What Kokoda Ultra Marathon runners are saying about the event
Andy Turner - 2018 Winner
‘When asked to come back and take on the Kokoda Trail it took me no time to say “yes”!
Hands down it’s one of the most rewarding adventures you can ever embarked on. The local people are lovely, the trail is challenging, the scenery is beautiful and the history is rich. Kokoda Ultra Marathon and Kokoda Xtreme are a professional outfit, you’re made to feel safe and taken care of the whole time. I can’t thank the team enough for putting this event on for all to experience’
Elite Female Ultra Athlete and 2017 Overall and Women’s Kokoda Marathon Winner
“By chance the opportunity arose to partake in the inaugural Kokoda Ultra Marathon on the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda Track Campaign, Papua New Guinea… READ HER FULL STORY HERE…
Trail Run Magazine- AUS/NZ
KOKODA ULTRA MARATHON: so you want an adventure run with spirit? One with layers of legend so thick on the ground it’s harder to contemplate than the 6500m+ you have to climb? Cultures as ancient as any? Remote jungle wilderness that will make you rethink life each and every step? And an experience that will stay with you one after your final step taken under the revered Kokoda arch? Then Kokoda Ultra Marathon is your target trail event next July.
A few quick snaps off the point and shoot give barely a flavour let alone a full taste of what’s out there.
Special thanks to the Kokoda Spirit crew and leaders Wayne Wetherall and Anthony Thompson for dreaming up and making a reality this awesome adventure run. Thanks to the cool crew who undertook this inaugural event: my TRM compadre Tegz Angel, Kellie Emmerson, Ashley Raymond Bennett, Beth Cardelli, Shane Antrobus, Rebekkah Middleton, Mark Middleton, Steve Bain, Grant Wallace.
May the Diggers be remembered; we honour their spirit, and hopefully they look upon our visit with pride. I was initially reserved about whether ‘running’ Kokoda in three days was stepping over the line of respect due to those who fought on Kokoda, but having journeyed along the trail, listened to their stories, and heard Wayne speak of consulting the diggers about hosting visitors along their trail, I know the Diggers would approve as a way to get their story and sacrifice out to a wider audience, and thus increase the thanks we all give to the sacrifices they made. I for one did not understand the story, the importance of their hardships, their battles and their victories. As Wayne says, they fought for our freedoms and no doubt would smile and approve of us trying to run their trail in three days (although they’d likely be ribbing us for all the lycra, poles and other such luxuries).
Thanks also to those who supported TRM in getting there – the Kokoda Spirit team of course but also Sea to Summit – Outdoor Gear (full gear reviews from lightweight sleeping bags and mats to dry sacks coming) and Ultimate Direction / Injinji Performance Products for the 45 Fastpack – worked a treat.
Kellie Emmerson- Elite Female Ultra Athlete Kokoda Ultra Marathon.
They say that trekking Kokoda is a life changing experience.
I couldn’t agree more.
I’m sure some of you question a race on such a trail. And this bothered me more than a little too. The battle between race and respect.
But I think Wayne put it nicely when he explained that these young soldiers went through so much so that we could have the life we are so lucky to have. And so we made the most of an opportunity that these boys never had.
I think I found a good balance between race and respect.
Over the brutal terrain I came 3rd overall and 2nd female, scraping in under 20 hours.
But this is so insignificant compared to what I truly gained out there.
We held ceremonies and read poems and prayers at the beginning and end.
I stopped at all monuments and significant battle fields to acknowledge and reflect.
I am richer in learning more about this horrific but oh so significant time in Australia’s history.
I am proud of my ancestors.
I am in awe if what they endured.
And I am convinced that their spirits live on. I heard them in the jungle.
I am sad at knowing the crazy amount of people who lost their lives.
I am relaxed from an offline week of greenery, mountains, and new friends.
I am tired from the brutality of the course and lack of sleep.
I am sore from the stacks and slips. A tiny lapse in concentration and you are down!
I am grateful to have a body and mind that can do this stuff.
I am excited by the beauty of this amazing place, from intense jungle, to butterflies, the sound of the birds, the vivid colors of the plants and flowers, to the rivers and waterfalls, and even the mud. I stopped to admire and take lots of photos.
I am embarrassed at the petty little things we complain about, when you sit back and watch the Papuans way of life.
What an experience.
Thanks to Kokoda Spirit and Kokoda Xtreme
It was epic.
