Running Australia’s Surf Coast

After running the Big Sur International Marathon on America’s ‘Jagged Edge’ at the end of April, I almost immediately set my sights on a Surf Coast Trail Marathon re-match back in Australia. Last year was the inaugural race, and with ioMerino sponsoring the event, it seemed only right that I would make the 800km road trip across and fly the ioMerino flag.

Last year I was carrying a serious, chronic injury and was in no condition to run a full marathon. And on trails at that. Naturally, I did it anyway and had a pretty horrible day out, taking 6:18 to finish the course, so this year I felt like I had something to prove. Besides, the race had captured my imagination, so I was also keen to go back and actually enjoy it this time.

The course itself is actually quite mild compared to many trail races. There’s no crazy elevation or technical stuff, although there’s quite a bit of beach running and the softer sand can definitely take its toll. This year the forecast was for a mercifully mild morning with temperatures of around 7c/44f, but not due to go much higher than that for the rest of the race. Knowing it would be slightly warmer than last year, I opted for the Vital ribbed long sleeve with my Altitude Tee, and my ever-present Highpoint Necktube to keep my ears warm. And my bad haircut hidden. This is basically my go-to trail gear these days and serves me well across all sorts of activities and temperatures.

Compared to last year, I managed to shave almost 10 minutes off the first half of the course, and passed the half marathon starting line before they took off which made for a much more interesting second half as the half marathon front runners made their way through the field. Damn, those guys are fast!

I slowed down quite a bit in the second half of the race, but still managed to enjoy the spectacular coastal, cliff-top views. After last year’s ‘King Tide’ where the ocean was so far in there was only a tiny bit of super soft sand to run on, it was a relief to find the sand much firmer under foot and made for easier running. Even if that was somewhat evened out by a pretty aggressive headwind. The last thing I needed 30+kms into a 43kms race!

The overall race winner, Damien Angus, polished the course off in a lightning quick 3:10:04. In fairness, Damien is an elite triathlete and Age Group Ironman World Champion having won his category at Kona, Hawaii, so I don’t feel too bad for taking an extra two hours to complete the course myself. I’d hoped to crack the 5hr mark this year, but I’ll take a 1hr+ PR over last year’s lack lustre effort. As for that elusive 5hr mark, there’s always next year…

For an event in only its second year, it’s superbly organised and supported. With fairly easy access to the trails at many points along the way, it’s also a great supporter’s race. It may not have the huge crowds of some of the more high profile road races, but trail races can be quite solitary a lot of the time, so just seeing anyone along the way, cheering you on, is a nice change. I was lucky to have fellow adventurer and ioMerino wearer Kyle Williams make the trip down to the coast to cheer me across the finish line as well which was nice.

It’s a sentiment confirmed by Race Director, Chris Ord: “Last year was special as the first, but this year seemed to up the ante in terms of people being so encouraging of everyone, and so damn happy. And the number one feedback we’re getting is that the volunteers were out-of-this-world friendly and made all the difference when runners were hitting their walls! It is they who really make the event experience top notch for everyone, and as an organizer, I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Today, more than ever, there are so many new events on offer, runners really need to pick and choose the races they do, and each race needs its own identity and draw card to attract runners. I know I had to choose between this and a regional Marathon on the edge of the world famous Flinders Ranges on the same weekend, but in the end, I simply couldn’t resist those awesome coastal views and the great atmosphere.

“The whole reason the Icebug Surf Coast Trail Marathon came into existence was to offer an inclusive, supportive event that enticed runners onto the trail and down to experience the stunning environs of the Surf Coast in particular” Chris explains. “We believe we have a special place here in terms of the coast and the trails along it and we wanted to share it, while also creating an event that was as much about just participating as the winning.”

More than 560 runners crossed the line on event day making the Icebug Surf Coast Trail Marathon one of the bigger trail events in Australia. And I was happy to be warm and comfortable in my ioMerino along the way as always. And not in the last few runners like I was last year!