Amanda was 18km away from the finish line of the Great Southern Endurance Run, a 180km ultramarathon running over the Victorian Alpine’s most unforgiving terrain. And she was leading the women’s field by a country mile. She had been running for over 40 hours now, having braved the capricious high country weather, thunderstorms high up on the exposed ridgelines of Crosscut Saw and some extreme highs and lows. Her hallucinations were getting more extravagant by the minute. She was now alone in the last leg of her race, tiptoeing her way around the (fictional) broken dolls that lay scattered on the ground. And she could’ve sworn that she kept walking into the same rickety mountain hut, over and over again, desperately looking for the exit. But really, she was stumbling, alone, in the dark, along a trail leading out of Harrietville and towards the finish line in Bright. And despite the delusional ramblings her exhausted mind was conjuring, despite the exertion that gripped every inch of her body, Amanda had never felt so electrifyingly alive. Time had become nothing more than a warped idea, a foreign concept that moved in inexplicable dips and surges. As she approached her second consecutive day of uninterrupted running, Amanda began to wonder if she would ever get off this mountain.
Rewind a few years, and the extent of Amanda’s running was limited to jogging to work in an effort to reduce her use of the car. She gradually moved up to running a marathon and eventually set herself the goal of running a 100km race for her 40th birthday. She sought out help from triathlon and endurance coach Craig Percival, and with his guidance, she stumbled into the world of endurance running. Amanda discovered the joy and serenity of spending long hours in nature, finding renewed motivation and energy out on the trails. To her delight, she found that she was able to push her mind and body harder and farther than she ever thought possible. With every big effort, with every battle between mind and body, she found she liked who she was becoming when the fatigue hit. Shaped by the pain of endurance running, she nurtured values such as patience, mindfulness, deep appreciation for her body and fierce determination, every experience reinforcing the knowledge that this was it. This was her purpose.
The idea of running the Great Southern Endurance Run first crossed her mind as it began to gather momentum on social media, and the sheer difficulty of the event created quite the buzz online. Amanda confided in her coach her desire to attempt the monster race and was met with Craig’s eternally enthusiastic optimism. In a devastating twist of fate, Craig tragically passed away just a few days following their conversation. Determined to honour her late coach’s memory, Amanda committed to the race, tinting her experience with a little grief and a lot of determination. The whole process was extremely liberating for Amanda. She says “there are so many things that I can’t control about life, so many things that I just don’t have the power to change. But this, jumping into a race like GSER, gave me the power to take charge of my own life, the way I wanted to live it. It taught me to drop the fear, to quit comparing myself to others. I always felt hesitant to consider myself competitive, always feeling like an imposter, like I didn’t really deserve my place. But GSER was so bold, so daring, it didn’t allow any space for doubt. And it all paid off in the end.”
Amanda will return to the wilderness of the Alpine region to race Oscar’s 100 Hut2Hut, a 100km trail race in Mt Buller this February.