The 9th annual Alpine Challenge was be held last weekend, Sat, 28th & Sun, 29th November 2015.
Over 145 runners, including 12 overseas runners from China, Japan, Singapore, Myanmar, UK, Sweden and Germany entered the Alpine Challenge aiming to participate in the 60km, 100km or 100 mile (160km) trail running event leaving from Bogong Village in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The Alpine Challenge is without doubt the toughest, most challenging, most spectacular and most rewarding mountain trail run in Australia—if not the southern hemisphere. The 100 mile course see’s runners take in 6 major climbs with 7,600m of ascent and descent including Mt Feathertop, Mt Hotham, The Fainters, Spion Kopje, Mt Nelse and Victoria’s highest mountain, Mt Bogong and 4 river crossings. The 100km involves over 4,000m of ascent and descent. Both events are challenging and open to individual solo runners, teams and relays runners, as is the 60km distance with over 1400m of ascent and descent.
Leading into the event, Gill Fowler and Matt Cooper were the favourites to take out the podium.
The conditions on the weekend were exceptional with warm, balmy conditions on Saturday, above freezing conditions overnight and great running weather on the Sunday – cool and overcast but with a light shower in the afternoon.
Saturday morning saw over 90 starters set off from Bogong Village at 4.30am, by torchlight, a spectacular sight, whilst over 20 runners in the 60km distance started at 8.30am.
In outstanding displays of running, records not only fell, but were smashed in all three distances in spite of a large number of trees being down across the track.
In the 60km event newcomers Eric Holt blew the record away with a time of 6.02.52 over a course which included over 1400m of ascent and descent whilst Sophie Brown came in, not only as the first female in 6.46.05, but second overall.
In the 100km distance Tom Brazier continued his run of successes finishing in a time of 11.25.28 whilst women’s favourite Delina Rahmate finished in 15.54.09.
The main event, the 100 mile Alpine Challenge, often being called Australia’s toughest mountain trail run and whispered about (by those who have run UTMB), as an event that is even tougher than UTMB saw amazing running. To even get to the start line is an effort, as demonstrated by over 20 runners having to withdraw before the event from training sustained injuries. Of the two favourites, Matt Cooper withdrew before the run and Gill Fowler was forced to pull out after struggling for hours with an injured ankle.
The win on the day went to Victorian runner, Chris Wight, running the course for the first time, in the amazing time of 23.03. 50 and smashing the previous record by over 2 hours and 19 minutes. Exemplifying the spirit of the run, Chris slowed down on the last descent to talk to a 100km runner and ensure that she was OK, and in so doing probably sacrificed a sub 23 finish time! Chris was followed across the line by Dan Beard a returning runner who slashed over an hour off his previous time and who also beat the previous record by 10 minutes. Brilliant running by both - Chris was reputed to have been seen hurdling fallen trees!!
First female across the line was Kathryn Austin in a time of 34.53.04, outside the best time but an amazing effort. As Kathryn said at the presentations, “everyone that finishes is a winner”.
As a sign of the difficulty of the 100 mile event, over 50% of the 100 miler starters either withdraw totally, or downgraded from the 100 mile distance to the 100 km run, well up from the average of 34%.
Looking forward to next year, Running Wild and Falls Creek Resort Management are pleased to announce that Falls Creek will host the Alpine Challenge from November 2016. “The nature of this event is a great fit for Falls, really showcasing what the village and High Plains has to offer in the summer season’. Trail running is becoming increasingly popular and compliments are existing events calendar, including the iconic Peaks Challenge road cycle ride” says Falls Creek Marketing & Communications Manager, Jo Prothero.