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GNW: Sydney to Newcastle FKT 2021

Outrunning Glow Worms

No mobile reception

I ran Glow Worm Trail Marathon last year for the first time and absolutely loved it. The race, the location, the glow worm tunnel…. The whole thing. So this year I HAD to go back to have another go at it.

Mum who’d recently been reading Wild came along for the adventure with the intention of reenacting the book (She can actually quote parts of it).

We reached Newnes on Saturday just after lunchtime and while the kids race was still going. Lots of people in the town and the campgrounds and heaps of kids and families running around. Setting up camp down in the free campground at the end of the road we constructed our bivy size tents and unloaded some of the car before heading into the event hub.

GWTM and Newnes are pretty special. The town is really just a pub, but a pub that doesn’t have a liquor license… Although it does sell ice creams. And that’s it. At one stage the town was a thriving community of a couple of thousand people but that is long gone, there are ruins of the industry, houses & other buildings throughout the place but the pub and a couple of accommodation cabins are all that remains with the pub owner the only full-time town occupant.

The GWTM event hub was still going off with the kids race and Ted English Bolt finishers coming in. I picked up my race pack and met up with Jarrad who’d run in the Half Marathon that morning and was getting ready for the 1km Mystery Mountain Dash. We headed across the river, past the rubber duck race which was in full swing (I was very jealous of the kids and their decorated rubber ducks) and waited with Jarrad as everyone else came in for the dash. This was a straight sprint from the Newnes train platform to the top of Mystery Mountain, only 1km, but the record is 13:03, so it’s not an easy 1km. They sent the runners off 2 at a time and we cheered Jarrad on as he took off for the top of the mountain. (I later found out he came 4th! with around 16 minutes!).

That evening we enjoyed the pre-booked dinner feast (all sorts of hot food & a good pre-race feed) which is great, because the only other food in Newnes is ice-cream and whatever you bring in yourself! Despicable Me was the kids movie (which I’d unfortunately seen before, but I did like sitting around the fire). And the band was just starting as we headed back to the campground. Unlike the Half Marathon runners, I had to race in the morning.

The race start had been pushed back from 6am to 8am, which meant that I both got to sleep in and also got to start the race in the daylight. Although it was still completely and utterly freezing!! It was 7:58 before I slowly made my way from the fire to the start line and then we were off. For the first 3-4kms I couldn’t feel my toes or most of my feet which made running a bit hard. I also couldn’t feel my hands, but I didn’t need them to run so they were off less concern.

We raced down the road from Newnes, into the campground, and did a lap around that to the cheering of the camping spectators then off onto the single trail headed for the Pipeline track. The Pipeline track is steep, No way I could run it, but I can walk it fast. Sarah took the lead from me on the Pipeline but that was fine, it’s a long race and I’d gone out too hard due to being cold. I needed to back off and save some for the Glow Worm section.

Getting to the top of the pipeline we get to run to the lookout, touch the witches hat then run back and down the other side of the mountain. This side isn’t quite as steep, but it’s still technical with lots of scrambling down rocks, leaping over logs and slipping and sliding to the bottom where you get to touch another witches hat, turn around and came straight back up and over. Sarah had a couple of minutes lead on me by the turnaround. With third sitting about 5 minutes behind me.

Coming back into town
The climb back over Pipeline is easier in this direction although I did manage to cut my leg when I attempted to leap a log and failed, scratching my leg on part of the log. Back over pipeline (with another detour to the lookout) it was all slipping and sliding down the steep side of the mountain and then back onto the flat for another tour of the campground (more cheering campers) and into town past the start/finish line where the bulk of the spectators are cheering the runners on. Mum was there with her cowbell and encouragement signs. I ran straight past the drink stop (I was carrying enough water/gels etc for the entire race). Then it was across the shin deep river, up the opposite bank and onto the old railway line, which is now just a trail. The old railway track to the Glow worm tunnel is a very steady climb, pretty much a false flat. I remembered from last year that I’d struggled a bit with this, but this year I knew to expect it so I didn’t feel quite as bad when It felt like I was running slower then I should have been. I’d made a bit of ground on Sarah and could see her a few hundred metres in front of me at different sections of the track as it switched between railway cuttings, to washed away sections that have been replaced with stairs to a few sections that are just straight scrambling over rocks or tree roots.

Coming up to the tunnel itself the track turns into a spectacular gorge with giant treeferns, a creek running through the middle and a huge overhang along one side, sandstone cliffs on the other and the Glow worm tunnel at the end. This is easily my favourite part of the run. Getting out my headlamp I walked into the tunnel and slowly made my way along it. The tunnel is about 375m long with a large curve in it, so it’s completely dark for most of the walk. I’d brought my old headlamp because I only needed it for the tunnel and didn’t want to risk losing my good one. The old one however was barely bright enough to light the way and I inadvertently walked through the creek for a large section of the tunnel.

Out the other side the track leaves the rail line and heads back on over the mountain with some climbing followed by a steep downhill section back to the drinkstop before it turns right back onto the railway track headed into Newnes. There were still a lot of the marathon runners on this section of the track on their way out to the tunnel and it’s always good to see other runners out there, it encourages me on. Especially when I’ve lost sight of everyone else since not long before the tunnel.

The final 6-7kms into Newnes I was pushing hard, it’s a fairly gentle downhill which means I can just let go and keep moving. I was really trying to catch Sarah and with a kilometre to go I sighted her a few hundred metres in front. But there wasn’t enough time to catch her. I was still pushing as I sprinted back across the river and down the road towards the finish line. Coming in 2nd female in 4:20:45 (16 minute PB). Sarah came in 1st with 4:19:4?… I was very very close. I was pleased with the race, I’d run hard, especially the last section. Plus the race itself is a great course… Hills, tunnels, Glow worms, the whole works!

Now it was time to have some fun for the next few days around Newnes……



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