September 18, 2023

Grit, perseverance and glorious sunshine

The 12th edition of the Surf Coast Century was held on Saturday 16 September 2023 in Anglesea, Victoria, and has once again solidified its reputation as a premier ultra trail marathon in Australia.

1,300 competitors from across the state and country showed incredible grit and perseverance in the glorious spring sunshine as they took on a challenge that many people would never have dream of.

Half the field competed as individuals over the 100km and 50km courses; whilst the remaining half participated in a relay team of two, three, or four runners over the 100km course, running approximately 25km each.

Sam Maffett of Torquay-based event organisers Rapid Ascent expressed his admiration for the competitors’ remarkable efforts on a remarkable on course, and the unwavering encouragement from supporters.

“There’s something magic about setting foot before dawn, watching the sum rise as it reveals stunning beaches, golden cliffs, turquoise water and towering ironbark trees – it really does inspire awe, and that’s exactly what we witnessed.” said Maffett.

“But there was something even more inspiring than the course’s backdrop today – and it was all our magnificent runners and supporters!” added Maffett.

Claiming victory in the 100km premier race was Andy McConnell from Canberra and Jayme Bergman (WA), clocking impressive times of 08:52:48 and 09:54:94, respectively.

McConnell was put out of his comfort zone when he took the lead at the half-way mark.

“I don’t like being in front that early because I feel like I’m being hunted and think that it could be my race to lose!” said McConnell. “I was running scared for the second half and still unsure who was behind me – it was tough – I’m absolutely cooked!”

“But I wouldn’t have pushed so hard if it wasn’t such a nice place to be it was amazing, especially the people on course - everyone is really friendly making it a great day out.”

Coming in a close second was Jarrod Owen (08:58:26), with 2020 100km Surf Coast Century winner and 9-time participant Ross Hopkins finishing effortlessly in 09:18:43.

In the female field, Bergman put on an amazing display of ultra running prowess, finishing ahead of Joasia Zakrzrewski (10:07:24) and Rowena De Groot (10:24:43).

Bergman flew east to celebrate her 40th birthday after winning the Century’s sister event, the Margaret River Ultra Marathon in May this year.

“That was so good!” said Bergman. “It’s an amazing course and wonderfully run event; I’m just so happy to be here with the support of my friends and family for my 40th birthday!”

“The Century was a more challenging run than at Margaret River; but you put in everything you have until you get to the end, whether its 80km or 100km.” said Bergman.

In addition to the impressive feats of solo runners was the $2,000 cash up for grabs to the first and fastest relay team to break the 7-hour barrier. And what we witnessed was just how close that can be with Team Weapons-A of Owen Williams, Hayden Barnett, Nathan Pearce and Ethan Penk coming in just 46 seconds over the 7-hour benchmark!

They may not have won the cash on Saturday, but they certainly broke the course record by a solid 15 minutes, originally set by Team ‘Love the Run’ back in 2015.

“The time took us all by surprise!” said Pearce. “But we are still really happy with that!”

In the 50km ultra event, James Connor and Gemma Jenkins both showcased strong performances as they reveled in the glorious day, crossing the finish line in 04:13:12 and 04:21:50 with Jenkins also placing fourth overall on course.

“In the first 10km I thought I wasn’t even going to make it, but I knew my best bet was to open up the burners on the final sections,” said Jenkins. “And wow, just looking at the views over the hills at Moggs Creek was simply glorious!”

Clinton Elliott was second, and Sean Stevens was third the men’s field; whilst Jessica Jenkins and Sophie Broome rounded out the female podium.

The Surf Coast Shire played a supportive role in the iconic event which started and finished in Anglesea, boasting a course that encapsulates the breathtaking natural beauty of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road region.

The figure-8 course design course took 100km competitors from Anglesea to Torquay along the beach, returning along the cliff top tracks and hinterland trails to Moggs Creek and Aireys Inlet; before heading back to Anglesea on the Surf Coast Walk trail, via Point Roadknight. Whilst the 50km course did the second half of the 100km.

Competitors continued to cross the finish line late into the evening, with the final 100km solo competitor finishing just past midnight.

“It was fantastic to see competitors’ raw emotions as they crossed that finish line, achieving their dreams that were once thought only just that,” said Maffett.

“The trail running community is known as a very friendly, social and welcoming group – it’s a real highlight for us in putting together this event for all to relish,” added Maffett.

Sunday morning’s festivities included the MELI Kids Run and Boat Ramp Battle, followed by official presentations at the Anglesea Surf Life Saving Club. Thomas Dade was awarded the coveted concrete shoe trophy for a second year running.

The 2024 edition of the event is set for Saturday 21 September – entries to open early next year.

More event information here.

Image credit: Photos4Sale

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