9 April 2024

Canberra gets tough new marathon for Stromlo Running Festival's 15th anniversary

| Morgan Kenyon
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People at the Stromlo Running Festival jogging along a trail with a rainbow in the background.

Stromlo Running Festival (SRF) has brought together Canberrans and visitors of all ages and fitness levels once a year since it was founded in 2009. Photo: SRF.

Entries are now open for the 15th anniversary of Canberra’s biggest trail running festival.

The Stromlo Running Festival (SRF) has attracted tens of thousands of runners (and walkers) from across Canberra and interstate since 2009. But the 2024 iteration promises something a little different for those looking for a serious challenge.

Making its debut in November 2024 is the inaugural SRF Marathon. Already garnering attention as “Canberra’s hardest marathon”, it will replace the recently retired ultra marathon.

Taking on the double summit of Mt Stromlo AKA “The Mother”, the marathon promises to push the boundaries of endurance and determination.

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Zealous local trail runner Brent Ford competes with Canberra groups Elevate and UMROC. He says the marathon’s not to be missed.

“Even though you have eight hours to complete it, there’s a reason everyone’s already calling it the biggest marathon challenge in the region,” Brent says.

“You’ve got more than 1500 metres of elevation gain to tackle. It’s perfect for long-time competitors or distance runners with a competitive streak who want to give something different a go.”

The SRF marathon will introduce new track around the western side of the mountain, before looping in with the 30 km course. Totalling 42.2 km, the marathon is also International Trail Running Association (ITRA) and Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) indexed, making it a qualifier for the renowned Six Foot Track marathon.

Brand Ford running a trail

Brent Ford was a fierce contender for SRF 2023 in the festival’s now retired 50 km race. This year he has his sights set on the new SRF Marathon. Photo: SRF.

If a full marathon isn’t your thing, don’t despair – five other courses lie in wait for runners this year.

On the eastern and northern slopes of the mountain, SRF 5, 10, 15 and 30 km runs offer plenty of variety, with no time limit for 15 km and below. The team hasn’t forgotten about little trailblazers either – a gentle 2.5 km cross country grass track provides the perfect run for kids.

Brent believes this diversity is the festival’s biggest strength.

“SRF is absolutely the most inclusive running festival in our area,” he says.

“There’s a course to suit every experience level, Stromlo’s trail is uniquely accessible and just beautiful to traverse, which attracts first-time and casual runners alongside professional competitors.

“The vibe on course is great, whether you’re out there for the social aspect or getting in that zone where everything outside the track just melts away, the sense of community is unbeatable.”

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The Stromlo Running Festival was co-founded by Australian marathon great Robert de Castella who lost his family home in the devastating firestorm that swept through Canberran suburbs in 2003.

Championing resilience, courage and community connection, the festival celebrates values that helped Canberra rebuild after loss of life and livelihood, and widespread damage to natural areas and suburban infrastructure.

“Every year as we prepare the festival’s courses, we remember the days Canberra burned, including our beloved Stromlo Forest Park,” race director Mel Bingley says.

“We remember those incredibly challenging times and are inspired by our community’s resilience to keep moving forward.”

Entries for the 2024 Stromlo Running Festival on 16 – 17 November are now open. Register before 30 June to secure an exclusive 2024 collector’s shirt.

Original Article published by Morgan Kenyon on Riotact.

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