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Interview: Kokoda Ultra Marathon in Papua New Guinea

02 Mar, 2017 (Thu)
Credit : Wayne Wetherall & Anthony Thompson

Hello, on July 26th 2017, you’ll be organizing the Kokoda Ultra Marathon. Can you tell us where it is located?

The Kokoda Ultra Marathon will race across the spine of the Owen Stanley Ranges in PNG from the Village of Kokoda in the ORO Province to Owers Corner near Port Moresby.
96km of the most remote and spectacular running tracks on the planet.

How old is the race and why was it created in the first place?

The Kokoda Trail is more than 100 years old with a spellbinding connection to the legendary actions of our Australian Diggers more than 75 years ago. The race has been created to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Kokoda Trail Campaign.
The courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice of our Diggers in repelling a voracious enemy hell bent on taking our land and changing our way of life needs to be told to a new generation of Australians.

What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

The Kokoda Ultra Marathon route is across the original wartime Kokoda Track. We follow in the footsteps of heroes as we ascend more than 6000m and descend more than 6500m over rough, brutal and unforgiving terrain.
The track crosses more than 35 rivers, some that we have to wade through some just single logs suspended above gushing rivers.
Treacherous descents, energy sapping mud and a myriad of slippery tree roots and rocks. Nature has created the ultimate adventure track with breathtaking scenery and spirit sapping conditions.

The event spans across two days. What is the program?

The Kokoda Ultra Marathon is a two-day, three night stage race.
The race commences early from Kokoda on the 27th July with a 30.5km run to the Village of Templeton’s Crossing.
Day two will see the competitors take on more than 42 km before making camp at the Village of Naoro.
The last day of the race is a relative sprint to the finish as the competitors take on the last backbreaking 23.5kms.

Each night all the competitors will share the group meals prepared by the camp cooks. This is more than a race it’s about sharing an experience with like-minded individuals and feeling the spirit of the diggers that went before us.

Credit : Wayne Wetherall & Anthony Thompson

How many runners do you expect on Wednesday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

The race will comprise a small group of 22 competitors who have qualified for this event through other ultra marathon events or who have previously tackled Kokoda.
We only want competitors that are prepared to compete in this event in the Spirit of the Diggers with the sole purpose of honoring the Legacy of our Diggers.

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

The race is in the drier time of year with less rain and humidity, however the weather can turn quickly and engulf the competitors in a torrent of rain. This is one of great unknowns of running through near virgin tropical jungle…the weather is subject to the whims of the gods.

Have you planned festivities around the event?

Prior to the race commencing all competitors, staff and guides will participate in a moving remembrance ceremony on the battlefields of Kokoda. One of the entry criterias is all competitors must complete a written history questionnaire on Kokoda.

The race finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Papua New Guinea before?

Expect the unexpected. Go with no preconceived perceptions; let the magic and warmth of the PNG people, their culture and spectacular scenery empower you. Take the time to read about the Kokoda Trail war campaign and appreciate the opportunities our Diggers sacrificed for us.

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Kokoda Ultra Marathon?

Do you want to do something significant? Do you want to be empowered? Do you want a life changing experience?
Do you want to race in the footsteps of heroes?
Do you want to race through one of earth’s last great frontiers?
Do you want to be a pioneer and compete in one of the world’s great adventures?

Interview with Wayne Wetherall, Race director AKA “Bosso” of Kokoda Spirit and Kokoda Ultra Marathon. Wayne has personally completed more than 70 Kokoda treks, including a triple Kokoda crossing, a fast two-day trek and three Kokoda Coast to Coast challenges.