Search This Blog

The Great North Walk

A track junction on the Great North Walk.

Yesterday's Terrigal Trotters trail run was along a section of the Great North Walk (GNW), and much of today has been spent working on applications seeking approval from various authorities for the GNW100s trail race in September, for which I am Race Director.

It's one of the wonders of life, that activities or places you had little or nothing to do with for most of your life, suddenly play a big part.  It has often happened to me that places visited for races or sightseeing many years ago, unexpectedly became a big part of my life at a future date.  I had never heard of the GNW before moving to the Central Coast ten years ago, and now I'm running on it frequently (when I can run), organising trail runs on it for the Trotters, and annually directing one of Australia's biggest ultra-distance races along a large section of it.  "GNW" has become one of the most frequently used acronyms in my life.

Part of the Great North Walk in the northern part of
the Watagan Mountains.

The GNW was an Australian Bicentennial (1988) project, building on the visionary idea of a couple of bushwalkers to develop a hiking route between New South Wales' two largest cities, Sydney and Newcastle.  It stretches 250km and cobbles together existing roads and trails, along with some new walking track, and predominantly travels through forested mountains and quiet rural valleys to the west of the more settled coast.  There are camping areas and small villages along the way, and it is estimated more than 40,000 people use it each year in some capacity.  Many of them are trail runners.

The section I have come to know very well is the 175 kilometres used for the GNW100s, the trail race I direct, which stretches from Lake Macquarie in the north to Broken Bay in the south.  Apart from lovely stretches of dry eucalypt forest, there are deep gorges of stygian rainforest, caves, waterfalls, sandstone plateaus, rocky bluffs and exceptional views.  The quiet, and seemingly isolated, rural valleys of Congewai, Watagan Creek, Yarramalong and Ourimbah Creek add another dimension to a varied and interesting journey.

Falls on Kariong Creek on the Great North Walk.

The guides suggest that bushwalkers allocate 12-14 days for the end-to-end hike, while friends Meredith and Jess (elite ultrarunners and past podium finishers in the GNW100s) have run the whole 250km in 54 hours and 52 minutes.  The record for the 175km GNW100s is an astonishing 19 hours and 27 minutes, set by Brendan Davies, another friend who was 2012 Australian Ultra-Runner of the Year.

I always look forward to the trail runs, and occasional hikes or mountain bike rides, along the GNW, but also enjoy just driving around the forest roads and fire-trails and visiting remote locations, as happens every year preparing for the GNW100s.  It's easy to forget the Sydney/Central Coast/Newcastle metropolis is often just a few kilometres away from the peaceful forests and birdsong.

I walked 5km today, including a few hills that gave me no trouble.  My pulse remains regular and I'm beginning to keenly anticipate a resumption of running at the end of the week.