If you’re looking to get more out of your next vacation, how about taking home a finisher’s medal as a souvenir? Our writer, Gilbert Wong, checks out the Great Ocean Road Running Festival (GORRF) in Victoria, Australia.
I love working out and staying in shape, but running is something I was never good at. If you asked me if I’d rather run long distance or do a hundred burpees, there’s a good chance I’d pick the latter over struggling to complete a few laps.
But when I first got the news about visiting Victoria, Australia to take part in the GORRF, I felt like it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Yes, we’ve had a great number of running events and marathons in Singapore throughout the years, from the Standard Chartered Marathon to newer and more interesting fun runs like the Star Wars run. But running in such a different climate and terrain is a whole new ball game.
Photo: Gilbert Wong
Great Ocean Road
The GORRF takes place annually at, you guessed it, Great Ocean Road. Famed for its beautiful, scenic views of the Bass Strait and Southern Ocean, the road stretches from Torquay, Victoria to Warrnambool, Victoria for a staggering 243km.
Locals and visitors alike will tell you that it’s definitely worth making the three-hour drive from Melbourne CBD to the famous Twelve Apostles; the naturally-formed eroded limestone stacks just off the shore of Port Campbell. There are even helicopter tours that you can take which will give you an unbelievable view of the coastline.
Along this vast stretch of road, there are walking trails to go to, breweries to visit, and wildlife to see, so it won’t exactly be a boring and straight drive to the other end. If you’re ever tired of the city and feel like getting back in touch with nature, you can’t go wrong going on an epic road trip with friends down Great Ocean Road.
The view at Teddy’s Lookout, near Lorne, Victoria.
Video: Gilbert Wong
The Running Festival
The GORRF offers a variety of different race types suitable for anyone, young and old. Shorter walks and fun jogs are available for casual participants, while more serious competitors can participate in the half, full, and ultra marathon events. I’ve taken part in obstacle course races such as Tough Mudder and Spartan Race, but running an actual race was an entirely different ordeal.
So, naturally I opted for the half marathon as it seemed like I would suffer the least, yet still feel like I accomplished something. Having said that, the official distance of the half marathon is 23km compared to the usual 21.1km, so that’s something you should keep in mind when you’re doing race prep.
The event begins in the town of Lorne which serves as the start point for both the full and ultra marathon. If you’re ever planning a trip down in January, Lorne is also famous for their annual Pier to Pub 1.2km open water swimming race which was included in the 1998 Guinness Book of Records for being the largest open water swim in the world.
Photo: Gilbert Wong/Supersport Images
For me, the half marathon start point was along Kennett River, which is coincidentally a great place to spot koalas in the wild if you head up Grey River Road. But only the race was on my mind on that cold and dark morning, and boy, does it get cold. Arriving there around 5.30am when the sun hadn’t come up made me question myself for agreeing to do this. My phone told me it was around 13 degrees Celsius, but it felt more like five. Warming up properly is a must.
However, once the sun had risen and the crowd had grown, the full festival atmosphere in the event could be felt and I just wanted to get going. Running against a headwind in cloudy and rainy conditions, the run was surprisingly enjoyable despite the challenging terrain. Rest and refuel stops were situated every 5km or so, and the views of the coast and open seas ensure that you’ll never feel bored at any point of the race.
There will be plenty of photo opportunities as you make your way up winding roads and rolling hills, and the sound of crashing waves adds a sense of serenity, making you almost forget that you’re torturing yourself. As I made my way through hilly terrain and seaside homes, local supporters were out in force cheering everyone on, so even if you feel like you’re taking this on by yourself, you’ve still got someone encouraging you all the way to the finish line.
The GORRF may not be as popular or large as the Melbourne Marathon or Gold Coast Marathon, but it’s definitely one race you can check off your bucket list if you’re looking to get away from the busy city streets and want an unforgettable running experience.
Photo: Gilbert Wong/Supersport Images
Looking to visit the land Down Under on a budget? Scoot has flights to Melbourne and other parts of Australia that won’t break the bank.
When To Go:
The Great Ocean Road Running Festival takes place next year from 18 to 19 May, 2019.
For more info, visit http://greatoceanroadrunfest.com.au/
By Gilbert Wong, Men’s Health Content Producer