Surf Coast Century 2023 Follow-Up
The 12th edition of the Surf Coast Century was held on Saturday 16 September 2023 in Anglesea, Victoria, and has once again solidified its reputation as a premier ultra trail running marathon in Australia. 1,300 competitors from across the state and country showed incredible grit and perseverance in the glorious spring sunshine as they took on a challenge that many people would never have dreamed of.
Half the field competed as individuals over the 100km and 50km courses; whilst the remaining half participated in a relay team of two, three, or four runners over the 100km course, running approximately 25km each. Sam Maffett of Torquay-based event organisers Rapid Ascent expressed his admiration for the competitors’ remarkable efforts on a remarkable course, and the unwavering encouragement from supporters.
“There’s something magic(al) about setting foot before dawn, watching the sun rise as it reveals stunning beaches, golden cliffs, turquoise water and towering ironbark trees – it really does inspire awe, and that’s exactly what we witnessed...But there was something even more inspiring than the course’s backdrop today – and it was all our magnificent runners and supporters!” said Maffett.
Claiming victory in the 100km premier race was Andy McConnell (ACT) and Jayme Bergman (WA), clocking impressive times of 08:52:48 and 09:54:94, respectively. In addition to the impressive feats of solo runners was the $2,000 cash up for grabs to the first and fastest relay team to break the 7-hour barrier.
And what we witnessed was just how close that can be with Team Weapons-A of Owen Williams, Hayden Barnett, Nathan Pearce and Ethan Penk coming in just 46 seconds over the 7-hour benchmark! They may not have won the cash on Saturday, but they certainly broke the course record by a solid 15 minutes, originally set by Team ‘Love the Run’ back in 2015.
In the 50km ultra event, James Connor and Gemma Jenkins both showcased strong performances as they revelled in the glorious day, crossing the finish line in 04:13:12 and 04:21:50 with Jenkins also placing 4th overall on course.
Bogong sponsored athletes Mitch Docker completed the 50km at 12:03pm in 04:33:20 (7th overall) and Sia Kindberg completed the 100km at 9:04pm in 16:04:30 under very challenging circumstances. Neil Blundy (Owner of Bogong Equipment) tackled the 50km as well but was unfortunately unable to finish due to injury but ran an impressive 29km nonetheless.
"The first thing I noticed was the scene, similar to off-road biking. Big range of people doing it across a variety of age groups. The biggest differences with trail running is the chance to talk to people and ability to back up. The speed of the Peleton makes it difficult to have conversations. Everyone was quite friendly, feeling the nerves and I had the opportunity to pick their brains as a first time ultra trail runner. I really enjoyed it and "Feel Good Ultra" rings true especially when you arrive at the beach." said Mitch.
"Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and gratitude are the things I repeatedly asked myself when the dark clouds are hovering above. If I still have some of those elements left, I can keep going. I knew the warmer condition was going to be terrible for me, especially with all my training in colder climates this year. I never thought that my 5th SCC was going to be the top 2 most challenging races I have ever encountered." said Sia.
"Ultra running has its highs and lows. This race my high was 10% and my low was 90% of the race. The stomach started to play up at 18km, the vomiting started at 21km and it continued throughout the whole race. The highs were the courage displayed by broken runners, the beauty of the trails, the peace and the simplicity of running in the dark." "DNF (Did Not Finish) was never an option for you!" "You never give up!" "You are doing really great!" Sia added.
"This was my first 50km race. Once we set off and across the road in Anglesea, we were exposed to tracks and forest - my happy place. After 10km, I got into a train of 5-6 people trail running together with collective ownership of the train, encouragement for dropping off the train to get back on, kept together until I fell over at the 18km mark after shortly saying "I'm going along pretty well" - famous last words. 1km later I had a second fall as a result of the first, hitting the ground hard and hurting my knee." said Neil.
"With 3km to the next checkpoint, I got patched up and rested for a bit before talking myself into going for the next one. It was a tough 7-8km before I decided to finish up there. The course was easy to follow, couldn't get lost, great energy at checkpoints but sorry I couldn't keep going - back next year." Neil added.
The Surf Coast Shire played a supportive role in the iconic event which started and finished in Anglesea, boasting a course that encapsulates the breathtaking natural beauty of Victoria's Great Ocean Road region.
The figure-8 course design course took 100km competitors from Anglesea to Torquay along the beach, returning along the cliff top tracks and hinterland trails to Moggs Creek and Aireys Inlet; before heading back to Anglesea on the Surf Coast Walk trail, via Point Roadknight. Whilst the 50km course did the second half of the 100km.
Competitors continued to cross the finish line late into the evening, with the final 100km solo competitor finishing just past midnight. “It was fantastic to see competitors” raw emotions as they crossed that finish line, achieving their dreams that were once thought only just that,” said Maffett. The 2024 edition of the event is set for Saturday 21 September - entries to open early next year. https://surfcoastcentury.rapidascent.com.au/