Fat Ass Run, New Years Day

“No Fees, No Awards, No Aid, No Wimps! Beginners NOT encouraged.”  This is some of the helpful info on the website for Beyond the Black Stump (BBS). It’s not an exclusive event that turns its nose at participants (far from it in fact) but its not an easy event and has grown out of a small group of bush runners keen to start the year off with a tough run and they certainly have managed it!

Starting at 7am the informal gathering for the start at Berowra shows a few tired faces and bleary eyes but most people sensibly opted out of the silliness of NYE in the city, for quality sleep & a Jan 1st run. There are always a few nursing a hangover although this year it must have been even more torturous than normal. From the outset the cicadas were in full song and the roar to anyone with evenFire Trail Berowra the hint of a hangover would have spelled the end. Plus we all knew it was going to be a hot day and the humidity was already high at 7am.

I like so many others opted out of the parties with old friends instead putting my energy into this run with new friends. The run is very friendly with runners sharing war stories of past BBS’s and other offroad runs such as 6ft track, Hotham to Bogong, GNW, Billy to Willy, North Face etc. Soon enough the first quarter of the run is complete down to the ferry at Berowra waters. That’s right you have to wait for the ferry to take you across for the next section of the run so it brings the field together in packs of similar speeds and gives everyone a chance to meet new friends before tackling the hills on the other side. It’s a good break for most people, taking between 45-75mins for the 1st section (approx 9km). Parts 2 & 3 (8km out & back each way) starts with a long winding hill along the road before flattening off and moving on to the fire trail down towards the Ruined Castle Of Calabash. The ruins are our half way mark and the views across the valley on both sides are great! But by this time things are really heating up and the humidity is relentless. Its about 9am and it feels like its climbing towards 30 degrees. The shade is magic but the open exposed areas tough as the sun beats down making the technical terrain just that little bit hard. Along the way from the leaders to the back markers, friendly exchanges take place as everyone is out enjoying the great scenery and having a great run. In fact I saw people helping out others who had taken a dive or strapping rolled ankles. It’s not a race where finishing times mean as much as completing the run (except for the few elites way up front). There’s a real sense of the running community today and it’s an inspirational way to start the year. Heading back down the road its nice to know the ferry awaits and a chance to refill at the taps at the bottom. Again as we wait for the ferry tired bodies spring to life with conversation of other runs and what remains for the final section. As most people know the final section of BBS up from Berowra waters is a steep climb with all too regular use of hands and feet to scramble up the trail as it follows sections of the GNW. By now I Berowra viewswas really feeling the Christmas indulgences and struggling with the heat. My 4hr finishing time wasn’t looking very realistic but with my recent bunch of ‘ferry-friends’ we tackled the climb.

It’s an amazing thing how your mind plays tricks on you. In last years race I remember the descent to the ruined castle being longer & harder and I remember the final climb our of Berowra waters being tough…. But not this tough. With all the energy left in my fading legs I pushed hard and the sight of many ruined bodies on the ascent showed in the faces as the stopped to catch some breath. I’m not sure if my mind was in some sort of rose coloured protective mode wiping the pain of last years run or if it was heat stress and fatigue taking control early but either way it hurt! I’m sure you’ve all felt it at some time or another when you just want to dive into the surf or a big pool of icy cold water and wash it all away. Anyway the oasis never materialised and I pushed on… again with some more newfound friends; a couple from the US on holidays who happened to find out about the event and a few repeat offenders.

The run home was the usual battle of mind over matter but that feeling of satisfaction at the end is a drug I won’t get sick of anytime soon. NO sooner had I finished and I saw a few familiar faces and shared a laugh at my great stack a few km back. What’s a bush run without a bit of dirt on the arms and some claret?

Anyway, now like so many others who completed the 2011 BBS I can relax for the rest of the day knowing I’ve started my year in one of the best ways I can think. Hmmm, well maybe 4 ½ hrs of it is a bit longer than necessary but it was great fun all the same! Thanks for the encouragement to all the great people out on the course.


As a footnote…. On the drive home I was vindicated with my feelings of fatigue and exhaustion (as I told myself it wasn’t only a temporary loss of fitness). The car thermometer was reading 36 degrees around Hornsby so the weather definitely made a tough run just that little bit more challenging. But I can’t recommend it enough to anyone considering it for next year!



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