Earlier this year, the idea of doing an Australian running adventure was raised with Morgs and Rob, the dream team behind the film Tired But Strong. It was then put on the back shelf until a couple of weeks ago when we looked at dates for when this would work. Turns out two weeks later was the time that fitted all of our schedules. The only thing was, there was no plan. So I put a shout out on Facebook looking for anyone that had Australian running contacts and then pinged random people messages to see if they had any cool ideas of awesome running routes in Australia.
My friend Kieran got back to me and said what about the Great Ocean Road…? I started to have a look at it in a bit more detail and it looked awesome; a coastal road that went from Torquay to Allansford near Melbourne. On further inspection and after some Googling, I found that there was also a walking route called The Great Ocean Walk. So with about a week to go until I would start this journey, I made the robust plan of combining the Great Ocean Road and The Great Ocean Walk into The Great Ocean Run. This seemed sensible.
The total distance was about 240km (according to Google maps) so I divided the distance by four and came up with the magic number of running 60km a day for four days. Boom! That was pretty much the extent of my preparation and planning. After my thorough planning I hopped on a plane bound for Melbourne. This flight was not much fun as the turbulence was horrific with us bouncing up and down through the air. At the point when the airhost dropped to the floor and started to crawl along the aisle followed by “get to your seats immediately” coming over the tannoy, it is safe to say that I absolutely shat myself! It took about 30 minutes before the adrenaline stopped pumping through my body and I finally calmed down. The bumpy ride finally wound down and we headed safely to landing.
Arriving in Melbourne I met Morgs and Rob and we started our road trip. Needless to say our planning had not got much further. I was starting the run the next day, so I spent the day finding food supplies to see me through running 240 odd kilometres. I also needed to find some electrolytes and stumbled across an awesome little running shop The Happy Runner. We popped in and spoke to Nige and he sorted me out with some Tailwind and a very fetching cap, which was a godsend to keep the sun out of my eyes throughout the day.
He also alluded to the fact that there was a coastal path that started at the Surf Lifesaving Club and headed 20km down the coast to Anglesea. Well that helped with my planning. I would run along the Surf Coast Trail from Torquay to Anglesea then hop on the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay and from there get onto The Great Ocean Walk to the Twelve Apostles before hopping back onto The Great Ocean Road to the glamourous finish in Allansford. Ta da, I had a plan!! Who needs months to plan an adventure anyway!?
Day 1 Torquay to Lorne
Time: 7 hrs 11 mins
Day one would see me begin the journey and to be honest I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if my little legs would be able to go this far every day as I hadn’t done anything like this for a while. Since getting a stress fracture in March my weekly mileage had averaged 61.79 km from when I started running again in May. Anyway, I hopped on the path and off I went and what a morning.
I started the run as the sun was rising and it cast the most beautiful light over the coast. As I wound my way up and down hills and through the trees taking in my new surroundings, I was bloody loving life. I was on the hunt (not literally) for a kangaroo and a koala so spent the day scouring trees and hoping one would pop out of a bush. After about 20km I saw Morgs and Rob who boasted that they had just seen not 1 but 2 kangaroos. WTF?! My eyes were now wide open looking for them.
The path ended up descending onto the beach and luckily the tide was out so I thought I would chance my luck and ignore the signs back to the path and stick on the sand. Every bit of headland I ran towards I was a bit worried that I would have to turn back or get trapped by the tide, but luckily this didn’t happen and I could enjoy getting chased by waves for along the beach.
Finally, with a big cliff ahead of me with a lighthouse perched on top I decided to stop chancing my luck and to head back onto the trail. Shortly after the lighthouse, the trail ran out and I had to start running on the road. I had had a good 30km stint of trail so I was pretty happy. Once on the road, road signs started to appear reminding people that they were in fact in Australia, that they were on a big hill and numerous signs in Chinese that I could not decipher. Turns out that this is a tourist hotspot for Chinese travellers. The second half of the day was pretty nice as I ran on the road on the edge of the cliff with the waves crashing besides me.
Day one was pretty uneventful and quite easy. I had been sucked into a false sense of security that this is what the rest of the adventure would be like…
Day 2 Lorne to Cape Otway
Time: 8hrs 15 mins
Day two started off with a 36km stint on the road and this is where I would find out that Australia’s weather predictions are rubbish and that you get 4 seasons in one day! The forecast was for sunshine with a bit of cloud. So, when the heavens opened and it felt like there was ice smashing into my eyes, I wasn’t too happy. I spent the day putting my waterproof on, taking it off again, putting it back on…
I was pretty excited to hit the Great Ocean Walk once we got to Apollo Bay as this meant no more cars and some fun trails to run on. This happiness lasted about two minutes when I had to run through waterlogged fields that filled my shoes with water. I began to think just run, your feet are wet now anyway. And so I did and then I fell on my ass, repeatedly. Sliding down hills which if you were 5 and were looking for a slip ‘n slide would have been awesome.
The water eventually disappeared as I headed into the jungle where I was hoping to find a Koala. Instead I found a snake which I was assured would be in hibernation as it was way too cold for them! Around the next corner I found Morgs hiding in a bush (he likes to do this) and he told me there was a koala just around the corner. Try and find the thing, turns out it’s roughly 30m up a tree at the very top branch. So with some squinting I could vaguely see him munching on leaves. How the little thing got that high is bloody impressive!
