Australian Mountain Running Championships venue preview

Australian and Queensland Mountain Running Championships 2011 by Ty Marega

The travel books describe Bellbird Grove on Brisbane’s western outskirts as one of Queensland’s most serene forests of its type. “Untouched… breath-taking views… coolness and tranquillity abound amongst large stands of Eucalypts,” travel writers boast. However for a few hours on May 29th, coolness and tranquillity will be in relatively short supply in this subtropical bushland for the participants of the 2011 Australian and Queensland Mountain Running Championships.

 “Bellbird Grove provides a good combination of a serious challenge and an unspeakably beautiful bush environment for the race,” says organiser, Hubertien Wichers.

“The fire tracks meandering between Bellbird Grove and the top of Camp Mountain offer some of the greatest running conditions I’ve encountered. The trails are wide with plenty of over-taking opportunities along most of the course with a wide variety of gradients to both punish and please a runner.”

Only thirty five minutes from Brisbane’s centre, Bellbird Grove and Camp Mountain are part of the majestic D’Aguilar National Park. The course through the park has some long steep hills, steady climbs and fast runs over gentle undulations.

From the starting line, wide fire trails climb quickly from the forest floor to the 1200 metre mark. By the time race participants reach the top of the first rise, they’ll have climbed about 115 meters with an average 10 percent incline along the way.

 “Then it flattens out for about 400 metres to the start of a 5km loop.  From there, the course goes up and down over three hills for about 1.2kms before arriving at The Gate to Heaven or Hell from which point the real mountain runners are separated from the rest of the pack. It’s the start of an uphill stretch of about 1.2km with a steady incline of about 16 to 17 percent.  And just when you feel you’ve reached the top, you encounter another upward climb just around the corner,” Hubertien added.

The top of the mountain represents the half-way mark of the course. Once there, there’s plenty of opportunity for people who are fast on the flats to catch up over a 500 metre stretch.

Then the descent starts. Its steep and narrower track is a little rougher with fewer opportunities to over-take.  However, a good, sure-footed downhill runner will fly over this section. The course widens and levels out after about 500 metres so it’s easier to pick up speed with an undulating descent ranging from 10 to 15 percent.

A further 850 meters of undulating descent brings runners to the intersection where the 5km loop finishes. From here, the men will do another 5km loop before continuing to the finish line. Junior men and the women do only one loop and head straight to the finish line 1600 meters down the range.  This section of track was covered on the way up and incorporates a flat stretch and a downward sprint with a 10 percent decline.

The course offers spectators some fantastic vantage points from three main areas; the lush Bellbird Grove Start and Finish line, McLean Rd South (at the 3km point) and the Camp Mountain picnic grounds. It’s the third location that provides spectators the best views – as they will see runners just after their big ascent and before they commence a flat 500 metre stretch for the descent back down the mountain.

The Australian Mountain Running Championships are the primary selection races for the 2011 Australian Mountain Running Team that will compete in September in the World Mountain Running Championships in Tirana, Albania and the Commonwealth Mountain Running Championships in Wales, Great Britain.

“The opportunities presented to runners in an event like this at Bellbird Grove are great. Because it’s not as well known nationally as cross-country and track and field events, it presents greater potential for up and coming athletes to gain international race experience representing Australia.”

In recent years, well known athletes like Lara Tamsett, Ryan Gregson, Anna Thompson and Jackie Fairweather have all been part of the Australian Mountain Running Team. Lara went on to become a world champion in Mountain Running in the junior women’s division, winning the 2007 World Mountain Running Championship Junior Title. Ryan is the current 1500 meter Australian Record holder.

Individuals may be selected for the team to compete in the junior men’s, junior women’s, open men’s or open women’s categories.  Only juniors who are 16 – 19 years of age may enter the Australian Mountain Running Championships and then may be selected for the team.

The race doubles as the Queensland Mountain Running Championships and is being organised by the Australian Mountain Running Association and the Ashgrove Rangers Athletic Club. For entries please go to:

For additional information, please visit

Race course details:

Junior women: 4.8km – 232m elevation gain/loss

Junior men and open women: 8.2km – 430m elevation gain/loss

Open men: 13.2km – 734m elevation gain/loss

For more information, please contact: