This event is one of five events hosted by Elements Running. This being the central addition sees athletes run to the Lambert Centre which is the geographical centre of Australia.
Access to the Lambert Centre is via Finke road beginning at Kulgera Road House which is the first and last pub in the Northern Territory; with the South Australian border being 20km further along the Stuart Highway. The journey from Kulgera along Finke road takes about two hours. It’s a well maintained dirt road, and another 13km from Finke road on sandy/dirt road into the Lamber Centre itself. A good high 4WD is an absolute must. The sand is soft and deep in parts but there are firm lines that runners can find easily enough. And runners should wear gaiters. We hired a Toyota 4Runner 4WD from Budget car rental at a cost of $1900.00 for seven days. It is also very remote and a SAT phone is recommended. We hired one from Britz in Alice Springs for $23.00 per day including insurance.
Kulgera is located around the same distance away from both Ayers Rock and Alice Springs airports, so either can be used as your gate way with driving takes approximately 2:30 from either place. The roads are in brilliant condition, very straight and road houses and regular rest stops are dotted along the journey.
Flights to Alice Springs depart daily from Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane and Ayer’s Rock from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane; and hire cars are available from both airports although there is a greater range from Alice Springs. If wanting to really make a trip out of it the Ghan railway operates out of Darwin and Adelaide and bus services also operates.
Basic accommodation is available at Kulgera, with camping and camper van spots available. The pub provides basic meals and the hospitality is genuine and extremely enthusiastic.
We used Kulgera as our base before the run and got started very early in the dark under torch light to beat the heat. Another alternative to those wanting to camp or use a caravan is to drive along Finke Road to the half way camp where the start/finish line is located. Again the camper van/vehicle must be suitable for 4WD terrain and a camper van would not be suitable for traveling into the Lambert Centre. We opted to stay at Kulgera and drive in early to avoid having to carry extra camping equipment.
Kulgera is approximately 500m above sea level with a typical desert climate. Hot and dry during the day with temperatures during the dry season reaching on average about 22°- 30° and quite cool at night.
The event has both a marathon and half marathon.
The marathon starts at half way camp, heads along Finke road and then out onto the Lambert Centre access road and return, while the half marathon is run entirely on the Lambert Centre access road.
The Entry has both early bird and standard entries. Early Bird starts at $65 for half and $110 for the full. Increasing to $85 for the half and $145 for full.
Our event and journey was slightly varied to the planned event.
This event usually occurs in July when temperatures are at their kindest. However the Covid pandemic caused a slight inconvenience (to put it lightly) and the event was postponed to October 2021.
October came and we packed up and off we went. Got to Adelaide and the Northern Territory shut the borders to Tasmanians because a “lovely” man decided to run around Hobart with Covid. So back we came with our tails between our legs and the event went ahead without us.
Enter April 2022. The organiser permitted us to do the event solo and send our data through.
We flew in Alice Springs, hired a 4WD and drove to Kulgera. We stayed there and drove along Finke where we started our run and finished at the Lambert Centre. This was deemed appropriate given we only had one support person and vehicle.
Starting under torch light was enjoyable but in hindsight does present risks. We saw many snake trails, FRESH snake trails and subsequent research has indicated that unlike Tasmanian snakes they get annoyed and will come and find you and take you down as opposed to taking off in the opposite direction.
No snakes were sighted. Many snake food was sighted in the form of desert mice and frogs. A caterpillar train was also a sweet little highlight during the run. Stock also roams the area and cows on the road is not uncommon.
We decided to make a bit of a holiday of it and upon arriving into Alice Springs stayed for a couple of days. This provided an opportunity to travel out along the MacDonnell Ranges which runs approximately 135km to the West of Alice Springs. It is here that Ormiston Gorge, Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm and many other sights can be enjoyed. Ormiston Gorge is a great swimming oasis and swimming is permitted in this watering hole. Others such as those located at Simpsons gap are very sacred to Aboriginal people and swimming is not permitted. We observed Anzac Day in Alice Springs before heading South to Kulgera.
Following our run, we also travelled out to Uluru and Kata Tjuta for a couple of days; staying in Yulara, we had a great couple of days riding camels, scrambling over rocks and absorbing everything around us. Tip: Fly nets are a must.
All in all, a fantastic run. Another event in the series and my medal map of Australia is gradually coming together. Yes you read that correctly “a medal map”. Each of the five medals are shaped so that they all come together to form a map of Australia. Another reason why this series should be a must on every runners bucket list.