Compiled by Phil Brabin, ACA (Vic.) Cairn subcommittee convenor

Jointly sponsored by Running Wild and the Australian Commando Association Victoria

Truly an ultra marathon.

The deep subtropical depression sitting off Australia’s eastern seaboard wasn’t doing anyone any favours (apart from recharging dams from Qld to Tas) as its storm surges and flooding wrought havoc up and down the coast. Wilsons Promontory, though not as directly exposed, never the less copped a beating from incessant rain downpours, loosed from the howling winds bursting around the corner of Australia and into an equally perturbed Bass Strait.

Lets face it, it was the perfect setting for the Australian Commando Association’s inaugural 100k ultra marathon Run! ACA Vic teamed up with Running Wild to stage a most formidable challenge. As former Commandos we share a responsibility to encourage younger Australians to in turn do their best, inspired by the same sense of courage, valour and selflessness that has ever been the crucial foundation for all that our nation has achieved. We hope that consciously stepping into the footprints of those first Commandos, will inspire younger generations to a similar excellence with the capacity to serve and make a difference as did those who came before them.

Starting from the Commando Memorial Cairn, the 100 kilometre course (think Melbourne to Seymour, or to The Valley) loops north from Tidal to Darby River and return, before ranging southward to both sides of the Prom as well as the lighthouse, and the most southerly point of the Australian mainland, before returning to the Commando Memorial finish line in Tidal River.

Of the 36 whoset out in the dark at 0600hrs from the cairn, 26 completed the Run. One runner who chose to run less than fully equipped showed the first signs of hypothermia and was extracted.

The fastest male runner, David Overend, completed the gruelling 100k in 11 hours, 1 minute and 54 seconds. Two other males also completed the Run in less than 12 hours.

The first female to finish was Susan Keith in 14 hours, 49 minutes and 13 seconds, 2 hours ahead of Kathy Roberts in 16 hours, 49 minutes and 50 seconds.

At a minimum the girls ran their first hour before dawn, then at least a further 3 hours in darkness with only a small headlight to keep them on the track.

Next morning our special guest trophy presenter, veteran “M Special Forces” coast watcher from World War 2, Mr Jim Burrowes1 OAM made the presentations, whilst rain graciously held off and the fury of the wind abated. Trophies are being engraved with recipients names and will soon be returned to winners.

Finally, this whole run, could not have succeeded without the pivotal role played by two of our own Association members. I refer to the two 70+ year old members of our Association, Barry Higgins and Peter Beasley, who at 0630hrs together hiked 1.5 hours in to man their checkpoint at Telegraph Junction. They were there on site, all day, with only what they could carry in and out on their backs for support (more adequate shelter, to stave off raging weather would have been a good idea). The last runner passed their checkpoint, heading back to the finish line at our Commando Memorial between 2200hrs and 2230hrs. It then took Barry and Pete another 2.0 hours to hike back to the finish line themselves. In all, Barry and Pete were out in the field, in appalling weather, for all of 17 continuous hours. In future the 14 hours required on site at this checkpoint, will be provided by a minimum of two, two man shifts, each being on site for 7 hours. Other options are also being explored to deliver more adequate support (Parks have suggested a trolley). One desirable addition would be the capacity to top up dehydrating runners with more fresh water.

All in all, despite atrocious weather the event was clearly a success, through ACA Vic and Running Wild informally teaming up to inspire runners with a larger frame of reference. “Strike Swiftly!”

In addition to the Run, a Commando Cairn Visitors Book has now been installed in the Parks Office to receive comments and feedback. It is on display at the Office, but under supervision of staff, lest it be inappropriately appropriated.

“Lest we forget.”

1. Google: “How the coast watchers who turned the tide in the Pacific War”