GSER 50 Miler by Lachlan Smeed

After months of running trails, hiking hills, sweating, swearing and roughly 126 gels later, and building a belief that I could actually run some hills, it was time to head down to Harrietville. Upon check in to GSER headquarters, it soon became clear that even the event volunteers though the 50- and 100-mile runners were crazy, laughing at us when collecting the 50-mile bibs. I still couldn’t see the tops of the mountains, as low-level cloud was covering the peaks (making them look not that bad). Obviously, never being in the Alpine region before, we kind scoffed at them and thought……. Yeah righto, thanks mate!

After the sprint start of the race (I managed to lead the race for about 30m), we were soon greeted with North-West Spur (the wall) that climbed roughly 1500m vertically in the space of 5-7km. For those members of the Brisbane trail running community, imagine chainsaw break (Camp Mountain) or Kokoda track (Mt Coot-Tha) steepness for roughly 3 hours (still waiting for my HOKA sponsorship to arrive), mixed in with slippery, muddy trails. I struggled to eat or drink anything due to the sheer steepness of the section (fantastic start) and was relieved to reach the whited out, windy, and cold summit of Mt Feathertop (second highest mountain in Victoria) with snow still present at the summit. I said, “it should be relatively easy after this”, oh how I was wrong.

Once summiting Feathertop, it was a relatively straightforward run/walk along a soaked Razorback towards Mt Hotham and onto Blowhard hut (Aid station 1, 29km and 2200m D+) This was the time to try and get some calories back into the body and get the stomach settled (there isn’t a hill in Brisbane that can prepare you for such a long climb). The clouds lifted, and some of the spectacular views of the surrounding area exposed themselves. This made the run a lot enjoyable.

Leaving Blowhard hut, Ross Murphy (fellow RVP athlete) and I were “running” together. At this point the trail varied from road to the Australian Alpine Walking Trail (AAWT), honestly a loose definition of a trail. As the trail got more difficult, hard to see markers, no trail bush bashing (make your own adventure) and climbing over or under trees, the mountains returned with the Twins (described as undulations by the race directors). These were not undulations; these were steep slippery clambering which maintained many false peaks and consisted of two main peaks. Normally, out of the pair there is a nice twin, but not in this case. These undulations continued for roughly 15km (3ish hrs) with 1000ish m+ going into Mt Murray Aid station (which had toasties and hashbrowns!). Now, you’re probably thinking, you are travelling really slow to be running, let me make it clear….. this race is not a race it is an endurance run, which involves a large proportion of hiking.

The view on top of one of the Twins

Clouds lifting just before Mt Hotham on the Razorback

Leaving Mt Murray Aid station involved climbing up to Mt Murry to the turnaround point giving us roughly 30ish km to the finish line. However, the GSER course has a large out and back element along the AAWT (visiting the Twins to get slapped around again). The turnaround boosted me mentally; however, I knew it was going to a rough return given that it took roughly 9-10hrs to make the 50ish km journey sitting around 3500-4000m of vertical gain.

Nothing occurred on the return journey (except cursing myself for signing up to this pain fest, rolling under blown down trees and power hiking relatively fast) until reaching Blowhard Hut, pretty beat up and tired. Half a cup of hot noodles, a can of solo and a hashbrown got me going again, additionally, I found myself in 18th place overall (I gave up racing many many hours ago) energising me even more. The last 17km saw a very steep decent (-1200m across 15km) down Bon Accord Spur (not many trees) into Harrietville with severe supercell storms rolling through, giving us conditions that limited visibility to 1m, rain coming in horizontally, high winds and severely close lightning strikes. This gave me an additional kick on, which resulted in the passing of 3-4 50-mile runners and their pacers, as well as a lot of 100-mile runners. This was a brutal way to the finish line with most of the spur consisting of sharp exposed rocks and thick, slippery mud.

Running the last kilometre into the finish line, I was thinking about how I would celebrate crossing the finish line, would it be a jump, would it be screaming out of passion, would people be cheering me into the finish? It was none of that, I had Ross and Craig (Doggins) Dodds (another RVP athlete) as I crossed the finish line and spectacularly, keeling over my poles and exclaimed “F***K that was hard”. Honestly, thought there would be more people at the finish line and more chairs/food available, however, due to the severe super cells storms rolling through and over 100mm of rain predicted the event organisers were battering down the hatches, as runners were pulled off the course for safety reasons (1 or 2hrs after I left blowhard hut).

Before photo

After photo

So to summarise my attempt at Great Southern Endurance Run in 2022:
• 15/64 runners overall, 12th male in a time of 16hrs 50mins.
• GSER is an endurance run and it is totally different from a race.
• The course is largely unrun able due to steepness, terrain type, course type. And if you find any runnable sections your legs are cooked.
• This area is beautiful, I didn’t realise this existed in Australia.
• The hills in Queensland aren’t that bad
• GSER is not to be underestimated it is a brutal event. You will not be travelling particularly quick.
• The crew at GSER was the most amazing bunch of people, from Matt and Meaghan the race directors, to every individual person at the aid station. This makes events and the larrikinism, the care, the dedication, the webinars and the desire to keep GSER community minded with a community feel made it!

If I could go ahead and do this event again, I would! I would recommend that everybody gets around and supports the crew at Great Southern Endurance Run. If not the 50 miler, do the 100 miler…… if you are not an absolute psychopath, do the 56km or 28km race.

Thank you to Jamie Hunter (Run Vault Performance) for helping me prepare for this race, there is no one else that can help you get in better shape. This has left me wanting more and to test my body even further…… maybe next year grinding out the BTU miler???

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.