This event makes up the Southern Edition of the Compass Club series organised by Elements Running. The Compass Club consists of a Marathon, Half Marathon and a shorter 7km event in the Northern, Southern, Western, Eastern and Central compass points in Australia.

Lucky for a Tasmanian, the Southern component is held right here at beautiful Cockle Creek in the states South West. Cockle Creek is located on the border of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area approximately two hours drive south of Hobart in Recherche Bay and is the farthest point in Australia that can be accessed by car. It is the starting point for many bush walks into the South West known by many globally. Once out of Hobart the drive gets more and more scenic, a highlight was seeing not one but two endangered Wedge tailed Eagles.

The event runs over two days with 7km and 21km events taking place on the Saturday and the marathon on the Sunday. Start times for the Saturday events is approximately 0800 while the marathon starts at 0700. The 2020 event scheduled for April was unfortunately one of the many victims of the COVID-19 pandemic; and the event was postponed several times. Fortunately local entrants were given the opportunity to run the event solo and send data to organizers. So armed with maps and instructions the Compass Clubs Southern edition in Cockle Creek 2020 would go ahead….solo!

The day was picture perfect with clear blue skies, no wind or precipitation. Starting at the Recherche Community Centre, the course runs back towards Hobart for 5.5km on the Cockle Creek road. A U-turn follows and the course heads back towards the start and continues to the end of Cockle Creek Road to the whale statue. Another U-turn at this point back along the road before turning left and heading out on the South Coast Track. The track component is approximately 10km and upon exiting at South Cape bay the course turns right towards Lion rock along the beach for 1km. A U-turn at Lion Rock and it’s back to the start/finish line at the Research Community Centre following the same course in reverse minus the first part (the 5.5km out towards Hobart at the start).

The course is an undulating gravel road which is nice and compact and largely smooth. The track component is well defined with boardwalk for about 40% while the remainder is quite rocky, damp and uneven terrain requiring a lot of concentration on foot placement. There are also a lot of very deep muddy sections which can hide tree roots and loose rocks. Despite the lengthy dirt road component, trail shoes would be better given the trail component and sand on the beach. Coming out of the trail and onto the beach, runners scale a well marked black cliff providing outstanding views of the rugged coastline and the bay which sends waves crashing onto the sand with ferocity. Another consideration is the South West wilderness; it is damp and cold, so expect leeches. They will drop off after a feed so don’t worry too much about them.

The actual event normally provides four hydration stations en route offering water, Powerade, bananas and lollies. Doing the event solo, required carrying hydration and gels with vehicle support offering additional hydration on the road sections. During the event the Cockle Creek road remains open to the public so athletes do need to be vigilant, but all vehicles were very considerate and supportive. Toilets are available at camp sites through Catamaran and all the way through to Cockle Creek and at the Lion Rock. Though there is also many places one can squat for a quick wee here and there.

The South West wilderness region can be subject to incredibly wild and challenging weather that can change very quickly. So clothing should be light and layered. First aid is provided during the event, but when running solo a basic first aid kit should also be carried.

This is a fabulous and unique event in one of the most picturesque regions of Tasmania if not the world. Normally capped at 75 athletes, this event is not crowded allowing participants to embrace the raw and beautiful wilderness unimpeded. For those craving a marathon experience after a torrid year of COVID-19 cancellations. Put the Cockle Creek marathon on your list for 2021.

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Written by: Bonnie Davies

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