The Big Red Run : One Week in the heart of the Australian Desert

11 Feb 2013 12:30
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Focus on a race Interview


Hello, on July 8th 2013, you’ll be organizing the Big Red Run. Can you tell us where it is located?

The race starts and finishes at the iconic outback town of Birdsville on the edge of the Simpson Desert. Among the world’s largest and most remote deserts, the Simpson Desert is six times the size of Belgium, stretching across 176,500 sq km in central Australia crossing the borders of South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.

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

The Big Red Run has just been launched, so 2013 will be the inaugural event. It was created as the major annual fundraiser of the Born to Run Foundation, a new charity dedicated to raising funds for research into a cure for type 1 diabetes. The event will also mark the final stage of a five-desert journey for myself and a team of runners, called Born To Run. Our team of five has already become the first in history to complete the 4 Deserts, which includes ultramarathons in the Atacama Desert, the Gobi Desert, the Sahara Desert and Antarctica. We have pledged to race across five deserts on five continents in aid of type 1 diabetes research. It’s a cause very close to my heart as my own son Stephen was diagnosed with type 1 at age 14.

Credit : The Big Red Run

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

The route will take runners over unchartered parts of the Simpson Desert, including the world’s longest parallel sand dunes and the famous 40-metre high ‘Big Red’. It will not follow any existing tracks or trails and the terrain will vary from red sand dunes, gibber plains, clay pans, salt flats, dry river beds and outback scrub.

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

Given it’s the first year of the event, it’s hard to know exactly how many runners we will attract. However, we are hoping to attract runners of all ages from both Australia and overseas. We’ve already had a healthy number of entries, seven months before the race. We are also encouraging walkers, hikers and adventurers to take part in the event and experience this uniquely Australian landscape.

Do you organize other races during the Weekend? If so, on what distances?

Yes, runners can choose from the Big Red Run; a 250km 6 day stage race, the Big Red Dash; a 42k marathon from Birdsville to Big Red on the first day, or the Born to Run 100km; a unique 100km desert run on day five.

Credit : The Big Red Run

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

The event will be held in the Australian winter from 8-13 July 2013. The weather and conditions should be ideal for running, with daytime temperatures in the low 20s (°C) and nighttime temperatures of around 6 or 7 degrees, which will be nice around the campfire.
The humidity is also very low, which is good for running.

Have you planned festivities around the marathon?

The event has the support of some of the biggest names in Australian running and entertainment, with Australian country music legend John Williamson set to perform a free concert atop ‘Big Red’ on the opening night. Ultra-marathon champion and our event ambassador Pat Farmer will also meet runners and share stories from his amazing run from the North to South Pole on the second night.

The race finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Birdsville before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

Birdsville is the quintessential Australian outback town. The Birdsville Hotel is an Australian icon and everyone who visits can’t resist sitting at the front bar with a cold drink. There is also some great outback touring to be done in the area and people might like to arrange a charter flight over Lake Eyre, Australia’s largest lake which is currently full of water. The scenery is simply spectacular.

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Big Red Run?

The Big Red Run will give runners an unforgettable Australian outback experience, offering the chance to run across the iconic red sands of the Simpson Desert, enjoy music and entertainment at camp every night, and support the race for a cure for type 1 diabetes.

Credit : The Big Red Run
Interview with Greg Donovan, Founder of the Big Red Run. Greg lives on Sydney’s northern beaches with his wife of 28 years, Raylene and three children, Laura 25, Matt 22 and Stephen 19.
He’s been running since about 1990, starting off with 100 metre jogs, and now running up to 250km ultramarathons.
He founded both the Born To Run Foundation and the Big Red Run to help find a cure for type 1 diabetes.