Survival of the fittest in 'brutal' Whitsunday trail run

The 2017 Run the Great Whitsunday Trail gets underway.
The 2017 Run the Great Whitsunday Trail gets underway. Peter Carruthers

RUNNING 28.7km is never easy, but over broken ground with intense elevation in almost 30-degree heat in just over two hours was a challenge met today by the winner of the 2017 Run the Great Whitsunday Trail event.

Beginning at the Forestry Rd in the Conway National Park the trail sends runners down into the forest for about 14kms before athletes turn around and begin the gruelling assent back up the mountain.

The first man home in a time of 2.14.13 was Townsville runner, Sam Stedman , the runner-up in 2017 was event ambassador from the Blue Mountains, Brendan Davies in 2.22.31 and another Townsville athlete Phil Copp took out third place.


Sam Stedman and Brendan Davies lead the 28.7km trail run through the Conway National Park.
Sam Stedman and Brendan Davies lead the 28.7km trail run through the Conway National Park. Peter Carruthers

Crossing the line dripping with sweat Stedman came second to Davies last year, he said he was hungry for the win this year.

"Being able to push is... you can get there alright, you can probably get 20ks in but the last eight is where you find out how fit you are," he said.

At the halfway turnaround point Davies had pulled out a one-minute lead on Stedman.

"We ran together for the first five (kms) flat out and he put a good gap into me.

"Then I plugged away and when we turned I was closer than I thought I would be, it gives you a bit of motivation when they are in sight.

"Then I got him and I thought 'now what do I do?' - it's a tough run all the way home.

"I caught him so I knew he could catch me. He is a bloody good runner and if there is anyone who is going to catch you at the end of a 28km race it's going to be Brendan Davies," Stedman said.

Stedman averaged a pace of 4.48 minutes per kilometre to win the race by about eight minutes.

Davies said he was coming off the back of a 170km race however "that is no excuse".

"Sam just out traced me today," he said.


Race briefing at the start of the Run the Whitsunday Trail.
Race briefing at the start of the Run the Whitsunday Trail. Peter Carruthers

"So what if my body is tired, I am sure his is too. He is a class athlete and credit to him. He handled the conditions much better than I did.

"I think he was much more cautious early. Not that I was risk taking and I was taking into account the weather but...

"On the way back it was brutal, I could get the core body temp down because the gradual uphill so you are always working.

"I was probably a little disappointed I didn't cross the line first but that's racing. I probably have come second as many times as I have come first so it all balances out at the end of the day.


"You take the wins and sometimes you get seconds and you have to be happy," Davies said.

Event director Wendy Downes said the course was modified this year as the trail all the way through to Airlie Beach is still blocked by trees felled by Cyclone Debbie.

"We didn't have the ability to be able to do it the way we wanted to do it," she said.

"But this was a really good contingency plan and it worked.

Over 100 athletes took part in the event coming from all over Australia and as far away as Canada and France.

Topics:  running trail running whitsundays

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