The dust had barely settled on the 2022 Stromlo Running Festival trail and Mel Bingley had already reset the countdown for the 2023 event – such was her elation.
“It was a brilliant day!” she gushed.
More than 1500 runners including accompanying adults on the kids’ run took part in the two-day event, which Mel said attracted “beautiful weather and an even more gorgeous atmosphere”.
About 30 per cent of participants came from interstate, but preliminary results show Canberra remained well-represented among the winners, taking five out of six titles.
ACT’s Matthew (Matt) Robbie stole the show when he took the men’s title for the 50 km in a triumphant comeback.
The 2019 champ returned in 2020 to defend his title but despite a valiant effort it “just wasn’t his day”, according to Mel.
“This year he ran it in a blistering three hours, 50 minutes and 16 seconds,” she said.
“It was such a highlight to see him pull off an absolutely stellar run and take the title again.”
ACT’s Amelia Kerr took the women’s 50 km title in four hours, 46 minutes and two seconds.
In the 30 km event ACT’s Scott Cummins was the fastest male at two hours, four minutes and 19 seconds and NSW’s Tania Mulvey was the quickest female with two hours, 26 minutes and 20 seconds.
Sunday alone drew close to 1000 participants for the 10 km and 2.5 km events. From toddlers to retirees, the crowd was a diverse mix of ages and abilities.
ACT’s Andrew Gatenby, who won the 30 km event in March, was the fastest male in the 10 km event with a time of 35 minutes and 51 seconds, while ACT’s Monique Andreatta was the fastest female in 44 minutes flat.
Notably, 13-year-old Patrick Clark (NSW) came in second in the male 10 km in 37 minutes and eight seconds.
Then it was time for the kids to take to the starting line.
The ‘Chicken Dance’ served as a warm-up for the 2.5 km kids’ event.
“There were smiles for miles!” Mel said.
“They did the same run down the red carpet at the finish line as the 50, 30 and 10 km runners and there was such a sense of achievement.”
Mel said there was great representation from the Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF), who held a Run Leaders Workshop in Canberra that culminated in participation in the festival.
“This included children, and one participant who did his first trail ultra-marathon, which was wonderful to see.
“We got to see in the flesh how our registration donations directly support IMF programs. Together with our March event we have raised $12,000 for IMF in 2022.”
Mel said the crowds were a far cry from the 2020 event, which spectators were not allowed to attend.
“There was easily another 400 people in supporters alone,” she said.
“People were hanging out at the finish line waiting to cheer their loved ones on.”
Mel said the event was “all about celebrating achievements” and could bring up “the full gamut of emotions”.
“In trail running, whatever the distance, you’re in it together but you’re also alone, so you can hit walls and roadblocks. That’s when the mental resilience kicks in,” she said.
“Crossing the finish line, you can feel happiness, elation, extreme exhaustion, it’s so overwhelming … We sometimes get ‘finisher tears’ but invariably, it’s a real privilege to see and a special moment to share with friends and family, which were there in spades.”
Eighteen and 19 November have already been earmarked as the dates for the 2023 event, leaving Mel and her team time to catch their breath.
“The event team and all the volunteers run our own ultra-marathon in many ways – in steps, in time. The event may only run over two days but for us, so many months of planning and organisation go into it that you almost can’t believe when it’s all over,” Mel said.
“We’re weary, but the number of participants who have taken the time to send us messages of support and appreciation motivates us to do it all again.
“We’ve debriefed on what we did well, what we can do better and what new things we could do – and there are some new things in the pipeline for next year.
“Fifty-one weeks to go …”
Visit the Stromlo Running Festival website for more information.