My Great Kanku-Breakaways Marathon experience

My Great Kanku-Breakaways Marathon experience


Great Breakaways Marathon

Have you noticed that to do well you need to pick your event?  I’ve noticed that if I’m reasonably ‘race ready’ and doing consistent times, where I place depends on who’s there on the day.  Which is why I cam about 10th in my age group the ACT Vets half marathon a couple of years ago (highly competitive!) and how I came to be the first male home in the Great Breakaways (half) Marathon in Coober Pedy in May.  My times were similar, but the competition was very different.  And so was the scenery … and the prizes!

The event started about 8 years ago by some local young women as a personal challenge and fund-raiser called the Breakaways Bolt.  The Breakaways is a beautiful landscape in the desert around Coober Pedy – a collection of flat topped mesas whose crumbling sides have ‘broken away’ from the silica-rich capping strata.  They are stunning formations rising out of the desert, a highlight of Coober Pedy, and some 32km from town.  The ‘classic’ route takes you that 32km through the Breakaways, along the dingo fence and back into Coober Pedy along the dirt road to Oodnadatta.

This year for the first time the community offered a full marathon (walk, run or MTB) starting 10km further out from the original start point.  And, also from the original start point, a half marathon, 10km and 5km run, walk or MTB.  I timed my work trip to Coober Pedy to coincide with the run, and had a ball.  I got lots of kudos from locals for being there for it!  On race morning (cold and pretty windy) we were taken out by bus to the start point, and we starting running, walking or MTB riding at 9am, undulating through the Breakaways  for 5km or so then along the dingo fence and into a headwind for the next 10km.  I started with the some teenage MTB riders who decided it was all a bit hard, walked their bikes up the undulations and gradually got further and further behind me!  I tucked in behind a fit young woman and stayed with her till the 10km mark when she decided she’d had enough of jogging easy and picked up by around 10-15 sec/km.  We ran on a hard gravel road, and after the curves through the Breakaways, running along the dingo fence which was dead straight and gently up and down – into the wind until we turned at the Oodnadatta Road and had the wind behind for the last 6km.  Amazing scenery, and at times just me and my footfalls and empty gibber plain on either side.  Seeing so far ahead from the tops of the rises was a bit of a mind game! There was food and drink every 5km, and loads of very enthusiastic volunteers.

I finished 2 ½ mins behind the young woman in a ‘typical Kim’ time of 1 hr 43 mins, and was the first bloke home.  Not a great time, but not bad for an old fella.  Our finish line was bang on 21.1km and was in the middle of nowhere.  After I finished (no cheering crowds just the two volunteers at the aid station/finish line) I wandered around looking at rocks for a while until a bike rider turned up, and then another volunteer turned up in a vehicle and took us back to town where there was a quaint little festival at the oval (real grass!) which was the finish line for the marathon.

The prizes for the mens and womens 42km and 21km runs and rides were fantastic.  I got a beautiful large solid opal pendant, and the marathon winner was given a large dot painting and some other items, and there were many other art and opal prizes in the mix.  Much more fun than a trophy!  I found the event very well run, and the locals all very enthusiastic – and a great event for anyone wanting to pick up a great prize.  It wasn‘t even that hard to get to with a direct flight from Canberra to Adelaide and then Rex straight into Coober Pedy.  The winning marathon run time was 3hrs 18 mins, and the 42km MTB was about 2hrs 15mins so there is loads of scope for Bilby’s to place well!  How often to you get to run/ride in the desert and along the dingo fence?!

Kim Houghton