On Sunday 11th October 2015 my running buddy Kath White and myself, found ourselves at 6am at Govetts Leap in Blackheath, on the edge of a cliff, watching a magnificent sunrise over the gorgeous Grose Valley below us. It was with excitement and a bit of trepidation we awaited the 6:30 am start gun for this much anticipated run to start.
After the race briefing, we lined up at the start line with approx. 275 other people. The course started off with a 1km loop up the road back towards the visitors centre & where the cars were parked. I think the aim for this was in the hopes of spreading the field out. Alas, it didn’t really work as we were soon bunched up and walking once we hit the Western Rim track around the edge of the Grose Valley. This did not last long though, and we didn’t mind as it gave us a chance to really take in our first look at our spectacular surrounds.
The Western Rim trail is an 8km loop back to where we started at Govett’s Leap. It is a single trail, where you cross over the top of Horseshoe Falls, turning around at the 4km point of Pulpits Rock, then running back the same way you have come. Such a gorgeous trail where you are looking across and down at the valley below. The hardest bit of this course was trying to fit people coming both directions. This section was probably the only part of the run I was disappointed in, only due to the lack of curtesy of the forerunners. We ended up having to just stop and stand in the bushes so they could run past, as it was either that or get bowled over. Nothing was going to make them move over to share path, or heaven forbid, slow down slightly! I understand it is a race, but a little curtesy for others on the trail doesn’t go astray. In saying that, that was not everyone, we did get a quite a few people thanking us as they went past.
At 8km we reached the first aid station back at Govett’s Leap, after a quick stop for half a banana, it was then onto the second part of the course travelling along the clifftop track to Evans Lookout, via the Neates Glen track and through the Grand Canyon. In this section we got to see the gorgeous valley below from a different angle, there was lots of stairs (up and down), flat areas, a few small boardwalks, little river crossings, and small waterfalls to view along the track.
Then we hit a lot of stairs going down into the Grose Valley. That is when I started to worry thinking ‘what goes down, must come up!’, (little did I know what was instore!!) When we hit the valley floor we were in awe of our surroundings. It was absolutely breathtaking.
The area is so green, lush, with so many waterfalls to take in. Nature at its finest. You run along the floor of the valley, you even have to run underneath a waterfall (I believe it is Beauchamp Falls), through a little pitch black cave, then the path gets a bit tricky as you are running but having to duck so you don’t hit your head on overhead rock shelves that stretch out along the path.
This second part of the course is definitely very technical, and there were parts we just couldn’t run as we felt it was just too dangerous. There were many river crossings, up and down steep rock covered & slippery slopes, stairs, and rock paths,
Once you hit Junction Rock, it’s the start of the ascent of Rodriguez Pass. This by far is the hardest part of the course. I was doing good up until this point, but from this point on, it literally has made it the hardest run I have even done, this includes my first marathon which I completed 3 weeks prior to this run. We initially kept left of Govetts Leap Brook, climbing many stairs, but getting a few short flat spots for a little reprieve. As we climbed higher we crossed back and forth across river crossings until we reached the base of Govett’s Leap Waterfall.
My legs were screaming by the time we reached the base of Govett’s Leap waterfall, as we had already walked a million stairs, and with my legs still recovering from the marathon, I was ready to sit and cry at this point! Do we REALLY still have to climb to the top of that??!! We started the sharp descent straight up the cliff face. Everyone around us was struggling at this point, I saw one man sit down and I was like, ‘don’t sit down, just keep going it’s only 800 metres’, at which we both looked up and was like ‘yeah, a looooooong 800 metres straight up!! It was a very slow climb up, at times using feet and hands to pull ourselves up the stairs. The higher you got the wetter and muddier the track got due to the spray from the waterfall, but in a way that was good, as you could walk under the water falling from the rockface to cool you down. I saw one man sitting under a rock hanging, just letting the water drip all over him. Everyone around us was at breaking point. I stopped to get the below photo, and my buddy Kath kept going while she had the momentum. I took the shot and kept plodding on.
Then I reach the last camera man and he said ‘only 150 metres until the finish line’. Oh my gosh!! This nightmare was really going to end soon.
Photo courtesy of Hounslow Classic
At the top of the stairs when I’m not sure I can go any further, I start hearing my buddy Kath calling ‘Mel!! Come on Mel, I’m waiting, we are nearly there’. I was yelling for her to go ahead, which I got a ‘yeah, right that’s happening’, so I got myself together and kept going, Kath grabbed my hand just as we were coming into the finishing straight and pulled me up the last few stairs and we ran the last 100 metres and crossed the line together in 4 hours 12 minutes.
I have never been so happy a run was over in my life. As soon as I stopped after crossing the line I was at the point of vomiting. Kath gave me a few lollies, and pumped some coke into me and all was good after a few minutes. After all is said and done though, it was an awesome experience and I am so glad I did it. Anyone who wants a challenge, I definitely recommend this race. Elevation of the last section was 1700 metres, so challenged you will be, but so worth it as stunning scenery throughout the run.