Bogong2Hotham 2014, the Race Director’s Perspective

This Sunday, January 12th, will see the 28th running of Bogong2Hotham, also known as The Rooftop Run, in the literally breathtaking Victorian Alps. It is also the first year of the race being sponsored by Hoka OneOne Australia.
The fun begins from the foot of Mt. Bogong, a nastily steep mountain in the middle of some of Australia’s best running country. Between the 2km mark and the 8km mark on this 64km course, runners will climb over 1100 metres. And then they’ll still have 56km to go.
Race director Andy Hewat has overcome some serious challenges as an extreme ultrarunner. And he is not only one of Australia’s most respected ultramarathon race directors (or RDs), but he is also one of those handful of adventure-seeking guys & girls who fits the category If They Haven’t Done It, It’s Not Worth Doing.
Here’s a bit of insight into one of Australia’s longest running ultramarathons from the man himself.
And if you haven’t conditioned your quads already, be prepared to leave them out there.
Hoka: Bogong 2 Hotham is a race steeped in tradition. How long have you been RD, how did you come to the position, and what are some interesting historical facts runners might be surprised to learn about B2H?
Andy Hewat: I took over the organising of Bogong for the 2011 event. Which means I actually started in the role mid 2010. I was approached by AURA via then Secretary, Brett Saxon, (actually while I was at Hardrock) to see if I was interested. The race had been left in the lurch by the previous RD who had only just taken over from Mike Grayling who ran it for 10 years prior to that. It was a no-brainer, I had run it 6 times (for 3 finishes) and loved it and couldn’t stand the idea of it not going ahead. It was also an opportunity to return it to its traditional format and cement its place in trailrunning folklore.

Interesting fact? Only three runners have ever broken 7hrs. Stu Gibson ran 6:59 in 2011, Neil Hooper ran 6:58 in 1985, just the second year and Andy Kromar has done it a couple of times. In 1998 he ran 6:58 but in 1996 he set the current course record of 6:41:02. That means the record has stood for 17 years. That same year, Andy also set course records at Cradle and 6 Foot Track. Will we ever see the Bogong course record fall?

A very serious elevation profile.

As a runner, what do you see as the most challenging aspect of B2H, and what strategic advice would you give to first-timers who might not be sure how to best plan their first alpine adventure?
Andy: Hopefully anyone entering has done their homework already. It can be overwhelming as the pressure to make the cut-offs can dominate a runner’s approach. But it is like any ultra, you need to break it down and deal with each section. Get to the top of Bogong, get to Cleve Cole hut, make it to Big River, one step at a time. But pacing is critical. You need to work hard to get through the first half inside the cut without trashing yourself. It is a fine balance. Work steadily on the first climb up Bogong but save some for Duane’s Spur. Latch on to someone who knows the course and is about your pace if you can. Remember once you get through Langford Gap there is some easy running on the high plains but Swindler’s Spur can be soul destroying and has crushed many good runners. And if you haven’t conditioned your quads already, be prepared to leave them out there.

The image that defined a race cut short – Mick Donges & Andrew Tuckey running through gale force conditions at B2H 2012, when 100+km/h winds forced a halt to the race at the 35km mark. Pic by Erwin Jansen.

B2H has had a tough couple of years with gale-force weather stopping the race at halfway in 2012 and fires shutting it down completely in 2013. How big a difference do you expect the move to the second week of January will make this year and beyond and what are your current expectations for conditions on the day?
Andy: Funny thing is the second Sunday after new year was the traditional date. My first two years, 2011 and 2012, were both actually held on the second Sunday. 2013 slipped forward a week but ironically suffered heat wave conditions in the lead-up. The fact that in 2 consecutive years we have had such extremely diverse weather is testimony to the vagaries of alpine conditions. It is a reminder that we are playing in an extreme environment and we have to respect what mother nature can dish out. I am reluctant to predict what we might get this year but reckon we are due for a bit of a break and hopefully we’ll get a full race.
Hoka OneOne Australia are obviously very happy to be the event’s naming sponsor. What prompted you to first approach Hoka?
Andy: Why Hoka? Hoka One One have built a niche in the ultra market. While not particularly long, Bogong is really tough and punishing. Hokas shine on hills and over tough terrain and Bogong has buckets of both so it was a logical fit. I also like that they are not (yet) mainstream and Bogong is a bit of a cult run so Hokas feel at home here. 
Bogong is a truly iconic race. You need to look around and really soak in the scenery, enjoy the event, feel the pain, savour the effort and relish the reward. Pure and simple: see a mountain, run up it; see a creek, run through it.
As far as the field itself goes, has the event’s first year of offering a substantial prize purse had any impact on a starting lineup that is typically regarded as one of the sharper Australian race fields?
Andy: Bogong always draws a classy field, just because of the prestige it carries amongst the

In addition to the $2,000 on offer, the winners’ trophies are carved from ancient stone from the foot of the Pakistan mountains. Pretty special!

running community. But this year the talent runs deeper than any other year. You could throw a blanket over 20 odd runners and anyone of them could podium if they have a good day. Same goes for the women’s field. With so many events on offer these days the competition for the top runners is getting tight. Prizemoney helps counter that diluting effect and ensures the cream will still rise to the top. As a traditionalist, I would like to think that winning Bogong is enough reward for most runners. As a pragmatist, I know the added incentive is insurance for the race’s long-term survival.

Any final messages to runners competing on the day or friends and fans spectating online?
Andy: Finishing Bogong to Hotham is an achievement in itself. Conquering such a tough course in the time allowed can only be done by the fittest and fastest. Not everyone will finish, that much I can guarantee. Participating, though, means you are being part of something special, contributing to building the race history.  Bogong is a truly iconic race. You need to look around and really soak in the scenery, enjoy the event, feel the pain, savour the effort and relish the reward. Pure and simple: see a mountain, run up it; see a creek, run through it.
At Hoka OneOne Australia, we’re proud to partner with Andy and to be naming sponsor for the Hoka OneOne Bogong2Hotham in 2014 and beyond.

About Roger Hanney
Ultramarathon runner. Wannabe adventurer. Writer. Australian HOKA ONE ONE guy. First Type 1 to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam.

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