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Thursday 10 October 2013
Lamington Eco Challenge

On Thursday, August 15 I found out about an amazing race on the weekend of the 17th and 18th: two marathons on trails and fire roads in the Lamington National Park in two days ? the Lamington Eco Challenge. As I was already considering doing a hilly 40ish-kilometre run on that weekend, I jumped at the opportunity to pick up a free entry a fellow trail runner had won but had not been able to use.
 
The Saturday race sent us through a country lane, across a kilometre-wide, steep, open paddock, and down Duck Creek Road to the township of Kerry. This road was financed by donations made by local residents when the local council wouldn't pay for its construction. Despite its crowd-funded nature, the road surface was mostly pretty good, with some patches of rutted blacksoil that might cause consternation in wet weather. The part of Duck Creek Road that was off the mountain and out of the forest was mostly flat; it warmed up a touch on the way back and was not the most attractive section of the course, despite running through farmland and having very little traffic.
 
Competitors gather at the start for the inaugural Lamington Eco Challenge.The return leg featured a climb of around 600m over a winding six-kilometre stretch of this road. There were several farm gates and cattle grids to negotiate, in place to stop stock wandering into the section of Lamington National Park the road enters. Running through the cool rainforest was a welcome relief after the more exposed farm roads. The steep paddock negotiated at the start of the race was again crossed, and was much warmer under the clear midday skies generally experienced in late winter in south east Queensland. This led to another section of rainforest negotiated on a small dirt single track, the prettiest section of the whole course. This footpath eventually entered onto Lamington National Park Road, for the short run back to O'Reilly's, a guesthouse nestled in some of the most attractive rainforest in south east Queensland and a principal race sponsor.
 
Sunday's race had to be run on a foreshortened course because of an overnight road accident, which closed the road between the half marathon turn and the full marathon turn. In order to make the best of an unfortunate situation, the race organisers were forced to run the full marathoners over the half marathon course twice. Although this section contained many of the steeper parts of the course, I felt that the cooler forest was preferable to the more exposed, flatter farmlands surrounding the township of Kerry, particularly as the day eventually turned out to be very fine and warm.
 
I backed up Saturday's 5:14 with a 5:48 on the Sunday, for a combined total of 11:02, only two and a half hours behind the winner Jodie Oborne.  This is a race I would heartily recommend to anyone interested in a staged ultra or a fastpacking trip, as two strenuous marathons back-to-back would surely clarify whether you were sufficiently well trained.  On the other hand, the two half marathons amount to a delightful weekend of running with added socialising at the well stocked O'Reilly's bar."

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