If you’re after a ‘boutique’ marathon running experience that takes in spectacular scenery and offers the opportunity to spot iconic Aussie wildlife as you go, then Kangaroo Island Marathon is not to be ‘Skipped’ (pardon the pun).

This is a premium running experience that’s been made available to a limited number of entrants each year.

Spectacular scenery to ease the pain of the hills

If you’re searching for a bespoke running adventure, then this is it.  But you’ll need to hop to it (sorry, again) because registrations for 2019 have now opened and … shhh … there’s a hint that next year could be the fifth and final year that you’ll get this amazing opportunity to “run with the ‘roos”.

Kangaroo Island – the locals call it ‘KI’ – Marathon is a destination event that showcases one of Australia’s best kept secrets.

KI is a 14 kilometre catamaran ferry ride from the south coast of South Australia (and a 90 minute drive from Adelaide).  It’s home to a fascinating array of native wildlife, including the ubiquitous kangas and wallabies of course.  And, if you have the energy to lift your eyes from the road ahead and cast them upwards and into the treetops, you may well even sight koalas, as I did.  KI is also a place of pristine beaches, soaring cliffs and breathtaking ocean vistas.

But, be warned, you’ll need all the natural distractions you can get, because this is not an event for the faint of heart – it’s run over a tough and challenging course (think hills, hills and more hills!) and it will test you both physically and mentally.  So if you do sign up, don’t go into it expecting a PB.  In fact, prepare yourself to add at least half an hour – and probably more – to your ‘normal’ marathon time.

Happy to finish

The course is located in the remote south west corner of stunning Flinders Chase National Park, which is closed for much of event-day to enable the marathon to take place without hindrance.

It takes in deviating and undulating roads that cut through dense forest; an exposed coastal section with views of the powerful Southern Ocean; a loop that travels by historic landmarks such as the Cape de Couedic Lighthouse, and the natural wonders of Admirals Arch.  The gruelling route is also broken up with a trail section that covers a short distance into Snake Lagoon and a zig-zag boardwalk trot leading to the iconic Remarkable Rocks, which are – as the name so rightly suggests – pretty, damn remarkable.  So remarkable, in fact, that may runners grab the opportunity to deviate off-course a little to take selfies against the incredible background.

But, then, when I ran the marathon – on 1 September just past – this was happening all along the course and was indicative that, for most, it was all about the journey and not the destination, or, at least not the time you reached your destination (the finish line).  For most – me included – the overriding goal was simply to complete the 42.2 kilometres, which included so many relentless quad- and glute-busting hill climbs.

Getting up those taxing hills (only to be confronted by many more before you!) was in no small part due to the exceptional camaraderie and encouragement of the other runners on course.  With loops involved, I received a huge amount of support from others ahead of, and behind, me as we passed each other, which, in a typical case of “runners’ rapport”, has led to the formation of new friendships.

For a good part of the time though, particularly in the final kilometres, when I seemed to get a much-appreciated kick after downing an energy gel kindly handed to me by a Polish runner earlier, I found myself tripping along largely on my own, save for the company of a startled ‘roo or two.

On … and on … and on…

Speaking of Polish, or Poland … this was another feature of the event – the international representation.  I found myself amid a virtual ‘United Nations’ of runners on course, including participants from China; Estonia; Hungary; Italy; New Zealand; Norway; my friend from Poland of course; the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as a healthy contingent of Aussies – mostly locals from South Australia.

I had the honour of being the first Tasmanian ever to have run the course.  Hopefully, I may be a ground-breaker and some more of you now will be inspired to sign up to ‘run with the TRRoos’ in 2019.

(The event also includes a half marathon option.)

Written by Annie Robson

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