for participants to release any anxieties in a smoking ceremony and for us to prepare for the coming days.
Race day shared so many stories that really made us shed tears. From our last runner, local Tracey Heath, who finished her first 100k race in 23hrs 08mins and conquered her fears of running in the bush at night on her own, to witnessing two friends Chelsea and Lucy finishing together in tears, taking up running not long ago to help with depression. To that moment James (father) and Tarni (daughter) finished 100km together. Something special happened on the trail, you could see it in their tears. We’re so privileged to be part of everyone’s “Journey across Country” and in our eyes, all of you are champions.
And let’s not forget superhuman ‘Ultra Marathon Man’ Dean Karnazes. What a dream it was to have him here on the Sunshine Coast. Not only for the Run Queensland Team but for all of you runners. So many pictures on social media of runner’s footsteps with Dean. The poor bugger just wasn’t feeling well, catching a tummy bug on the plane from Greece, and not feeling his best for the duration of his stay in Australia. But that’s why he is a champion. He was adamant he was going to finish the race, and not without concern from the Race Directors (not wanting anything to happen to Dean on their watch).
But with pure superhuman grunt, help from Brody from The North Face and all the vollies, finish he did! Special mention goes to Brad and his ‘Love Bus’ offering Dean the opportunity to have a nano second power nap. From all of us here in Australia, thank you so much Dean for taking the long flight to Australia and spending quality time with us all. We will never forget it!
The Blackall100 community has built over the past SIX years, with the most amazing volunteers that make the event such a success. It gets thrown around that ‘we have the best checkpoints in the world.’ And from the words of a man that runs all over the world, Dean – ‘Blackall100 is so magical and a world class event because of all the people involved.’
From our hearts to yours, a big thank you to all of you. Every single person that has been involved this year and all previous years. Looking forward to many years to come and more adventures to have.
The Blackall100 would not be possible without the generosity of our sponsors; Sunshine Coast Council, the Running Company Sunshine Coast, the North Face Aust & NZ, Infinit Nutrition Aust, the Recovery Room, Squirrels Nut Butter Downunder, the Happy Snack Company, Fisiocrem, Red Bull Australia, Goodr. Thank you for supporting the Blackall100 and the trail running community, it is greatly appreciated.
Well, how are we going to top this year?
That is our mission…stay tuned for the excitement of the Blackall100 and keep 17 October, 2020 free. This year we were only 40 spots from being sold out and we dare say as the word spreads across the seas, Blackall100 will continue to be ‘a world class race.’
The RQ Team
Photographs – Supplied.