Three local runners recently returned from a week in central Australia where they participated in Run Larapinta, a four day, four stage trail running race.
The race was run along sections of the Larapinta Trail near Alice Springs with Tura’s Michelle van der Voort and Andy Gibbs and Bega’s Tammy Edmonds taking on the challenge.
There were two different race distances on offer, with our runners racing the shorter course. This comprised an 11km race on the Friday evening, on trails around Alice Springs. Stage 2 (on the Saturday) was a tough but very scenic 20km course, finishing at Standley Chasm. Stage 3 (on Sunday) was 22km finishing at Ormiston Gorge, and stage 4 (on Monday) was 30km starting near Mount Sonder and finishing at Glen Helen. Although there was a consistent theme of dry, rocky landscapes, the scenery varied across the days, providing different and interesting views across the full 83km of the race.
The runners said stage two was the longest event due to the steep and rocky terrain.
It featured a steep switchback climb, but also dry riverbed sections, clambering over boulders.
The runners were thankful to only have to carry minimal gear over this section as it was a very hard section for long distance hikers with heavy packs. Runners did all have to carry minimum mandatory gear to make sure they were self sufficient and safe even if they were lost or out on course for a long period of time. This included 3 litres of water, some food, first aid kit, space blanket, whistle, a jacket, thermal top, beanie, matches, mobile phone and map.
In contrast to many people's view that the red centre of Australia is a flat desert, the Larapinta Trail travels through the West MacDonnell Ranges, giving the chance to climb to great scenic lookouts and appreciate the surrounding landscape. The group said there were some spectacular maze-like canyons and gorges along the circuit.
The weather was almost perfect for the event, with blue skies and warm sunshine every day, and only one morning that was near freezing.
There were 160 runners who participated in the event, with 115 of those contesting the shorter course. Runners stayed in Alice Springs for the first two days and at Glen Helen for the other two, with race organisers arranging transport to each start line and back from the finish.
The goal for many was just to finish, but Gibbs also won his age group and completed the course fourth overall.
The trio rounded off the trip with a visit to Uluru and Kata Tjuta.