Australia's top 3 trail runs
By trail running champ Nick Walker
Trail Running Champion Nick Walker lists his Top 3 Trail Runs in Australia and reveals his training secrets, suitable no matter if your running, competing or simply hiking your way through.
I’ve been hooked on trail runs and hikes since the age of 8, and today, at the age of 31, my passion for running has driven me through tracks all around the world, yet some of my absolute favourites are right here in Australia! We do have some beautiful scenery around this remote country and I’ve listed my favourites and my top tips when preparing for them below.
THE OVERLAND TRACK, CRADLE MOUNTAIN, LAKE ST CLAIR NATIONAL PARK, AUSTRALIA
Up until this year, the Blue Mountains National Park use to be my absolute favourite place to go for a hike or trail run due to the unlimited trails and the incredible scenery. This year, I escaped for the first time to Tassie and travelled from Hobart to Cradle Mountain. The highlight of the trip was definitely Cradle Mountain and now this has topped the list of my favourite trails to run in Australia. It is important to run/hike this trail prepared due to the quick change in weather conditions.
Cradle mountain is only a 2-hour drive from Launceston airport and is located in the Lake St Clair National Park. As soon as you arrive, you are greeted by Tasmanian Pademelon wallabies and wombats. There are so many trails to explore in the Lake St Clair National Park but one of the best trails to explore is the Overland Trail, which is one of Australia’s most famous hiking tracks. The track winds through terrain ranging from sheer mountains, temperate rainforest, wild rivers and alpine plains all in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The length of the trail is 82km, however, there are much shorter options. The hike I did was about a 20k hike began the trail from the beginning of the overland trail which is about a 10-minute drive from the entrance to the national park. It is important that you wear your thermals and run with a camel pack filled with at least 2L of water and some snacks such as the Chief Bar as you will burn a lot of energy along the way!
Never have I ran anywhere in the world, which is as beautiful and as untouched as this heritage listed destination. To have wildlife at your feet, and be surrounded by such natural beauty makes this trail the most special place I have ever run and I will be back in 2018 to explore this.
Top Tips for the Overland Trail Run:
- Wear thermals and pack a beany/neck warmer/buff and gloves in your camel pack, the temperature may drop quickly.
- Carry at least 2L of water in your camel pack.
- Carry nutrition with you such as gels or Chief Bars as there is nowhere along the way to purchase food or water.
- Bring your phone, as there’s partial reception, just in case you get lost/stuck (the track is very well marked though).
- There are hills, so pace yourself from the start.
- Wear good gripped trail running shoes.
THE ULTRA TRAIL AUSTRALIA 22K, BLUE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, NSW
The UTA 22K is one of the toughest yet most scenic trail runs I have done which is at Sydney’s doorstep in the picturesque Blue Mountains National Park. The race is coming up on Friday the 17th May 2018. One of my favourite visions of this race is running through Leura Forest, seeing the famous 3 sisters above me.
It is crucial that you prepare for this race as it’s one of the toughest trail races I have ever done, due to its steep 10k descent at the start, and its long uphills, followed by a very steep climb up the Furber steps to finish at Scenic World.
Top tips when preparing for the UTA:
- Visit the track before completing the whole thing (it will help to prepare physically and psychologically for the real deal and allows you to get a hold of long hill running- reducing your stride, and increasing your cadence.)
- Hit the gym (min twice a week and a tip is to focus on glute, quad and core strength which helped maintain a good technique)
- Practice running with a camel pack (if you haven’t before and you need to carry mandatory gear if you’re doing the race)
- Bring gels, water and Chief bars with you for hydration and nutrition because, even if it's cold, this run makes you sweat and work through Glycogen stores.
- Make sure you have electrolytes such as tailwind or SOS hydration mixed with your water for extra hydration/race nutrition.
- Be prepared for quick changes in conditions in the Blue Mountains, particularly on an overcast, rainy day.
- Run with a GPS watch (I run with the TomTom Adventurer which allows you to upload the GPS coordinates which helps you stay on track.
- Wear proper foot support with a good drop due to the fierce downhill, which puts pressure on your knees and a good tread in case of rain and going up the Furber steps.
- Finally, Pace yourself. Nothing prepares you for the Furber steps.
LANE COVE NATIONAL PARK 10K CIRCUIT (FOR THE INNER CITY/SUBURB TRAIL RUNNER)
The Lane Cove National Park is a protected national park that is located within metropolitan Sydney. The 372-hectare (920-acre) national park is situated about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) north-west of the Sydney central business district. The park consists of land near the banks of the Lane Cove River, which flows generally southeast into Sydney Harbour. It also extends to the outskirts of Pennant Hills and Wahroonga.
I run the Lane Cove National Park trail every Sunday morning as my long run and then I run the circuit twice. I start my run from the central section of the run which is between the DE Burgh’S bridge and the Fullers Rd Bridge. What I like about this run is that it is close to the city, yet it makes you feel like you are away from everything. You barely come across any tourists either, which makes this run even more special. Along the trail, you come across wildlife such as water dragons, and you might even see the odd Echidna and Wallaby.
You can run along the trail which goes up one side of the Lane Cove River and back along the other. The side of the trail closest to Delhi rd is much flatter, then the Lindfield size of the trail. The Lindfield side of the trail is more technical and hilly; you even get to run through a semi-cave along the way.
Top Tips when preparing for Lane Cove trail run:
- Run with a camel pack, 1L of water is fine.
- Wear good gripped trail shoes - I wear the Nike Terra Kiger’s.
So, what are you waiting for? If that wasn't reason enough, check out Chief Ambassador Kalle's account of the 42km Shotover Moonlight Mountain marathon.