Now I got to do a completely pointless (I am sure that was a reason really) detour into the woods. The path in here was nice for two seconds then would turn into a quagmire. This continued over and over again and was getting bloody frustrating. The 60km mark finally came up and I figured I was still quite a while from the end and making very slow progress to my lighthouse. I was getting quite frustrated and wondering how much longer I had to endure this horrible path for, when suddenly I came out of the woods (literally) and could spot the lighthouse in the distance. The path turned into a runnable path and I found a sign that said 5km to go. Wahooooo!! With 200m to go, two kangaroos (which I would later find out were actually wallaroos, yes that is a thing) bounced in front of me which was bloody awesome. I turned the penultimate corner to come face to face with a wallaroo and let out some sort of wail which to anyone walking by probably sounded like a wounded deer. Arriving at the lighthouse 10hrs later I found it was closed so had to have a celebratory picture by a lighthouse sign!
Day 3 Cape Otway to Princetown
Time: 10hrs 25 mins
Today was going to be a full day on the trail and as most of it was pretty inaccessible by car, I had to make sure I had enough supplies to get me through the day.
The path started off so sandy and I knew immediately that it might be another long day. Turns out I was also in kangaroo land and with every corner I turned there was either one in my path or one bouncing out of the woods continually scaring the shit out of me. I was pretty content that I had now reached my kangaroo quota and hoped they would just go into hiding (they didn’t).
The path was beautiful and every hill I ran up crested with the most amazing sea views. However, after a few hours, the relentless ups and down, paths of mud, trees I had to jump over (from a storm the previous week) and mossy hills, all got a bit much. I couldn’t get into a rhythm and couldn’t go faster that 10min/km. My glutes were also so sore it felt like I had a hook stuck in each one and I was getting pulled toward the sky with each step.
I messaged Mike telling him I wasn’t a happy bunny so he gave me a call to cheer me up which resulted in me having a cry and blaming the stupid bloody hills. He reminded me that it was not the hills fault (I think it still was) and that he would give me a call every hour to make sure I was ok. Adventures like these are awesome but they take you to the edge of your boundaries and make you feel like you are on an emotional knife edge the whole way. One second the views take your breath away the next you want to sit on a rock and cry because you are sore, tired and you have been running for so long that bloody mosquitoes start chowing on your already very sore bum cheeks (I wish I was making this up). But this is part of the journey and there is something rewarding about pushing your mind and body as far as it can go. Finally, after having not seen Morgs or Rob for about 6 hrs I turned a corner to find them once again hiding in a bush. Never have I been so happy to finish a run!
Day 4 Princetown to Allansford
Time: 9hrs 23 mins
I thought today was going to be about a 50/50 split of trail and road but I had nothing to base this on due to my lack of planning and I was very very wrong. Turns out that the first 7km was on the trail which went past the Twelve Apostles. Here I found a lovely Chinese tourist who I asked to take a photo of me to which he decided a full-on photoshoot was necessary. Finally, managing to prise my phone back from him I carried on the trail which abruptly ended and I got onto the road where I would stay for the rest of the day.
I thought that I would have just over 60km to do today so as I neared my peanut butter sandwich stop and did a map recce to see it was going to be more like 73km, I was slightly overwhelmed. I decided that I was going to have to implement rolling stops for my food supplies as I didn’t want this to take longer than necessary. The road was beautiful with awesome views of London Bridge, Bay of Islands and the Bay of Martyrs along the way.
As I approached 38km and made a righthand turn these views disappeared as I ended running through farmland. At this point my feet really started to hurt and I could feel that they were swelling in my shoes. It got so painful that I thought ok, I will walk for 10 minutes then run for 50 mins. This quickly turned to running for 25 mins, walking for 5 mins and this turned into walking for 500m then running for 1km. My feet have never hurt like this before and I am not too sure why they did this time. Perhaps it was my shoes or my new insoles. I will have to do some investigating. The route got less and less glamorous towards the end especially as I passed a huge dairy factory and Cheese World (which would have been great if it was open). But suddenly after running all day I could see the end, a T-junction that marked the end of my Great Ocean Run. I am not too sure why but I quite liked that the end was quite shit!
However, the route altogether is absolutely magnificent and I highly recommend that if you have the opportunity to do it you should. But whatever you do, choose the Great Ocean Walk over the Road when you can. It is seriously beautiful and in a car you miss so much of this wonderful route. There are campsites throughout the walking route, so take your time, enjoy the views and the kangaroos scaring the shit out of you as they jump out of the bushes!!
A huge thanks to Morgs and Rob for hiding in bushes and for resupplying me with snacks and water along the way. I couldn’t have done it without you guys!
Total Distance: 258.70km
Total Moving Time: 33hrs 7 mins
Total Time: 3 days 10 hours 28 minutes and 30 seconds
Calories used: 17,575
Breakfast: 3 eggs, toast, fried tomatoes, avo and +/- 3 cups of tea
On the road (I tried to eat every hour and had the following, pretty much in this order every day): Banana, salted caramel nut bar (bad choice it took about an hour to chew the bloody thing), Greek yoghurt pouch, peanut butter sandwich, 2 x satsumas, salted caramel bar (urgh), Lamington cake, handful of almonds, yoghurt, banana
Dinner: Day 1 - Not very good Asian food + fruit and yogurt, Day 2 - fish and chips, Day 3 - calamari chips and veg + cake, Day 4 -burger and chips + cake
2 Litre Bladder + 500ml soft flask
Garmin InReach (for tracking and emergencies)