Get Outside Your Comfort Zone: Big Red Run
There’s no need to look any further. We have found your next adventure. In the heart of an Australian desert, camping at the base of sand dunes, walking or running to hearts content in challenging conditions; we bring you Big Red Run.
If your toes dance at the idea of camping out under stars, spending all day traversing sand dunes, sitting around a bon fire each night or getting to spend numerous days with people who start off as strangers then become your best friends, then it is time to enter Big Red Run.
Big Red Run is a 250km, 6-day stage race across Australia’s Simpson Desert. Entering this massive event is one of the best decisions you will ever make. The race starts at the iconic Birdsville pub on the border of Queensland and South Australia. Runners spend the lead up to the race exploring the small, fascinating town. Sun bake on the bank of the Diamantina River, trek out to see the Burke and Wills tree, have the famous camel pie from the bakery for lunch and then wash it down with an icy cold beer from the Birdsville pub. Relish the opportunity to be in such a famous little town, that not everyone gets to see – nor run in.
The day before the big event, all runners must go through race check-in. Here, volunteers go through all the listed mandatory gear, such as thermals, a compass, nutrition, head torch and other items you think you may need for the duration of the event and it needs to meet a 14kg bag limit. For this race you must provide your own food which will predominantly be dehydrated meals. Before you screw your nose up, try one! They’re surprisingly tasty, and with so many different flavours and meals, you’ll never get sick of them. And if you think you need to pack that extra pair of shoes ‘just in case’ – pack them! Don’t forget the bug repellent and sun cream.
Be prepared to go through every weather element you can imagine in the desert. The days will be hot, the nights will be freezing. The sunrises magnificent and the dusks mesmerising. It’s not only sand dunes you’ll be looking at all day. There’s an array of surfaces you’ll be traversing – clay pans, salt lakes, station tracks, dune crests and gibber plains (I won’t lie, they’re a bitch). In 2016, Birdsville was hit with heavy rainfall, leaving little oasis’ and muddy river crossings along the course. While out there under the desert sun, keep your eyes peeled for the lizards and butterflies, and you may be lucky enough to spot a camel. Prepare to spend every hour of every day swatting the flies away. Keep track of how many you swallow, it becomes a friendly competition.
The first day embarks from the Birdsville pub. A lap of the town and past the famous police station then sees you out into the desert along a dirt road. This day you’ll find yourself on the gibber plains. Take it slow out there, it’s all too easy to roll an ankle. You’ll make your way up a tall sand dune, to then be on more – you guessed it – gibber plains. After 42km you’ll find yourself at the Big Red sand dune. And you thought those other dunes you had already climbed were big. This is 40m of sand that reaches to the sky and it’s at the base of this dune where you’ll spend your first night. It’s a surreal feeling, being in such an expanse, openness with 100 other people, from different backgrounds and with varying running experiences. Yet all sharing the same desire for self-discovery, testing your limits and the great outdoors.
The next couple of days you’ll see yourself covering another two 42km days, a shorter day at 30km and the big whopper – 84km final day. The last day in the desert is an 8km, untimed group walk back into Birdsville. There are clay pans galore, dusty roads, more sand dunes and yep, more gibber. There will be lots of smiling, a little bit of sunburn and sweat, way too many blisters and probably a few tears, but it is a guarantee it will be worth it.
Forget about the distance for a minute. It sounds like a long way, and respectively, it is; but with very generous cut off times this event is easily walkable. You’ll find an array of people enter this event, from the elite runner, to the avid ultra marathoner, to the walker wanting to test their limits. You will meet all people from different walks of life. They will inspire you, just the way you will inspire them. You will make life-long friends, from all over the globe. Crossing that finish line on the last day is the most euphoria you will ever feel. You did it! You finished something you probably doubted you could. Your legs are sore, body tired and feeling mentally fatigued, but that smile across your face and the hugs from friends will leave lasting impression. You left footprints in that glorious orange sand, and the desert will leave a massive impact on your heart.
To top off an already amazing race and experience, Big Red Run raises funds for Juvenile Diabetes. To date, the race organisers have raised a huge $800 000 towards this cause that will go far and wide. This is a true community event, and you will walk away feeling very privileged and wholesome from a week spent in outback Australia. Start your training now and before you know it you’ll be on your way to Birdsville. Then all too quickly you will be finished, relishing that beautiful shower and drinking and icy cold beer, to finally head home and inspire others to step forward into such a life changing journey.