Allston slashes 63 minutes off Cradle Mountain 82 km women’s record

Cradle Mountain Overland Track 82 kms

Saturday 2 February 2013

See full results and photos at

Former orienteering internationals Rob Walter and Hanny Allston took out the 2013 Cradle Mountain 82 kms, in very muddy conditions, Allston slashing 63 minutes off the women’s record.

Walter ran 7 hrs 56 mins, with Stu Gibson 2nd in 8:01 and Matt Cooper 3rd in 8:09.

Former world orienteering champion Hanny Allston finished 4th outright in 8:13, with Katherine McMillan 2nd female in 10:53 and Sue Rundle 3rd in 11:05.

There were 51 finishers in a field of 52.

Chris Helliwell’s report:

Cradle Mountain Run 2nd February 2013

It’s 6am on a chilly Saturday morning and I’m standing at the start of the Overland Track in Cradle Valley with fifty-some other runners, most of them wearing the same Salomon S-Lab backpack, all about to run a track that takes walkers around 6 days to complete. I was seriously wondering if I was about to bite off more than I could chew, this was 20 kms further and four hours longer than I’d ever run before and on some pretty rough tracks.

The race weekend had really started the day before when Rob Walter and I arrived at the Brickfields reserve in Launceston to catch the bus to the race. I was already feeling pretty nervous and hadn’t eaten very much of my lunch and seeing the assembled ultra runners at the bus didn’t help as they all looked like they’d been sponsored by Salomon. At least I’d bought the right backpack! Most of the runners were staying in the cabins at Waldheim, my room-mates thought they’d outed a champion mountain runner when they found my Jungfrau marathon backpack. After dinner and the race briefing there was time for some last minute fine-tuning of race gear before trying to get a bit of sleep before the early morning start.

I started with a thermal, beanie and gloves on. We started in a self-seeded line along the frosty duckboards, which felt treacherous underfoot. I was in about 10th place, and once we hit the climb everyone around me started walking. I could see Hanny Alston and few others in front running the hill, but there wasn’t much scope for overtaking, so I went with the flow. The hill wasn’t too bad with just a little steep section with chains, then we were up onto Marions lookout and through Kitchen hut in about 35 minutes. There was some cloud, but you could make out Cradle Mountain on the left, but the views had to be snatched between watching where your feet were going.

I’d packed 10 gels and 10 muesli bars, which was meant to be one an hour, so set myself a timetable of a gel on the hour, a muesli bar on the half hour, and a big drink of electrolyte on the quarter and three quarters. This went pretty much to plan for the first four hours. Somewhere round Windermere I hit the first really big mud hole, we’d been told not to go round them, but this one was almost to my knees. Once I’d been in that one I realized that they were good for cooling my feet, so I was ploughing straight into the mud after that.

After two hours I was by myself, enjoying running at an easy pace knowing there was a lot of running to come. As the track descended to Frog Flats it got a lot more rooty and gnarly, so you had to really keep concentrating on where your feet were going. There was also a whole lot more mud down there. I hadn’t looked at my map, so it was a nice surprise to run into Pelion checkpoint at about 3h30. I got given a couple of snakes here, my water was pretty empty so I kept a look out for a stream to fill up in and decided to make some Vitasport (Kiwi sports drink) instead of Nuun in the electrolyte bottle. I went past two runners on the climb up to Pelion gap and was still feeling really good through Kia-ora hut, where I grabbed a bit more water from the tank.

At Du Cane hut there was a little left turn that I was a bit uncertain about, so I stopped and grabbed the map. Stopping made me feel a bit nauseous and having a bit of the Vitasport made it worse. I ate a bit more muesli bar to try and get a bit more carbohydrate and headed on. Soon there was a climb to du Cane gap, it wasn’t steep, but I felt so bad that I walked a lot of it and started to cramp. At least walking was making progress, so I kept at it and stopped at the top to take off the thermal as it was getting warm. A runner went past me here and I didn’t think I’d be seeing him again. I was busy making a plan to catch the tourist ferry from Narcissus hut as I couldn’t see how I’d get to the finish like this. On the downhill I found a stream and had a big stop, got rid of the rest of the vitasport, had a whole bottle of water, a bottle of electrolyte and a caffeine gel. Then a km or so later I got to the windy ridge check point where the marshall gave me a massive handful of salt tablets. Either the salt or the feed did the trick as things started to gradually pick up on the descent down towards Narcissus hut. I’d gone through Windy ridge in about 6 hrs, so thought that if I was at Narcissus by 7h30 there was still a chance of getting under 10 hours. I could see the valley I was running down broadening out, and then saw some day walkers who must have come on the ferry, so knew I was getting closer to Narcissus hut. Eventually I crossed the swinging bridge and rolled into the hut at about 7h20.

There was a full feeding station there so I dawdled for at least 5 minutes, having some coke and refilling my water bottles again before the last section along Lake St Clair. I’d heard some horror stories about this being the worst mud-and-root fest of the whole track. There were plenty of little pinches, a load of gnarly roots and quite a few fallen trees, including one monster that I ended up having to roll over the top of, but I was running well and feeling good. It took about 45 minutes to Echo point, which I thought was about 1/3 of the way along, so began to feel that I could break 10 hours. Just past here I caught the runner in front, he hung on for a while but gradually dropped off. Eventually I started seeing walkers without backpacks so knew the end was getting near. I was beginning to cramp again so mixed up an extra strong Nuun drink with the last of my water and got that inside, it did the trick. Then it was out onto the gravel road for the last couple of km to the finish. The gravel road seemed to go for ages, but eventually I saw the line and finished in 9h34.

At the front end of the race Rob Walter had won with a storming 7h55 and Hanny Alston was not far behind in an amazing 8h14. There was a great atmosphere at the finish with most of the runners waiting to cheers the rest of the finishers in. It was a real privilege to be able to run this track and having the runners staying together at the start and finish makes for a really friendly race atmosphere. I’m not sure if I’ll try something as long as this again, as I was struggling up du Cane gap there’s no way I even thought I’d finish, but I was pleased with how I picked up again later in the race, and it turned out I hadn’t bitten off more than I could chew. Less than 5 weeks to 6 Foot Track now, compared to this it’ll just be a sprint.