Ashley Raymond Bennett- Elite Male Trail Runner
One thing that was told of the tales of the soldiers was mateship and to be there for each other… The journey we experienced in the last 3 days has been so moving and tough. But nothing compared to what the soldiers had endure all those years ago during the Kokoda Campaign.
Working together and supporting each out got us back to camp each day, even when it was taking most runners around 4 hours plus to do just 10k. However we all pushed on.
PNG is an amazing place and the people are so caring.
Once again I was so lucky to be part of this adventure with some amazing people who share the same drive and passion.
Wayne Wetherall , Anthony Thompson and crew from Kokoda Spirit and Kokoda Xtreme made this happen for us. Throughout the whole event you could see the professionalism these guys had to make this journey safe and really successful for everyone.
Steve Bain- 2017 Kokoda Ultra Marathon Competitor
Kokoda ultra marathon 2017.
Kokoda Ultra Marathon…. I am finally able to share some of the memories and experiences which I had during this race and just as importantly in the lead up to it. I have been very lucky to know Anthony Thompson (race assistant organizer) for many years now. In fact he was the person who got me into trail running about 4 years ago and he is also the person who convinced me to do this race when I was sure it was beyond my modest capabilities. I was very worried to say the least when I looked at the daunting elevation profile with 6500m of elevation combined with the calibre of athletes that Anthony had assembled. This was a guaranteed to be loads of hard works with a back of the pack finish everyday.
As I had only been back training again for a few months after a long time off due to a nasty injury I was very short on conditioning and self-confidence so I made myself a plan that only I knew about. I said to myself if I got through UTA100 and true grit 24hr enduro without my knee falling apart I would do Kokoda. I honestly thought my knee would not hold up during those races and the decision would be made for me. But all went well and then it was on like Donkey Kong. Before I knew it I had my ticket and a messenger feed which was full of mostly banter but also important feedback re the race.
We flew into Port Moresby and were taken straight to our 5 star accommodation which resembled a palace. Within an hr we were gathered together for an important meeting. Wayne Wetherall had told us our plans were very likely to change as there was a riot and the airport which our charter plane flew from was locked down until further notice which meant that we may need to run the course in the opposite direction to what we had on our maps. We were instructed to meet at 6:30 am at breakfast where we would get the verdict. The next morning Wayne informed us that this was the case and the plane couldn’t fly out so we were getting on a bus in an hr and would start the race a day early. Wayne had a surprised look on his face when everyone just said ok fine let’s get going and everyone just rolled with it. I’m pretty sure he was expecting some unhappy campers but everyone just accepted it was outside of anyones control and we would still have an awesome time regardless.
The bus ride there was almost a prelude to what we were going to face as we stared up at the peaks above us as the bus wound it’s way through the valleys to Owers corner. We had about an hr till the race start in which time Wayne explained a lot of history and the importance of the various locations we would be passing through.
Once the photos were done it was go time and we were off to face this much-anticipated adventure that lay ahead. It took a few kms to get the feet used to the terrain and get comfortable but I soon got into a rhythm.
Before I knew it I was standing at the base of Imita ridge looking up at what was once the site of the golden stairs which were laid during the Kokoda campaign but had long since been consumed by the jungle. This section had now changed from what you would call a traditional track and into a lattice work of tree roots which now make up the track. Whilst this constantly changing surface was surprisingly good to run on, my lack of conditioning would soon give me a wake up call as my quads and hammys were calling me all sorts of names and then my back started aching badly and I felt myself going into a very negative place mentally and questioning whether I belonged out here or not.
I finally got a reprieve on the other side of the ridge with some much needed downhill then it was straight back into climbing again. This didn’t get any easier for me as my body got stiffer. I finally made it to the top of Iorabaiwa ridge that was absolutely stunning and I took the chance to have a break and just absorb everything around me.
When I finally put my pack back on I headed down to Ofi creek, which was the site of a strategic ambush where 60 Japanese soldiers were killed. This creek was amazing and Anthony could tell I was very down hearted at this point and insisted we have a quick dip and get refreshed in the cold water. It certainly made me feel better. As I put my pack back on I felt optimistic for the leg home, which was a pretty big climb. It was only 20 mins or so till I was in real trouble with my back seizing and it seemed as though this was never going to end. After some pretty intense on course stretching and back cracking by doctor Anthony I was able to get myself back to camp feeling shattered that my first day on the track was mostly miserable.
Back at camp I had a cold shower and a massive stretching session to try to sort my back out. It wasn’t long before the positive vibe from everyone else rubbed off on me and all my negativity was soon gone. I devoured my awesome carb filled dinner and headed off to bed determined to get some rest and wake up with a new attitude (plus take Panadol osteo regularly lol ).
Todays leg was a big one. 42 km with 2800m elevation. My plan was to take it easy through Naoro swamps and make sure I’m feeling good then take on the climbs just like I would in any other race. Before I knew it I had arrived at the wall. Feeling good and really enjoying everything the Kokoda track had to offer I soon found myself with the sweat pouring from a huge smile and me on my face thinking this is why I’m here!!! As I was looking around this awe inspiring place my mind would drift off imagining lines of young diggers marching into the unknown. Some with youthful exuberance and others silently marching, not knowing what lay ahead, others looking in disbelief as broken humans with missing body parts wee stretchered past on their way back from the front line. This was to be the theme of the next two days for me as we passed fighting pits, ambush points, battle grounds etc where real lives were taken and real tears shed.
Unlike the previous day, before I knew it I was at brigade hill where 101 Aussies lost their lives. I took some time out here to just take in the beauty of this spot and think about the sacrifices these men and their families made for you and I to have what we know today as the Aussie way of life. I knew I had another pretty big climb ahead of me some I made a point of fueling properly and taking small breaks in the villages to stop for a few minutes and grab a coke from the locals when the opportunity arose. This plan worked a treat and I found myself on a mission to get to Templetons campsite. Once I arrived there I was greeted with a sea of cheers from the other competitors. This was the an overwhelming feeling considering the stark contrast of the day before which was so horrible I could easily have tapped out. This awesome vibe that these guys have just makes the experience the next level. Once again the porters cooked up a fantastic dinner and we spent the next few hrs around the table chatting and then it was off to bed.
Day three started with a handicap system that saw the slower runners head off an hr earlier in an attempt to have everyone finishing a bit closer together. This was a great idea as it really pushed you knowing that it was only a matter on time till you heard the footsteps chasing you down. As this was mostly downhill for a change it was a chance to really have a good time and do some scrambling. I got to the halfway point at the Isurava memorial and took a bit of time out to pay my respects and take it the whole area. It was here when Tegz, Beth and Ash all come down within minutes of each other. As each runner came down the path they were instantly stopped in their tracks as this awesome memorial appears from nowhere. Everyone took a few moments here to reflect and then they had soon disappeared into the distance.
With a tear in my eye I soon put the pack back on and hit the trail with a spring in my step and that finish line in my sights I was off ! Determined to finish what I had started.
The technical stuff slowly disappeared with hint of civilization cropping up around us I knew we were not far away. With all the climbing and technical downhill that I’d just covered I thought a nice flat rd would be a god send but it was about 30 degrees and muggy as hell so I had to really dig deep to cover the final 4km. I finally found myself staring at the famous Kokoda arches. I’d almost done it !!! So I pressed onward toward the finish line.
I had some special cargo in my first aid kit which were medals from Jacqui’s great grand father, grandfather and brother. I took these with me as a bit of a good luck charm and also they were never able to walk the track and if they were alive I’m sure they would have appreciated it. I’m pretty sure there were a few occasions where I was getting a bit of a prod from above saying move your butt lol.
As you can imagine there are a lot of plaques etc along the track praising acts of bravery etc but one plaque in particular stood out to me. It was about the role the fuzzy wuzzies played in helping our soldiers. It went on to say that in one battle they stretchered 750 injured Aussie soldiers from the front line along the track and back to medical help. Out of these 750 people only 4 died. There are thousands of stories like this but I’d be here all day recalling them. Finally I want to thank the following people.
* Anyone who’s photos I stole lol.
* Wayne Wetherall and Noel Namura from Kokoda spirit/ Kokoda Xtreme for putting together such a great team and ensuring everything went smoothly even when there were unforeseen things go wrong.
* The porters who are the most amazing friendly people.
* My old mate Anthony Thompson who made it his job to make sure anyone who needed help got it (including me on day one getting me through that dark patch with small talk and distractions) and ensuring everyone was sorted and only then would he think about himself.
* Beth Cardelli, Tegz Angel, Kellie Emmerson, Ashley Raymond Bennett,Chris Ord, Shane Antrobus, Grant Wallace, Mark Middleton, Rebecca Middleton. Having you guys there to share the experience with made it something that will stay with me for many years to come. Thanks to each and every one of you.