The Blue Mountains were the scene of amazing feats of courage, endurance and strength over the weekend of the 2nd to the 3rd of May 2009. The second edition of the WildEndurance challenge went on without a hitch and will stay in participants' minds as a challenging yet exhilarating experience which will live on for a long time!
It was indeed a memorable event which saw some teams go beyond their physical limits, then keep on pushing and reach deeper to eventually cross the finish line and celebrate their achievement with their trusted support crews.
It all started with the sun rising into a clear blue sky over Dunphy's Campground in the Blue Mountains on Saturday 2nd May, heralding the start of a fantastic weeken...this was WildEndurance 2009.
As the campers roused themselves and more teams arrived by car, the air was filled with chatter, laughter and excitement. By the time the starting signal went at 8.05am, 68 teams (over 300 people) had crossed the line to set off on one of the greatest challenges they would ever undertake -- walking 100km through the Blue Mountains in 48 hours to raise funds for The Wilderness Society.
The course meandered from the Megalong Valley up onto Narrowneck ridge, passing beneath the magnificent Katoomba cliffs, around the Three Sisters, back down through the beautiful Jamison valley, along the Andersons and Ingar trails, returning via Wentworth Falls and Echo Point to the finish at Katoomba Oval.
At 11.45am the first team, Sydney Marathon Clinic, arrived at Checkpoint 1 at Katoomba Oval. By now the oval had filled with the picnic tables and barbeques of the Support Crews eagerly awaiting the arrival of their teams, and keeping a close eye on the huge course map that the youngest Wilderness Society volunteer, Hannah King, was using to display the progress of the teams.
By 5.30pm all of the teams had passed through Checkpoint 1, and the temperature dropped considerably as darkness set in -- teams were starting to rug up for a crystal clear, but very crisp night. By now the focus had moved to Checkpoints 2 and 3 at Queen Victoria Hospital. Many of the Support Crews had set up camp there for the night and as dusk set, the lights of the campsites brought a welcome sense of warmth. Overnight the First Aid crews were kept busy on 'blister alert' and other 'am-too-tired-to-continue- patrols' sending them left and right to pick up exhausted trekkers.
The first 100km team to cross the finish line was Sydney Marathon Clinic in a time of 16 hours and 30 minutes. This team of four guys lead the 100km event from start to finish and were only beaten to line honours by relay team Taxi who passed them at around the 70km mark. Wild Women On Top 1, the hugely impressive all female team, came in second in 18:38, cutting nearly 6 hours off their 2008 time. Krazy Kats were absolutely stoked to finish in third place in a time of 18:58.
The first relay team across the finish line was team Taxi in a very impressive 15 hours and 23 minutes. They had put a 3 hour gap on the next relay team, Happy Feet, who arrived in 18:21 not quite believing that they were the 3rd team to cross the line and had come second in the relay event. Greta and the goats came in 3rd in the relay event. Not all were running through the finishing arch, but all were smiling!
Sunday morning dawned bright and clear, and all -- competitors and organisers -- were grateful that the flooding rains that hit Sydney had stayed away from the mountains. Teams rolled in at frequent intervals over the whole of Sunday and right up until 10:28pm when the final 100km team fANZtastic walkers crossed the line with all four team members still intact. Amazingly, of the 68 teams who started the event, 53 teams completed the course with at least 3 team members still moving. Of these, 24 teams finished as full teams with every team member crossing the line. A further 8 teams managed to get at least one member to the finish line. That is even more commendable knowing that some participants had never walked further than 20kms in one go before!
The competitive side of WildEndurance is important but the most important part of the event actually happens not on the tracks, but online, with critical funds being raised for The Wilderness Society's environmental campaigns throughout Australia. The tally is at $136,000 so far and fundraising is open on the Everyday Hero website until the awards ceremony on 21 May. So there is still time to support the incredible achievement of each of these teams, whatever their results, for taking part in this very special challenge requiring both commitment and passion.
A huge thank you to all The Wilderness Society volunteers for giving up their weekend to make the event such a success. Organisers would also like to thank the National Parks and Wildlife Service -- Blue Mountains and Blue Mountains City Council who did so much to make the event possible. Thanks also to Aboriginal Elder Sharron Halls of the Gundungurra nation for her Welcome to Country, Lucas Trihey and all his wonderful first aid crews and finally Mother Nature for providing such a wonderful setting and some amazing weather.